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NUJP statement on the 9th anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre

Today, November 23, 2018, is the ninth year since a power-crazed madman and his armed minions, among them members of the police, halted a convoy on the national highway in Barangay Saqlman, Ampatuan town, Maguindanao and herded the passengers, along with those of two vehicles that just happened to pass by, to a hilltop in Sitio Masalay and slaughtered them.

In the convoy were relatives and supporters of then Buluan town vice mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu who intended to file his candidacy for governor of Maguindanao against Andal “Datu Unsay” Ampatuan Jr., scion of the powerful clan that ruled the province, and 32 journalists who were there to cover the proceedings.

All in all, 58 persons died, making the Ampatuan massacre both the worst case of electoral violence in recent Philippine history and the single deadliest attack on the press ever recorded.

One would expect that justice would be swift in coming for a crime that literally shocked the world, so horrendous was it in both cruelty and scale. But no, the Justice department of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo chose to file what legal experts then called as “case designed to fail,” charging more than 190 persons instead of concentrating first on the principal suspects, key members of the Ampatuan clan, thus ensuring that the prosecution would stretch on for years. The most optimistic opinion on when the earliest conviction could be expected was 10 years.

A year short of that prediction, it is but right for the victims’ families, tired of the extremely slow pace of the trial, to shout “Justice Now” and “Convict Ampatuan.”

In fact, signaling their impatience, this year’s observance had the families of both non-media and media victims coming together to remember and honor their loved ones and, together, demand the justice they have long been deprived of.

While we are heartened by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra’s statement that a conviction may, at last, be forthcoming, we also hope this does not signal any intervention by the executive branch that could lead to a miscarriage of justice.

And while a closure to this tragedy is most welcome, we stress that it should not in any way detract from the State’s continued accountability for its continued failure to bring an end to the threats and attacks against journalists and to give justice to the more than 100 other victims of media killings since 1986.

#JUSTICENOW

#CONVICTAMPATUAN

#ENDTHEKILLINGS

Martial law victims want Imelda behind bars

Martial law victims and activists held a picket protest outside Sandiganbayan office in Quezon City to demand for the arrest warrant for Imelda Marcos following its guilty verdict against the former First Lady.

Samahan ng mga Ex-detainees laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) welcomed the conviction and asked the court to immediately put Marcos behind bars.

The group also reacted to the statement of PNP Director General Oscar Albayalde that Imelda might not be arrested because of her age and health conditions.

Albayalde’s statement did not surprise the martial law human rights victims since the Rodrigo Duterte government has been giving the Marcos family special treatment, SELDA said.

SELDA added that Sandiganbayan’s guilty verdict is a landmark decision that should be upheld.

SELDA called on the Sandiganbayan to stand by tits decision and not be cowed by the Marcoses’ alliance with Duterte. # (Report by Joseph Cuevas / Video by Carlo Francisco / Featured Image by Jinky Mendoza-Aguilar)

‘Maaari na silang patayin?’

“Sabi ni DAR secretary Castriciones, ‘Sila pong namatay na siyam, hindi sila ang may-ari ng lupa at ng hacienda.’ Ang ibig sabihin ba nito ay maaari na silang patayin?”–Rita Baua, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan

DOJ dismisses complaint vs Catanduanes gov over 1st media killing under Duterte

By Lottie Salarda

“We were not surprised anymore,” Catanduanes journalist Marlon Suplig said after learning that the Department of Justice in Manila dismissed the murder complaint against Catanduanes Governor Joseph Cua and others over the murder of Catanduanes Now Publisher Larry Que in 2016.

What surprised them was the failure of the DOJ to notify them almost a year after its resolution, Suplig said.

Contrary to the Rules on Criminal Procedure requiring only probable cause for a case to be filed, Assistant State Prosecutor Alejandro Daguiso in a resolution dated October 30, 2017, said there is insufficiency of evidence presented by the complainants and it will be unfair to hold the respondents for trial.

Que was killed after writing a column alleging the negligence of the local officials over the discovery of a major shabu laboratory in the province.

He was the first vitim of media killing under the Rodrigo Duterte government.

The victim was shot by a motorcycle men-riding in tandem at around 9:30 in the morning near his workplace in Virac, Catanduanes.

On May 2, 2017, Edralyn Pangilinan, Que’s common-law wife filed a murder case against Cua, police officer Vincent Tacorda, Cua’s right-hand Prince Lim Subion and other “John Does”.

Gov. Cua (right, in gray shirt) announces his candidacy for governorship in the 2019 local elections. (Photo by Radyo Natin-Virac, used with permission)

After his arrest last year, Tacorda admitted he was instructed to kill Que under the guise of “Operation Tokhang” by Cua through his right-hand man Subion.

Que received death threats from Lim Subion prior to the incident.

According to Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) Executive Director Joel Egco, Tacorda faced a robbery and extortion charges because he allegedly asked the family for 10 million pesos in exchange for evidence of Que’s death.

The extortion case filed against Tacorda was likewise dismissed. He denied all his extrajudicial confessions in his affidavit.

The complainants said they did not receive a copy of the resolution.

Suplig said they did not know that their complaint was already dismissed almost a year ago as they were not given copies.

It was Cua’s camp who announced the dismissal nearly two months before the filing of certificates of candidacies for the 2019 local and national polls.

The incumbent governor is planning to run for the same post next year. #

Int’l tribunal finds Duterte ‘guilty’ of slaughter and other crimes

The International People’s Tribunal (IPT) held in Brussels, Belgium found President Rodrigo Roa Duterte “guilty” in a two-day hearing held in Brussels, Belgium.

After hearing 31 testimonies and experts’ reports on Duterte’s alleged crimes, including his government’s war on drugs that has killed at least four thousand victims, as well as “essentially genocidal war especially among indigenous peoples,” among other charges, the tribunal said they found Duterte culpable of anti-democratic and anti-people policies.

“The consistency and robustness of the testimonies has unanimously appeared to us as to be so compelling to justify the deliberation of a clear verdict on the main responsibilities of the main defendants,” the tribunal said.

Although not a strictly legal and judicial proceeding, the IPT, composed of globally eminent lawyers and human rights defenders is hoped to draw more attention on the state of human and other social and political rights in the Philippines under Duterte.

Watch this video of the presentation of the verdict.

Families, human rights groups celebrate Palparan’s conviction

The families of missing University of the Philippines students as well as human rights groups celebrated when the Regional Trial Court in Malolos City, Bulacan found retired Army Major General Jovito Palparan guilty of kidnapping and serious illegal detention Monday, September 17.

Cheers erupted when those gathered outside the courthouse were informed of the verdict on the case filed by Concepcion Empeño and Erlinda Cadapan, mothers of missing UP students Karen and Sherlyn, respectively.

Right after the promulgation, Palparan berated Judge Alexander Tamayo as well as the public prosecutor. (Video and report by Joseph Cuevas / Featured photo by Jinky Mendoza Aguilar)

GUILTY!: ‘Butcher’ Palparan, 2 others face reclusion perpetua

Retired Army Major General Jovito Palparan faces 20 to 40 years imprisonment after being found guilty of kidnapping and serious illegal detention for the 2006 disappearance of University of the Philippines UP students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño.

In today’s long-awaited promulgation, Branch 15 of the Malolos Regional Trial Court found the notorious Philippine Army officer guilty of the crime, along with co-accused Lieutenant Colonel Felipe Anotado and Sgt. Edgardo Osorio.

Judge Alexander Tamayo also ordered the three to each pay P100,000 in civil indemnity and P200,000 for moral damages to the families of the victims.

Called “The Butcher” by activists and human rights workers, Palparan is believed to responsible for numerous other human rights violations throughout the Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Eastern Visayas and Southern Mindanao regions where he was assigned by the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government.

Empeño and Cadapan, however, remain missing.

Photo by Jinky Mendoza / Kodao

Elated

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), private prosecutors to the case, immediately expressed elation over the verdict.

“We are extremely elated that justice has finally caught up with the coward Butcher. The law and evidence is not only on our side this time around but we are on the side of truth and justice,” the group said.

The lawyers added that despite tremendous odds and difficulties, the suffering mothers of Sherlyn and Karen as well as their supporters and lawyers have “overcome what seemed to be a wild shot at a rare chance to make Gen. Palparan and his likes accountable.”

“[May] his conviction be a signal to all other human rights violators especially of the worst kinds that rightful retribution will come in time,” the NUPL said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Pahayag ng mga pamilya ng mga biktima ng Ampatuan Massacre tungkol sa panandaliang paglaya ni Zaldy Ampatuan

Agosto 23, 2018

Kaming mga naiwang pamilya ng 32 mamamahayag na kabilang sa 58 kataong walang awang pinaslang sa Ampatuan massacre noong November 23, 2009, ay kinokondena ang naging desisyon ng Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 na payagang makalabas ng kulungan at dumalo sa kasal ng kanyang anak ang isa sa mga akusado na si Zaldy Ampatuan.

Labis na nagdurugo ang aming mga puso at sumasabog sa galit ang aming mga damdamin sa pagsasawalang bahala na ito ng korte sa aming mga asawa, anak, kapatid at kaanak na hanggang ngayo’y nagdadalamhati halos siyam na taon na matapos ang pinakabrutal na insidente ng pamamaslang ng mga mamamahayag sa kasaysayan.

Isang insultong hindi katanggap-tanggap para sa amin na malaman na ang isa sa mga nagplano ng karumal-dumal na krimen ay makalalanghap ng hangin ng kalayaan kahit sa maikling panahon para makasama ang kanyang pamilya, isang bagay na habambuhay na ipinagkait sa amin.

Ang mas nakalulungkot dito ay hindi namin ito inasahan at walang nagpaabot sa amin ng impormasyon na dumulog sa korte si Zaldy Ampatuan para umapela na bigyan siya ng permisong dumalo sa isang kasalan. Kung nalaman agad namin ito, hinding-hindi namin ito palalampasin at mahigpit itong tututulan.

Kaya ang tanong namin sa aming tagapagtanggol: Sino ba ang inyong kinakatawan sa kasong ito?

Tanong din namin sa korte: Patas at makatarungan ba na bigyan si Zaldy Ampatuan ng pribilehiyong hindi makamit ng ibang presong may mas magagaang na kaso? Makaaasa pa ba kami ng katarungan para sa aming mga mahal sa buhay?

Sana ay maunawaan kami sakaling may nasaling sa paglabas ng aming nga hinanaing tungkol sa tinatakbo ng kaso. Pero matapos ang siyam na taon at wala pang naparurusahan isa man sa mga maysala, aaminin namin na ang aming tiwala sa sistema ng hustisya ay lubos na nasusubok.

Pagkatapos ng masaker, tinaya ng mga eksperto na aabutin ng sampung taon o isang dekada bago may maparusahan sa krimen na ito. Nalalapit na ang panahon na iyon pero ang pagkamit ng hustisya ay nananatiling mailap.

Sa halos isang dekadang inaasam-asam namin ang katarungan ang bubungad sa amin ay ang pribilehiyong tinamasa niya. Ano ang dapat naming maramdaman?

Sa mga humahawak ng kaso, huwag naman po ninyo paglaruan ang kaso dahil hindi po nakakatuwa.

Reference:

Grace Morales
Asawa ni Rosell Morales ng News Focus 6
Tagapagsalita, Justice Now!

 

Ampatuan furlough alarms journos, rights groups

Journalists and human rights advocates expressed alarm over a four-hour furlough given by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (QC-RTC) to a primary suspect in the November 24, 2009 Ampatuan Massacre that killed 58 victims, including 32 reporters.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said in a statement it is concerned to learn that QC-RTC Judge Jocelyn Solis – Reyes allowed former Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) governor Zaldy Ampatuan to leave detention to attend his daughter’s wedding Tuesday, August 21.

“While we may understand a parent’s desire to be present at such an important milestone in the life of a child, we stress that the crime of which Mr. Ampatuan is accused of is of such a heinous nature that the shock and outrage it stirred around the world forced then President Gloria Arroyo to move against the powerful clan that was among her staunchest allies,” NUJP said.

The NUJP said it learned of Ampatuan’s furlough only through Tawi-Tawi Rep. Ruby Sahali who posted on social media a picture of herself with former ARMM governor Zaldy Ampatuan.

The caption read: “Alhamdulilla with my former Boss Former RG Datu Zaldy Uy Ampatuan during the wedding ceremony of his eldest daugher Bai Nur Aila.”

Rep. Sahali also posted video from the wedding, which she indicated was held at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel.

“Almost nine years after the rampage that claimed the lives of 58 persons, 32 of them media workers, no one has yet been convicted. Yet a principal accused, Sajid Ampatuan, was granted bail. That and now this, we feel, gives us and the victims’ families more than enougy cause to worry about whether we can truly expect justice for this most grievous of crimes,” NUJP said.

Suara Bangsamoro and the Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights also condemned what they call double standards in granting petitions for temporary releases from detention.

“Granting Zaldy Ampatuan a furlough, instead of conviction, is an insult to the victims of the Maguindanao Massacre. It also proves that under the Duterte administration impunity reigns as criminals and human rights violators such as Ampatuan’s boss, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, are allowed to regain and continue to consolidate their political power,” Suara Bangsamoro chairperson Jerome Succor Aba said.

Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay for her part said that while Ampatuan was readily given such privilege, “political prisoners were heartlessly denied of their appeals to properly grieve and pay their respects to their loved ones.”

“Andrea Rosal was disallowed to go to the cemetery where her child was interred. Joseph Cuevas and Eddie Cruz were not allowed to even go to the wake of their fathers. Of course, they were not in government and they are poor, so they don’t have the perks of hoodlums and killers such as the Ampatuans, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Juan Ponce Enrile, and Jinggoy Estrada,” Palabay said.

 

The Philippine Star also said Judge Reyes also earlier allowed Ampatuan to attend his daughter’s college graduation from the Ateneo de Manila University.

“We all know that most people accused of lesser offenses almost never get to enjoy a privilege as that granted Zaldy Ampatuan. What made him an exception to the rule?” the NUJP asked.

Sources said Department of Justice prosecutors objected to the petition for furlough by Ampatuan’s defense lawyers, to no avail.

Other sources said that both the prosecution and defense have submitted their memoranda on the case to the court, signalling that the resolution of the long-drawn case would follow shortly.

Judge Reyes reportedly has to rule on the memoranda first before announcing a promulgation schedule.

Reyes holds the Ampatuan Massacre trial in a special court inside Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Court dismisses double murder charges vs Makabayan 4

The Palayan Regional Trial Court (RTC) dismissed the double murder case against National Anti-Poverty Commission lead convenor Liza Maza and her fellow former Makabayan bloc representatives Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casiño and Rafael Mariano.

In a decision dated August 8, Palayan City RTC Acting Presiding Judge Trese D. Wenceslao ordered the dismissal of the cases and quashed the warrants of arrest against the four.

“[C]onsidering that the evidence on hand absolutely fails to support a finding of probable cause against the accused-movants, the Motion for Reconsidetion (of the Order dated July 11, 2018 with Prayer to Quash Warrants of Arrests) is hereby GRANTED,” Judge Wenceslao ordered.

“Consequently, the Warrants of Arrest issued on July 11, 2018 under Criminal Case Nos. 1879-P and 1880-P against Saturnino C. Ocampo, Liza L. Maza, Teodoro A. Casiño and Rafael V. Mariano are QUASHED. The instant cases are DISMISSED as to the said accused-movenats,” he added.

Wenceslao, however, ordered that the arrest warrants against more than a dozen others who did not ask the court for reconsideration stand.

Dispositive portion of Judge Wenceslao’s decision. (Photo by Renato Reyes Jr.)

The four opposition leaders were ordered arrested by Judge Evelyn Atienza-Turla last July 11 after reversing her 2008 decision that the case does not meet her standards in finding probable cause.

Atty. Rachel Pastores, counsel for the four accused, said the case is pure harassment as the complaint was not even subscribed before a public prosecutor before it was filed.

“The complainants swore before the Philippine National Police and not to a public prosecutor. It was irregular,” Pastores said.

A Cleotilde Peralta and an Isabelita Bayudang alleged Ocampo, Maza, Mariano, Casiño and 18 other activists met in 1998 to plan the assassination of former Bayan Muna (BM) members who have left the party.

Peralta said her husband was ran over and killed in 2001 while Bayudang said her husband was shot to death in 2004 upon orders of the four accused and others.

In 2016, however, Peralta and Bayudang were found liable for damages in a civil suit and were ordered to pay P325,000 to Ocampo by Quezon City RTC Branch 95.

The QC RTC said Peralta and Bayudang lied when they alleged BM was already existing in 1998 when it was in fact created only in 2000.

The two complainants were ordered to pay damages to Ocampo, but have yet to abide by the court decision.

The two complainants have not appeared in court since then.

Peralta and Bayudang’s petition to have Bayan Muna disqualified using the same allegations was also dismissed by the Commission on Elections in 2008. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)