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December 19 and the quest for justice

ON DECEMBER 19, the day set by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 for the promulgation of its much-awaited verdict on the Ampatuan massacre, it will be 10 years and 25 days since the killings occurred in Maguindanao on November 23, 2009.

Let that sink in: a decade of injustice. Ten years since 58 men and women, of whom 32 were journalists and media workers, were brutally killed in the worst election-related violence in the Philippines and the worst attack on journalists in history. These are millions of moments when swift decisive justice could have been served on the alleged perpetrators of the crime and its masterminds.

On December 19, the Filipino public expects nothing less than a conviction from Quezon City RTC Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes. But the Ampatuan case is one more indication of the fact that in the Philippines, a verdict in the lower courts even on a patently heinous crime will take at least a decade. It proves that impunity thrives for the powerful, while for the victims of crimes such as the Ampatuan massacre, a decade can pass without attaining justice.

A decade has indeed passed but the conditions that led to the Ampatuan massacre remain: political dynasties and patronage are still alive, paramilitary groups have not been dismantled, and the Ampatuans’ collusion with the administration — Arroyo then and Duterte now — still persists.

But in this climate when attacks against free expression and the press escalate relentlessly – from the killings of journalists to illegal arrests to online attacks – we should remain undaunted. Despite the stark lesson on how elusive justice is from the Ampatuan massacre case, journalists, activists, and advocates must not only soldier on, but also up the ante in the fight to shatter the culture of impunity that has enveloped the nation.

A conviction of the Ampatuans would be considered an initial victory against impunity. An acquittal, on the other hand, would spell death to press freedom.

December 19 will not only underscore how elusive justice is in our country. It should also be a time for all of us to renew our commitment to continue fighting for it no matter the cost, and no matter how long.

On December 19, let us express our solidarity with the families of the Ampatuan massacre victims and register our resounding call: Justice for the 58 massacre victims. End Impunity. Convict the Ampatuans.

* Pooled editorial of the members of the AlterMidya Network, a national organization of independent media outfits in the Philippines.

State of Media Freedom in PH

Red-tagging, intimidation vs. press: Du30, state agents behind 69 cases

By The Freedom for Media, Freedom for All Network*

  • A network composed of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), MindaNews, Philippine Press Institute (PPI), and Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ)

THE STATE OF MEDIA FREEDOM in the Philippines under the Duterte Administration remains a tragic story as new and more cases of attacks and threats continue, with marked uptick for certain incidents.

The situation highlights the unyielding reign of impunity, and the shrinking democratic space in the country, even as the nation awaits next week, on Dec. 19, 2019, the promulgation of judgment on the Ampatuan Massacre case of Nov. 23, 2009 that claimed the lives of 58 persons, including 32 journalists and media workers.

After over nine years of trial, Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes, presiding judge of Branch 221 of the regional trial court of Quezon City, will decide on the case that has been described as the “deadliest strike against the press in history.”

From June 30, 2016 to Dec. 5, 2019, or in the last 41 months, 154 incidents of attacks and threats against the news media had been documented jointly by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP).

The 154 cases include 15 journalists who had been killed under the Duterte Administration even as cases of intimidation and online harassment registered the highest numbers, by category of incidents.

The most worrisome numbers are 28 incidents of intimidation, 20 online harassment, 12 threats via text messages, 12 libel cases, 10 website attacks, eight slay attempts, and eight cases of journalists barred from coverage.

Sixty cases of attacks were made against online media — the highest by media platform — apart from 41 cases against radio networks, 33 against print media agencies, and 15 cases against television networks.

Of the 154 cases, at least 69 had linked state agents — public officials from the Executive and Legislative branches, uniformed personnel, and Cabinet appointees of President Duterte – as known or alleged perpetrators. Of these 69 state agents, about half or 27 are from national government agencies.

Luzon island logged the biggest number of cases at 99, including 69 in Metro Manila alone. Mindanao logged 37 cases, and the Visayas, 18.

In the last six months, however, the most disconcerting and fastest rising numbers of attacks and threats include:

  • Multiple instances of public broadsides and attacks by President Duterte and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. against certain journalists and media agencies, and threats by the President to personally see after the denial of franchise renewal for a television network. “Ayan. Nationwide man ‘yan. Ikaw, ABS-CBN, you’re a mouthpiece of… Ang inyong franchise, mag-end next year. If you are expecting na ma-renew ‘yan, I’m sorry. You’re out. I will see to it that you’re out,” the President warned ABS-CBN network;
  • Red-tagging of journalists and media organizations as alleged fronts of leftist and communist groups by officers of the Armed Forces, Philippine National Police, Philippine Communications Operations Office, and other state agents;
  • Workshops conducted by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) in the regions compelling journalists to sign off to a “Manifesto of Commitment” to “wholeheartedly support” the Administration’s “Whole-Of-Nation Approach In Attaining Inclusive And Sustainable Peace, Creating A National Task Force To End Local Communist Armed Conflict, And Directing The Adoption Of A National Peace Framework,” as mandated by Executive Order No. 70 that Duterte issued in December 2018; and
  • A case of mistaken arrest of a journalist had also happened. In June 2019, Fidelina Margarita Avellanosa-Valle, Davao Today columnist, was arrested at the Laguindingan airport allegedly based on a warrant of arrest for murder and other alleged cases. She was brought to Pagadian, held incommunicado for hours, and later released in the evening with just an apology from the Philippine National Police or PNP.

RED-TAGGING

More cases of red-tagging or red-baiting of journalists by police or military officers or their intelligence assets and allies have been reported.

· On Nov. 4, 2019, in an interview with the anchors of “The Chiefs” program of TV5, Lorraine Marie T. Badoy, undersecretary for New Media and External Affairs, tagged the National Union of Journalists and other media personnel as so-called fronts of Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army. “Are they or are they not part of the CPP-NPA? They are,” Badoy said. Asked if she was saying that these groups are fronting or are part of terrorist organizations, Badoy replied, “Unequivocally. Yes.” Badoy added, “I just don’t want a reporting. I want a clear and unequivocal denunciation of the human rights violations of the CPP-NPA.”

In a statement, NUJP said that Badoy clearly painted the NUJP as enemies of the state. “This is essentially an open call for state forces to threaten, harass, arrest, detain and kill journalists for doing their job,” NUJP said.

“Clearly,” added NUJP, “the intent of this red-tagging spree and all other assaults on press freedom is to intimidate the independent media into abandoning their critical stance as watchdogs and become mouthpieces of government.”

· On Sept. 17, 2019, at a public forum at the Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga, Rolando Asuncion, regional director of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) claimed Pampanga TV manager Sonia Soto was among 31 identified media personalities in the NICA’s list of alleged rebels. “Sa CLTV36, kilala niyo ba yun? Si Sonia Soto, ‘yong maganda? Iyon.(Do you know Sonia Soto? The pretty one in CLTV36?)”

A report by SunStar said that in a Facebook post, Soto denied the accusation in no uncertain terms. “I cannot accept this label or tag because I am neither a communist nor a terrorist,” the report quoted Soto as saying. “I am a professional TV station manager and a Kapisanan ng Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP)-licensed TV broadcaster. I have never allowed CLTV36 or any of its shows to be a mouthpiece for anyone advocating terrorism or to raise arms against government in the course of my work as a broadcaster and general manager of CLTV36.”

“As a matter of fact,” Soto added, “like all TV stations, we use a standard disclaimer to caution the viewers should anyone among the guests in a TV show utter words that may be misconstrued as reflective of the Management’s views on a specific topic being discussed. Please know that I am concerned for my safety.”

Soto, a student leader at the Lyceum of the Philippines, was a signatory to a 1982 agreement between the League of Filipino Students and the Ministry of National Defense that bars state security forces from entering state universities.

The incident allegedly happened during a “Situational Awareness and Knowledge Management” briefing, which Asuncion described as “pursuant to the mandate of NICA in implementing Executive Order 70 calling for the creation of a National Task Force specifically in the adoption of a National Peace Framework to end the local communist armed conflict,” according to those who were invited to the event.

On multiple occasions, various state agents and pro-Duterte groups have tagged independent and critical journalists and media agencies as supposed fronts or supporters of the leftist and communist groups, via social-media posts and in press statements.

Those who had been targeted include journalists from Mindanao Gold Star Daily, MindaNews, Visayan Daily Star, Davao Today, radyo Natin Gumaca, the PNP Press Corps, Rappler, Vera Files, the NUJP chapter members in Cagayan de Oro, and PCIJ.

COMPELLED CONSENT

Statements by military officers and forums conducted by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) in the regions compel journalists to sign off to a “Manifesto of Commitment” declaring their “wholehearted support and commitment to the implementation of President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70 to the Regional Task Force To End Local Communist Armed Conflict.”

  • On Nov. 19, 2019, journalists in Eastern Visayas were invited to a forum organized by NICA’s Region 8 Task Force in Tacloban City. “Partnering with the Media in Winning Peace and development in Eastern Visayas” was the theme of the forum conducted by the Task Force’s “Strategic Communications Cluster” and “Situation Awareness and Knowledge Management Center.” Some participants said that NICA’s invitation for journalists to sign off to the “Manifesto of Commitment” was practically compelled and demanded. To decline could have been interpreted as going against the Task Force’s supposed goal of ending the “communist armed conflict.”
  • On Dec. 6, 2019 in Butuan City, Agusan del Sur, the Philippine Information Agency reported the conduct of another meeting with journalists by the Strategic Communications Cluster of the Regional Task Force To End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC) with NICA Regional Director Manuel Orduña.
  • In May 2019, members of the Defense Press Corps took exception to a letter to editors and social-media posts by Maj. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Armed Forces of the Philippines deputy chief of staff for civil-military operations.

The Philippine Star reported that Parlade had accused reporters of being “biased and of colluding with communists” when they failed to carry the statement made by Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesperson, about the writs of amparo and habeas data that the Supreme Court had granted the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers.

“These media are allowing their government to be punched and bullied without giving it an opportunity to air its side, or more appropriately, to express the truth,” Parlade had said. The reporters “do not want to expose the truth about these front organizations” of the Communist Party of the Philippines, Parlade added.

The Defense Press Corps said that not one of its members carried the AFP’s statement because “it was, to put it bluntly, a rehash of a written statement he issued three days earlier.” It stressed that DPC is an organization “indebted to no one—not to the AFP, the Department of National Defense, the NUPL, the left and other state and non-state actors.”

“It is a very unfortunate that MGen. Parlade, who is supposed to bridge the gap between the AFP and the ordinary people as the military’s top civil military operations officer, is shooting the messenger by falsely and randomly accusing DPC members of transgression on our core values,” the reporters said, adding that Parlade’s intention of spreading his letter in social media is questionable.

“To be accused of bias, merely by not carrying a stale statement, sends a chilling message to media practitioners to parrot the military line or else, be discredited,” the Defense Press Corps said. Freedom for Media, Freedom for All Network, 10 December 2019

DATA TABLES:

By the numbers, here are the cases of attacks and threats on media freedom in the Philippines covering the period from June 30, 2016 to Dec. 5, 2019. Some numbers/data may have changed from previous reports after some cases, upon further investigation/consolidation of data, were proven to be not work-related.

INCIDENTS, BY CATEGORY, PLATFORM, GENDER:

INCIDENTS, BY LOCATION:

INCIDENTS, BY ALLEGED PERPETRATOR:

Media groups demand justice as promulgation nears

Groups continue their countdown 10 days before the promulgation of judgement on the decade-long trial on the Ampatuan Massacre on December 19. Groups such as the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Photojournalists Center of the Philippines, Altermidya, College Editors Guild of the Philippines , Justice Now and others are expected to be present when Quezon City Regional Trial Court 221 hands down its verdict. (Video by Jek Alcaraz/Kodao. Background music credits: Haunting Sadness – Scary Background Music For Creepypastas – Mediacharger)

FOCAP: Ampatuan convictions only acceptable outcome

The Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) said the conviction of all perpetrators, especially the masterminds, is acceptable on the expected Ampatuan massacre case ruling next month.

In a statement issued two days before the 10th anniversary of the massacre, the FOCAP said it renews its call for a closure that will bring justice to the 58 victims, 32 of whom were journalists.

“Convictions of the perpetrators and full recompense of the victims’ families will be a first step in reversing the long and tragic injustice,” the group said.

FOCAP said nothing can justify another delay of even just one more day.

Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 presiding judge Jocelyn A. Solis-Reyes has been given until December 10 to submit a copy of her decision to the Supreme Court and until December 20 to promulgate it.

The cases’ promulgation was originally expected to be held on or before November 20 but Solis-Reyes asked for a 30-day extension “due to the voluminous records of these cases.”

The case dragged on for more than a decade which private prosecutor Nena Santos blamed on the “delaying tactics” employed by the principal respondents, the Ampatuans.

FOCAP added that the Philippine government has to do much more to banish the political barbarism that engenders media killings.

“The horrific display of impunity that claimed 58 lives, including 32 Philippine media workers, on November 23, 2009 underscored the deadly mix of political abuse and government failures that remains a threat we face today,” FOCAP said.

“Already regarded as one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists, the Philippines became the scene of the deadliest single attack on media workers with the savage killings in Ampatuan town,” FOCAP added.

The group called on officials at the highest level to take effective steps to stop all forms of attacks and intimidation against journalists.

“They should fulfill their core constitutional duty to protect fundamental freedoms,” the group added.

10th anniversary activities

Meanwhile, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) announced its series of activities commemorating the anniversary of the massacre.

The group announced its concert dubbed #FIGHTFOR58: A Concert for Justice at the Mows Bar in Matalino Street, Quezon City on November 22 at seven o’clock in the evening.

The concert is for the benefit of the families of the massacre victims.

At five o’clock in the morning of November 23, journalists, artists and other allies will collectively paint a mural depicting their call for justice for the massacre victims.

They will then march on to Mendiola at 10 o’clock in the morning, pausing for 58 seconds at exactly 11.23 AM to pay respect to the victims.

At Mendiola, they will erect a wall-sized installation of the photos of the victims.

NUJP’s chapters nationwide shall hold their own commemoration activities. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Bacolod journos to remember Maguindanao massacre victims

By Visayas Today

Officers and members of the Negros Press Club and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines-Bacolod chapter reiterated their call for justice for the victims of the massacre in Ampatuan, Maguindanao that killed 58 people, including 32 journalists, 10 years ago.

The local media groups will mark their death anniversary with a tribute at the NPC building on Friday, November 22, at 3 p.m.

It will be followed by the lighting of candles and offering of prayers at the Marker for Fallen Journalists at the public plaza.

The victims’ kin, campus journalists, students, and civic leaders are also expected to join the commemoration.

On November 23, 2009, the 58 victims, including the 32 journalists, were shot to death on the way to the provincial poll office for the filing of certificate of candidacy of Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, for governor against Andal Ampatuan Jr., the son of the governor at the time, Andal Ampatuan Sr., the alleged mastermind of the massacre who died in 2015.

The promulgation of judgment is expected to be handed down on or before December 20 this year.

The Maguindanao massacre is considered as the worst election-related violence in recent Philippine history and the worst attack on journalists the world has known. #

Kids of Ampatuan massacre victims cry ‘justice’ 10 years after carnage

By Visayas Today

SITIO MASALAY, Ampatuan, Maguindanao – Princess Arianna Caniban was eight months old when the November 23, 2009 Ampatuan massacre happened, claiming the lives of 58 persons, 32 of them media workers.

On Sunday, November 17, Princess Arianna, whose father John was a reporter for the community paper Peryodiko Ini in Koronadal, joined other children of the murdered journalists on the very hilltop in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao where their parents died.

Most of the victims, including the journalists, were in a convoy on its way to file the candidacy of the town vice mayor Esmael Mangudadatu, who intended to run for governor against Andal
Ampatuan Jr., a scion of the powerful clan that ruled Maguindanao and mayor of the town of Datu Unsay, which bears his nickname.

The convoy was stopped at a highway checkpoint by scores of gunmen, allegedly led by Unsay himself, and forced, along with the five passengers of two other vehicles that just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, to the hilltop in Sitio Masalay where they were gunned down.

The killers then tried to conceal the evidence by burying the bodies and vehicles in huge pits dug ahead of the slaughter but were foiled when soldiers looking for the missing convoy arrived.

Among the other victims were Mangudadatu’s wife, aunt, sisters, lawyers and supporters.

The massacre, named after both the town and the clan accused of planning the carnage, has been acknowledged as the worst incident of electoral violence in recent Philippine history and the single deadliest attack on the press ever recorded.

Each year since, the families of the massacre victims have made the pilgrimage to the site of the slaughter to pray for them and cry for justice. And yet, for a crime whose ferocity and scale shocked the world, justice has been frustratingly slow in coming.

When the trial of the close to 200 suspects finally ended a few months ago, the Justice department promised a verdict before the massacre’s 10th anniversary. It normally takes 90 days after a case is submitted for decision for the verdict to be handed down. In this case, that should have been on November 20.

However, Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes, who presided over the trial, suddenly sought a 30-day extension from the Supreme Court, citing “the voluminous records of these cases which have now reached 238 volumes.”

The request has been granted with an non-extendable deadline set for December 20.

Thus, a decade later, Princess Arianna, now 10, was with the other slain journalists’ children putting on a skit in which they spoke of the hardships they have gone through over the past years.

“Who is going to take care of me? Who will buy my medicines?” Princess Arianna, who has been diagnosed with rheumatic heart fever, asked as tears flowed down her face.

Not only did the journalists’ families lose husbands, fathers, wives, sons or daughters, most of them also lost their breadwinners, adding almost certain penury to their grief.

And the children have suffered the most.

Jean Malabanan, daughter of Gina dela Cruz, was forced to look after her four siblings after her mother died in the massacre.

She spoke of having to suffer through long periods when their power and water were cut off because they could not meet their payments.

Although those accused of the massacre were agents of the state – the principal members of the clan who were charged included, aside from Unsay the mayor, the patriarch Andal Sr., the long-time governor of the province, his sons Zaldy, then governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and Sajid Islam, the vice governor of Maguindanao; the then provincial director of police and other officers were also accused of conniving to carry out the massacre – the families of the slain journalists have received little to no support from government.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and other groups helped send the massacre victims’ children to school, with a number of them finishing college and helping support their families.

However, last year, the scholarship program had to be suspended after donors sent notice they could no longer fund it.

At the mass he said at the massacre site to honor the victims, Catholic priest Rey Ondap also lashed out at politicians he accused of trying to “to use the massacre for their own ends,” singling out former president Benigno Aquino III, “who promised justice during his campaign” for the 2010 election.

“Nothing happened,” said Ondap, who entered the priesthood the year the massacre happened.

He mused about the contrast: “While I am happy to celebrate a decade of priesthood I am unhappy this case has yet to be resolved.”

And despite the expected verdict next month, the priest also scored officials of the current government who had earlier not only promised a decision but even gave the supposed date it would be issued.

He said the massacre and the decade spent working to hold the perpetrators accountable “show how the government and the judiciary work.” Nevertheless, he urged the families of the victims not to lost hope. “Leave history in the hands of God,” he told them.

Emily Lopez, president of JUSTICE NOW, the organization of the murdered journalists’ families, also slammed government officials who, she said, not only “tried to use us for political ends but even tried to divide us.”

Yet, while speaking of their disappointment and frustration at the further delay in the verdict, she urged the families: “Let us hold firm. We have to if we are to claim justice for our loved ones.”

JUSTICE NOW officer Grace Morales, who lost her husband Rosell, also said even if the expected verdict brings justice to their loved ones, “there are more than a hundred other media killings that remain unsolved.”

These, she said, would continue to feed the culture of impunity and embolden more killings.

Since 1986, the NUJP has recorded 187 media murders. Of these, 14 have happened under the Duterte administration. #

Police sergeant, retired corporal and civilian to be charged for broadcaster’s murder

Authorities are preparing charges against a police sergeant, a retired police corporal and a civilian for the murder of Dumaguete City broadcaster Dindo Generoso yesterday, Thursday, November 7.

Philippine National Police-Negros Oriental acting director Colonel Julian Entoma said they have arrested and are preparing charges against Police Corporal Glenn Corsame and civilian Teddy Reyes Salaw for Generoso’s murder.

The third suspect, identified as Police Sergeant Roger Rubio, remains at large.

Entoma described Corsame as a “non-duty police officer” under the Negros Oriental provincial police office.

Screen grab of suspect Corsame’s file.(PTFoMs image)

The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS), in announcing the arrests, however said Corsame is already retired. A PTFoMS screen grab of Corsame’s file indicates that he is “optionally retired.”

Generoso, 67, was driving to dyEM Bai Radio where he hosts a radio program at around 7:30 a.m when shot by a gunman riding pillion on a motorcycle.

He died of eight gunshot wounds to the head and body.

The PTFoMS said reports it received indicated that the suspects are in the employ of a powerful politician in the province.

The mastermind and the motive for Generoso’s killing are still the subject of ongoing follow-up operations, PTFoMs said.

Generoso was the second media practitioner killed in Dumaguete since 2018 when Edmund Sestoso was shot on his way home from work on April 31, dying of his injuries the next day.

Sestoso’s killing, on the other hand, remains unsolved.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said should Generoso’s murder be deemed related to his work as a broadcaster, he would be the 14th media practitioner killed in the line of duty under the Duterte administration and the 187th since 1986. # (Raymund B. Villanueva, with reports from Visayas Today)

NUJP warns Badoy: You are accountable should red-baited journalists be harmed

Communications undersecretary Lorraine Marie Badoy is accountable should harm befall journalists she slandered as terrorists, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) warned.

Reacting to her accusations it is fronting and associated with alleged terrorist organizations, the NUJP said Badoy clearly painted the NUJP as enemies of the state.

“This is essentially an open call for state forces to threaten, harass, arrest, detain and kill journalists for doing their job,” the NUJP said.

In an interview with the television program The Chiefs last November 4 News5, Badoy said the NUJP is part of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA) and are “unequivocally” fronting for terrorist organizations.

The NUJP said Badoy’s latest accusation is part of an intensifying campaign to paint the group and other independent media organizations and journalists as “fronts” of the armed communist movement that started in December last year.

“Clearly, the intent of this red-tagging spree and all other assaults on press freedom is to intimidate the independent media into abandoning their critical stance as watchdogs and become mouthpieces of government,” the NUJP said.

Such accusations cause harm to targeted journalists however, the group said, citing the recent arrest and detention of community journalist Anne Krueger during the series of raids in Bacolod City last Oct. 31.

A reporter for the newly-established alternative media outfit Paghimutad, Krueger was accused of being a NPA member and slapped with illegal possession of firearms.

“What next? Should we, too, to expect raids and planted evidence in our offices and homes?” the NUJP asked.

Several journalists accused of being CPP and NPA members have also been victims of arrests, threats and murder attempts.

Davao Today columnist Margarita Valle was arrested at Laguindingan Airport last June 9 and held incommunicado for 18 hours in what the police later admitted was a case of mistaken identity.

In Cagayan de Oro, repeated red-baiting victim and Mindanao Gold Star Daily associate editor Cong Corrales was alleged to have a P1 million bounty on his head.

Last August 6, red-baited American journalist Brandon Lee survived a slay try.

“Clearly, the intent of this red-tagging spree and all other assaults on press freedom is to intimidate the independent media into abandoning their critical stance as watchdogs and become mouthpieces of government,” the NUJP said.

The group had been consistently critical of President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial pronouncements against journalists and media killings.

The NUJP however said it will continue telling the truth, as “[t]he Filipino people deserve no less.”

“As for those behind these attempts to muzzle and shackle the Philippine press, should any harm befall our colleagues because of your machinations, you will be held to account,” the NUJP warned. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

[Disclosure: The reporter is currently NUJP’s deputy secretary general.]

‘Press freedom is dead if Ampatuans not convicted’ – lawyer

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — Lawyer of the families of the victims of the Ampatuan massacre Nena Santos said she is confident that a conviction in the ongoing 10-year old case is in the offing.

In a press conference organized by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines Tuesday, Nov. 5, Santos said the Quezon City court is expected to issue a promulgation before the tenth year of the gruesome incident that killed 58 individuals, of whom 32 were journalists.

“We are not sure of the 100% (all 197 accused), but we are sure that the principal accused will be convicted,” Santos said.

Principal suspects include brothers Andal Jr., Zaldy and Sajid Ampatuan, sons of the alleged mastermind Andal Ampatuan Sr.

Santos underscored the significance of the Ampatuan massacre case to the state of press freedom in the country.

“If there would be no conviction, I’m sorry to say press freedom is dead,” Santos said. “(Because it means) impunity, because if nobody gets to jail for killing media people, where is democracy, where is press freedom?”

Asked about the highs and lows of the ten-year trial, Santos said her low points included the deaths of witnesses and some witnesses taking offers of money.

She said, however, that all 30 major witnesses did not recant their testimonies despite threats.

“Their lives are no longer normal. Their lives are in danger,” Santos said.

Santos revealed she herself received many death threats.

“I just have one focus: just handle the case to the best of my ability without any favor or without… falling into any offers of money, influence, position until this case is finally resolved,” Santos said.

Asked why the case has dragged on for 10 years, Santos said the defense “mainly caused the delays.”

The Ampatuan massacre, which took place on Nov. 23, 2009 in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao is considered as the single biggest attack on journalists worldwide. #

South East Asia: Too many journalists targeted for simply doing their job

Journalists directly targeted for attack by public or private individuals is the primary threat for media workers in South East Asia with far too many facing arrest or detainment for simply for doing their jobs. Today, on International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists (IDEI), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the South East Asia Journalists Unions (SEAJU) launch the preliminary findings of the 2019 annual survey of journalist working conditions in the region and call on governments and authorities to do more to enhance the safety of journalists in South East Asia.

The survey, which is the second collaboration of the IFJ and journalist unions in South East Asia, found that the single biggest threat to the safety and security of journalists was their working conditions. The survey delves into the issues impacting journalist safety and working conditions on the region as a whole, as well as taking a focused look at the situation on the ground for media workers in the seven SEAJU member countries including Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Timor Leste.

The survey of 1,265 journalists also revealed that one in two journalists had felt insecure in their jobs in the past year. Noted key threats were physical random attacks by members of the general public, threats to journalists’ families or others close to them, and poor working conditions.

The survey also showed that 38% of journalists felt that the media freedom in their countries had worsened or seriously declined in the past 12 months. Impunity for crimes against journalists was seen as a major problem or considered to be at epidemic levels in the region.

Government and political leadership were the two biggest determinants of impunity for crimes against journalists, while the prevailing poor performance of the criminal and civil justice system to deal with such threats and acts of violence against journalists was a major contributing factor. Full results of the survey and an in-depth report will be released later this month on November 23, the anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre – the single deadliest attack on journalists in history.

Ten years on from the massacre of 58 people including 32 journalists in Maguindanao in the Southern Philippines, there is still no justice for the victims and their families. This year, the Philippines is one of the five countries that IFJ is giving focus to in its global campaign to end impunity.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), the IFJ’s Philippines affiliate, has launched a month-long campaign and commemoration of the massacre. #

The chairperson of the NUJP, Nonoy Espina, said: “While a verdict on the Ampatuan massacre would be most welcome, it would not ensure complete justice with many of the suspects remaining at large after a decade, and still hardly make a dent on the dismal record of 186 journalists’ murders in the Philippines since 1986, all but a handful of which have been solved.”

In Indonesia, the chairman of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Indonesia, Abdul Manan, said the survey is a brutal reflection of the violence journalists face day today. Ironically, the authorities that should be protecting journalists are the perpetrators of too many assaults.

“We should not stop increasing our efforts to push the government to ensure the safety of journalists. We demand the authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice and end the culture of impunity not only to Indonesian government but also governments in the region, including Philippines,” Manan added.

The IFJ said: “Attacks on journalists are attacks on our freedom. Together with our South East Asia affiliates, today we call the authorities to take urgent action and ensure the freedom and safety of journalists and end all attempts to silence journalists.”