Posts

Kin of journalists slain in Ampatuan massacre demand end to intrigues, urge unity

The families of the 32 journalists who lost their lives in the November 23, 2009 Ampatuan massacre demanded an end to what they called intrigues intended to sow disunity between them and organizations that have been assisting them for the past decade.

In all, 58 persons were murdered in what has been acknowledged as the worst case of electoral violence in recent Philippine history and the single deadliest attack on the press ever recorded.

Joining members and officers of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines who held an activity in General Santos City as part of the monthly countdown leading up to the 10th anniversary of the massacre, the families, who have organized themselves as JUSTICE NOW, issued a statement “to clarify any misimpressions created by certain groups and personalities who claim that we are demanding an accounting of the assistance we received through media organizations.”

This was in response to earlier claims that families of the slain journalists were demanding an accounting of all donations intended for them because of the supposed “broken promises” of livelihood and scholarships by media organizations through whom funds were channeled.

“We are aware that, although no names were mentioned, the supposed demand for accountability was primarily targeted at the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, which, we once again stress, was one of the first organizations to rush to our side right after the massacre and has never left us since then,” JIUSTICE NOW said.

The families also stressed that “we have not and are not demanding, as some quarters claim, demanding that the NUJP open its records and show us where the funds and other assistance meant for us went.”

“If there is anything we are demanding, it is that government show the records of where the international assistance reportedly channeled through it has gone,” the families said.

JUSTICE NOW said it knew how the assistance coursed through the NUJP had been used “since we see the living proof of this – our children who have availed of the scholarships NUJP helped secure for them, many of whom have graduated and are now helping support our families, replacing the breadwinners we lost 10 years ago.”

It also acknowledged that the funding for the scholarships had run out because “they NUJP has been very open with us” and they were also informed by the International Federation of Journalists, which secured the assistance.

“But this is not about money,” the families stressed. “This is about unity – ours as the victims’ families and that which we forged with the NUJP 10 years ago – and our continued call for justice.”

At the same time, they called on those seeking to sow division among them to stop because “you do not speak for us and have no right to.”

“We ask you instead to join us in continuing to demand justice for the 58 persons who lost their lives in the massacre through the final conviction and punishment of all those involved in planning and carrying out” the massacre.

Following is the full statement of JUSTICE NOW:

We, the families of the 32 media workers who lost their lives in the November 23, 2009 Ampatuan massacre, organized as the JUSTICE NOW MOVEMENT, wish to issue this position paper to clarify any misimpressions created by certain groups and personalities who claim that we are demanding an accounting of the assistance we received through media organizations.

We are aware that, although no names were mentioned, the supposed demand for accountability was primarily targeted at the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, which, we once again stress, was one of the first organizations to rush to our side right after the massacre and has never left us since then.

In fact, our presence here today with the NUJP at the monthly countdown to the 10th anniversary of the massacre is proof that what we promised each other since that fateful day – “Walang iwanan” – holds true to this day. 
JUSTICE NOW also clarifies that we have not and are not demanding, as some quarters claim, that the NUJP open its records and show us where the funds and other assistance meant for us went.

This is because we are fully aware that the NUJP is an organization of working journalists and does not have the funds for this kind of work, and that what it does is help source and secure the assistance needed by the families of murdered journalists, not only those of the victims of the massacre.

Aside from this, we know very well where and how these were spent since we see the living proof of this – our children who have availed of the scholarships NUJP helped secure for them, many of whom have graduated and are now helping support our families, replacing the breadwinners we lost 10 years ago.

The NUJP has also been very open with us, updating and consulting us regularly. We also know that the scholarship fund has finally run out as we were informed about this last year by the International Federation of Journalists, which secured the assistance. If there is anything we are demanding, it is that government show the records of where the international assistance reportedly channeled through it has gone.

In the aftermath of the massacre, many promises of help were made. In fact, not just by government but even by other media groups. However, because the masterminds who planned and led in carrying out the massacre were government officials and agents, we feel it is the State that carries the primary responsibility of providing assistance to us and explaining why this has not been forthcoming, after a decade.

We remember in the aftermath of the massacre that then Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman made us undergo a seminar on proposal making and promised that the output would lead to funding assistance. We understand that release documents had been prepared for approved proposals. Yet, to date, we have received nothing.

But this is not about money. This is about unity – ours as the victims’ families and that which we forged with the NUJP 10 years ago – and our continued call for justice. We call on the quarters behind these attempts to break our unity by raising the bogey of funding and so-called demands for transparency and accountability to stop.

You do not speak for us and have no right to. We ask you instead to join us in continuing to demand justice for the 58 persons who lost their lives in the massacre through the final conviction and punishment of all those involved in planning and carrying out the worst incident of electoral violence in our country’s recent history and the single deadliest attack on the press ever.

Our call remains, JUSTICE NOW, CONVICT AMPATUAN!

Reference:
Emily Lopez, Chairperson
Mary Grace Morales, Secretary General