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CPJ finds ‘shrinking space for free press in PH’

By ALYSSA MAE CLARIN
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — A high-level mission of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) raised alarm over the “shrinking space for free press in the Philippines” in a press conference, April 16.

The CPJ mission said it believes that the attacks and threats against critical media organizations are politically motivated.

The New York-based group cited the 11 legal cases filed against Rappler and the cyber attacks against small media outfits.

Leading the group is CPJ’s Board chair Kathleen Carroll, joined by CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Steven Butler and Alliance for Journalists’ Freedom director Peter Greste.

The group met with various media groups as well as government officials, such as the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS), the secretary of the Department of Justice, Bulatlat, Kodao Productions, AlterMidya, and the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines since April 14.

“Government forces are finding new and increasingly sophisticated ways to shut down press freedom. So the attacks on Rappler and others have a chilling effect across all journalists. That is profoundly damaging the country’s democracy,” Greste said.

“Our concern [is], not just about Rappler, but on the broader impact on the freedom of the press on the Philippines,” Butler for his part said.

Carroll explained that what concerns them most were the media killings and the dismissive stance of the PTFoMS on the cyber-attacks against news organizations.

“Not taking the (cyberattacks) as an issue is a mistake, and we hope that they reconsider, ” she said.

Carroll added the “red-tagging” of journalists and media people to be “very frightening.”

“This is a very great concern for the CPJ and the international community, because the Philippines has long enjoyed a very robust free press. We are concerned that not a lot is being done to protect your (Filipino journalists) ability to work without fear of retribution, prosecution, and attack,” said Carroll.

The group is set to publish its official mission report on its website after finalizing all the details.

The Philippines ranks fifth on CPJ’s Impunity Index, which measures the extent to which the killers of journalists escape punishment.

The 2009 Maguindanao massacre, in which 32 of those killed were journalists, remains the worst single incident of journalist killing in CPJ records.

Not a single conviction has yet been obtained for these murders. #

Journos raise alarm over anonymous drug lists

BACOLOD CITY – The media community in Negros Occidental is up in arms following the circulation since late last week of at least three lists of purported “drug protectors” that included at least 15 of their colleagues.

The journalists said they are worried that the circulation of the anonymous lists could put their colleagues’ lives in danger.

The statement, issued by the Negros Press Club and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines – Bacolod Chapter demanded that “authorities – both law enforcement and the civil government – uphold the rule of law and ensure the safety of all citizens, especially the innocent” by investigating and prosecuting those responsible for creating and spreading the lists.

Aside from the media personalities, the anonymous lists included a party-list congressman, two town mayors, a vice mayor, four councilors, three of them from Bacolod City, several active and retired policemen, and supposed “drug personalities.”

However, in a unity statement, the local media community noted “the inconsistencies and seeming lack of logic in the composition of these lists,” which were basically the same but for some names that were replaced by others.

This, said the statement, indicated that the lists “were drawn up by conflicting parties out to destroy each other while, at the same time, attempting to muddle their tracks by including random names, including our colleagues.”

The lists emerged close to a month after President Rodrigo Duterte, attending a private birthday party in this city, accused the then Bacolod chief of police, Francis Ebreo, and city councilor Ricardo Tan of involvement in drugs.Duterte did not offer proof to back up his allegations.

Ebreo was also sacked from his post. The Negros media statement alluded to this, saying, “We have also seen how even ranking city and law enforcement officials have been arbitrarily accused of involvement in drugs without any valid proof being presented.”

Both Ebreo, who has also been accused in the December ambush of a lawyer whose fiancé was killed, and Tan, who himself survived an ambush, also in December, and has since gone on leave, were also named in the anonymous lists.

“The first of these lists tagged those named as ‘subject for neutralization,’ a euphemism for killings, a serious threat considering that all three include the names of lawyer Rafael Atutubo and SPO (Senior Police Officer) 4 Oscar Exaltado, who were both murdered by still unknown gunmen,” the statement said.

Atutubo was killed last August while Exaltado, deputy chief of a station in Bacolod, was gunned down last month.

The Negros media noted that “even as the war on drugs claimed thousands of lives all over the country, almost all of the victims were deprived of their right to due process, “Bacolod City has relatively been spared the bloodshed – until recently, that is,” the statement added.

The journalists said that the anonymous lists were “unacceptable to us, not only as journalists but as citizens of this country who share and deserve to enjoy the rights guaranteed by our Constitution and the laws of the land.

“No one, and we mean no one, should be subjected to trial by publicity and, worse, punished without being accorded due process,” the groups said. #

Journalists start countdown to 10th anniversary of Ampatuan Massacre

Journalists led by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines held a candle-lighting ceremony to start the countdown to the 10th anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre.

Reporters and other media workers as well as media organizations gathered last Wednesday at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani to denounce the slow trial of the suspected perpetrators of the gruesome incident of November 23, 2009 that killed 58 persons, including 32 journalists.

The journalists vowed to press the demand for full justice to the victims of the massacre dubbed as the worst case of election violence in the Philippines and the worst single attack on journalists in human history. (Video by Joseph Cuevas)

Eight years after, justice remains elusive for Doc Gerry Ortega

Jan. 24, 2019

On this day eight years ago, environmentalist, good governance advocate and broadcaster Gerardo “Doc Gerry” Ortega was shot dead in an ukay-ukay shop in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.

Eight years after, justice remains elusive for Doc Gerry and his family.

Doc Gerry’s case is illustrative of nearly all the media killings in this country or, more accurately, the ones authorities, with no trace of irony, consider “solved.”

For, while the hired guns and accomplices who planned and carried out the hit on Doc Gerry have been tried and convicted, the masterminds remain scot free.

Studies by media groups indicate that most murders of journalists are ordered by local politicians or government officials seeking to silence criticism and prevent scrutiny of their corruption and other misdeeds.

That they remain unpunished proves that injustice in the country – not only for slain journalists but for practically each and every Filipino whose rights have been violated – is rooted in a system of governance in which the corrupt and abusive thrive.

As we remember Doc Gerry, we also honor his family, whose courage and determination to pursue justice have been and will continue to be an inspiration for other families of slain journalists and all those seeking the same ends.

Even as we continue to demand justice for Doc Gerry and for each and every one of the 185 colleagues we have lost since 1996, let us remain steadfast in fulfilling our mandate as journalists – to be the people’s watchdogs against misgovernance and serve their right to know.

National Directorate

NATIONAL UNION OF JOURNALISTS OF THE PHILIPPINES

PNA story proves gov’t behind vilification—NUJP

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said a state news agency’s story accusing the media group of maintaining links with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) confirms government’s hand in the vilification campaign.

Reacting to a Philippine News Agency (PNA) story Tuesday, the NUJP said it can already say for certain that the Rodrigo Duterte government is behind the attacks against the media group.

“Thanks to the Philippine News Agency, which under this administration has been transformed into a paragon of incompetence and fakery masquerading as ‘journalism,’ for providing proof positive with the January 8 article, ‘Red link tag on NUJP not ‘orchestrated’: ex-rebels,” the NUJP said.

“The PNA article follows the style of the canard foisted by the tabloids, which liberally quoted the fantastical and totally fictional account of a supposed ex-rebel and ‘NUJP founder’ who went by the alias ‘Ka Ernesto’ without even bothering to get our side,” the group added.

Four tabloids published stories Monday accusing the NUJP of fronting for the CPP, quoting a certain “Ka Ernesto” who claimed he was a founding member of the union.

The NUJP immediately denied the accusation, saying its membership reflect a broad spectrum of creeds and beliefs united only by their desire to defend and expand the bounds of freedom of the press and of free expression.

Quoting a purported group called Kilusan at Alyansa ng mga Dating Rebelde (KADRE), PNA’s story denied that “revelations” against the NUJP is part of an orchestrated or “well-planned” operation to intimidate critical journalists into silence.

Ang gusto po namin ay malinaw na sagot kung totoo bang legal front ng CPP-NPA-NDF ang NUJP (We just want to know the clear answer if the NUJP is a legal front of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front),” the PNA quoted KADRE as allegedly saying.

KADRE claims it is a group of more than 300 former members of the CPP and New People’s Army nationwide.

The group has yet to make a public appearance.

Aside from PNA and the four tabloids, however, no other media outfit published a story on KADRE’s accusation against the NUJP.

“That the state news agency, which is under the supervision of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, saw fit to run this utterly malicious and false story clearly proves that this is, indeed, an orchestrated campaign to vilify and silence not just the NUJP but the independent and critical press, involving no less than the Government of the Republic of the Philippines,” the NUJP said.

“Pathetic as this effort is, we are taking it very seriously as a direct threat by government against the NUJP and independent media and will take what steps necessary to protect our members and our rights,” the group added.

The NUJP earlier said it is seeking advice for possible legal actions against its accusers. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Futile canard’: Media group denounces red-tagging

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) is thinking of taking legal actions against continued efforts to link the media group with the communist revolutionary movement it sees as part of an orchestrated effort to intimidate it into silence.

NUJP officers found themselves answering requests for interviews today from community news outfits around the country soliciting reactions to charges by someone identified only as “Ka Ernesto,” who claimed to be a former member and supposedly “admitted” that the organization had links to Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Ma. Sison.

The group said that when asked where the story originated from, they invariably pointed to banner stories carried by a number of little-known Manila-based tabloids – Police Files Tonite, Bagong Bomba and Saksi Mata ng Katotohanan – all of which carried the exact same headline: “NUJP pinamumunuan ng CPP-NPA-NDF” (NUJP headed by CPP-NPA-NDF), the latter initials referring to the New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front.

Today’s front page of the tabloid Bagong Bomba.

This is the second time in just a few weeks the NUJP has been linked to the revolutionary movement since a certain Mario Ludades, claiming to be one of the founders of the CPP, accused the media group of being a “legal front” of the underground movement in stories run by several outfits on December 26, incidentally the 50th anniversary of the CPP.

“It is hilarious that they keep repeating these charges since the NUJP’s membership represents a broad spectrum of creeds and political beliefs bound by a common dedication to defending and expanding the bounds of freedom of the press and of expression,” the group’s national directorate said in a statement today.

NUJP officers said they were initially tempted to ignore the “fantastic” and “hilarious” account of “Ka Ernesto” but for the fact that it exposes their members and other colleagues to potential danger from those who might readily believe the “canard”.

“With at least 12 colleagues slain under the watch of a president who has actually justified the murder of journalists… and openly and constantly curses and threatens media, we are taking this matter very, very seriously,” the group said.

Today’s front page of the tabloid Saksi.

Duterte’s attacks

Early in his term, President Rodrigo Duterte said in a speech before reporters in his hometown Davao City that media killings are justified.

“Just because you’re a journalist you are not exempted from assassination, if you’re a son of a bitch?” Duterte said.

Duterte never let up against media outfits he perceives to be overly critical of his presidency, even threatening to block media group ABS-CBN’s petition to have its broadcast franchise renewed with the House of Representatives.

In December 2017, Duterte said he would only be willing to compromise with ABS-CBN if the network helps promote his campaign to shift to a federal form of government.

“Kung magtulong kayo diyan sa federal system campaign at gawain ninyong slogan also for the unity and to preserve this republic, makipag-areglo ako,” he said.

He repeatedly threatened the Philippine Daily Inquirer and its owners’ business interests.

Following a tirade against Rappler, the Securities and Exchange Commission cancelled the outfit’s license while prosecutors filed tax evasion charges against its chief executive officer Maria Ressa.

Individual journalists accused of being overly critical against Duterte’s bloody drug war were also threatened and harassed by social media groups and online trolls supportive of Duterte.

Recently, websites of alternative media groups were also digitally attacked they said may be part of the crackdown against so-called communist fronts.

“It does not take genius to figure out who is behind this determined, if futile, effort to cow us. But we tell you now and will tell you again, do your worst, you will fail,” the NUJP vowed.

‘Enemies of press freedom’

The NUJP also condemned the three tabloids who published the “canard”.

“It is unfortunate that there exist within the profession unscrupulous scum who allow themselves to be used by these cowardly enemies of press freedom even if it endangers colleagues,” the NUJP said, obviously referring to the three tabloids.

“But we will let them be. Their venality shames them enough,” the NUJP said.

The group warned, however, that it will hound those who are behind the red-tagging campaign and make them pay should its members are harmed. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

THE STATE OF PHILIPPINE MEDIA

Relentless Attacks And Threats

Online, On Ground, Across the Nation

23 November 2018

 

 By the Freedom for Media, Freedom for All Network

Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR),

National Union of Journalists of the Philippines,

Philippine Press Institute (PPI),

MindaNews, and

Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ)

ATTACKS AND THREATS against the Philippine media — acute and creeping, online and offline, deadly and debilitating — continue to rise under the administration of President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

In the 28 months of the Duterte presidency, or from July 1, 2016 to Oct. 31, 2018, we have documented at least 99 such cases of direct and indirect assaults against journalists and news media agencies.

Separately and together, these continue to put at risk and serious peril the practice of independent journalism in what had hitherto been hailed to be one of Asia’s freest and most rambunctious press.

This latest figure, 99 in all, is bigger than the 85 cases that we have documented until April 30, 2018, or in the first 22 months of Duterte. But in the succeeding six months, more of the more dreadful cases had occurred.

Three more journalists had been killed — for a total of 12 under the Duterte presidency’s 28-month rule. From July 1, 2016 to last May 1, nine journalists had been killed in the line of duty.

Just as worrisome, the count of other cases of attacks on media freedom had also marked increases. For instance:

* Online harassment cases had risen from 14 to 17;

* Slay attempts, from 6 to 7 cases;

* Verbal assault or threat (mostly from public officials), from one to five cases;

* Arrests, from zero to three cases; and

* One more case of intimidation (from 5 to 6) and one more case of physical assault (from 4 to 5), had also been recorded in the last six months.

An aggregate 11 cases of threat by SMS or text messaging, and five cases of verbal threat have also happened in the 28 months of Duterte.

One more cyber libel case had been filed, bringing the new total to four, from three last May.

However, the 16 libel cases recorded as of last May have thinned to 12 by end-October 2018, on account of the dismissal or resolution of four cases.

In sum, the 99 cases of attacks and threats in the 28 months of the Duterte presidency consist of:

  • Online harassment, 17 cases;
  • Killing, 12;
  • Libel, 12;
  • Threat by SMS, 11;
  • Slay attempt, 7;
  • Intimidation 6;
  • Verbal threat/assault, 5;
  • Physical assault, 5;
  • Website attack, 4;
  • Cyber libel, 4;
  • Arrest, 3;
  • Corporation-related case, 3;
  • Barred from coverage, 3;
  • Physical harassment, 3;
  • Article takedown, 2;
  • Strafing/shooting incident, 2;

By alleged perpetrator or suspect, it is most significant that nearly half or 44 of the cases involved state agents or public officials.

They include 13 local government officials; 11 officers of the Philippine National Police; 6 national government officials; three officers each of the Presidential Security Group and of the Armed Forces of the Philippines; two cases each involving, ironically, an official of the Presidential Special Task Force on Media Killings (PTFOMS) and of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, and one case involving the director of the Philippine Information Agency.

Apart from the state agents/agencies, the other alleged perpetrators or suspects behind the attacks and threats follow:

  • Online partisan trolls, 16;
  • Still unidentified, 14;
  • Private citizen, 12;
  • Anonymous caller, 7;
  • Unknown attacker (website), 4;
  • No data, 1; and
  • Alleged NPA, 1.

 By gender, 59 cases targeted male journalists and 23 female journalists. Another 17 cases were directed at media organizations.

By platform, 33 cases involved journalists and agencies from radio; 30 online media; 23 print media; 11 television networks; 1 photojournalist; and 1 multimedia journalist.

By islands of the country, 66 cases were recorded in Luzon, 12 in the Visayas, and 21 in Mindanao.

By regions of the country, the spread of the cases follows:

  • NCR (Metro Manila), 41 cases;
  • Region III (Central Luzon), 8;
  • Region XIII (CARAGA), 7;
  • Region V (Bicol Region), 6;
  • Region VIII (Eastern Visayas), 5;
  • Region XI (Davao Region), 5;
  • Region IV-A (Calabarzon), 5;
  • Region IX (Western Mindanao), 5;
  • Region I (Ilocos Region), 4;
  • Region XII (SOCCKSARGEN), 4;
  • Region VI (Western Visayas), 4;
  • Region VII (Central Visayas), 3; and
  • CAR (Cordillera Administrative Region), 2.

 Imperatives: Unity, vigilance, action

All around the world, the decline of democracy may have muted the voices protesting attacks and threats against the press and journalists. Indeed in some countries governments have gained support for reining in and restraining the press, even regulating and controlling its practice.

The prospects for press freedom and citizen support for journalists are endangered in a period of rising authoritarianism. Citizens have been misled to support the ascent of autocratic leaders promising quick solutions to embedded ills. Citizens have been made to believe that the democratic experiment has failed; thus a new order must be created where the people’s interests come first, even at the sacrifice of inalienable freedoms.

Recent Philippine history shows that popular submission to a regime of control and acceptance of the suspension of basic civil and political rights, including the freedom of the press and expression, have led to serious repercussions, not least of which are a treasury beggared by crony capitalism, an educational system in shambles, and a press intimidated into silence that has kept the public ignorant of the true state of the nation.

In over two years of the Duterte administration, Filipinos have once again played along with the seductive pledge of quick fixes. But democratic development is a slow process, and can be exhausting.

Sadly, the press is confronted once again with multiple challenges:  a beleaguered state of affairs entails full discourse on issues of governance, the wayward conduct of certain public officials and state agencies that require close scrutiny, their failures investigated, and accountability and responsibility clearly defined.

The news media are central to the capability of a national community to think out these problems, with leaders in constant conversation not just amongst themselves; but openly analyzing and explaining what these issues involve and what can be done to move to fair and speedy action and solutions.

Journalists must commit to learning more about the background of the news in order to more faithfully report, or interpret the meaning of what is happening.

Yet still, the culture of impunity, the failed observance of human rights by state agents; the vulnerability of journalists to legal threats or worse, lies, to a great extent within the ambit of the courts; the application of rules and procedures that delay justice; the bias of these procedures for the rich accused of crimes on display by officers of the law; the richly paid legal eagles drawn into service of defending those with the means to afford their extravagant fees, linger in our midst.

Journalists, unlike government officials are not sworn into office, but the practice is based on a sacred trust — protected by no less than the Constitution — to provide the news and information that the people need to know about, with analysis and interpretation so citizens can make sense of what is going on and formulate sound judgments and decisions.

The restoration of democracy in the years that followed the fall of the Marcos dictatorship have gathered advocates around the task of protecting and defending press freedom and the safety and welfare of journalists.

But today under the Duterte administration, never has so much darkness hovered over the prospects of free and independent journalism since the democratic recovery of 1986.

How does the media react to this?

It goes timid or it joins the side where political power resides, receiving extra compensation for its efforts. We do not deny the corruption has been an effective silencer of the news that citizens need to know.

Sadly, the observation has been made that the news media has been intimidated into silence on so many issues. There remains, however, a great many journalists who continue to report on stories that may put their lives in danger.

Those who have joined in the collective resolve to stand up and insist on the freedom to report, on the free flow of information, not just for journalists but for all citizens;  those who speak on behalf of those who are attacked and threatened, besieged, and beleaguered, must learn to work together, gaining strength from one another!

Today, the ninth anniversary of the Ampatauan Massacre of Nov. 23, 2009, we call on Filipinos to support press freedom and to come to the defense of those in media who struggle working within the narrowing space and time, to counter false narratives and disinformation, and to check the abuse of power.

Even in small measures, the exercise of freedom strengthens and nurtures the human spirit, invigorate the energies that will empower citizens to speak truth to power. Hope springs from in the power of truth to make us all informed and free.

In a similarly distressing time, journalists need to reach out to one another and build alliances so they can altogether secure the channels and platforms for truth.

That struggle must acknowledge the perils of the exercise, but also the great power of solidarity and sustained defense of press freedom and the people’s right to know.

The victims of attacks and threats against media freedom may be fewer than the other victims of violence in Philippine society today. But these target and weaken the institution that provides and sustains for all citizens the conversation about issues that matter, and upholds the integrity of political communication, without which the press cannot check the abuse of power.

And so we must work to keep a record of lives lost, or rights denied or diminished, of access limited or eliminated, of attacks and threats that rob us of our peace, safety, and freedoms.

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

KUNG PAANO MAGDILIG

Sa alaala ng Maguindanao Massacre

 

Nabibitak na ang lupa sa malawak
Na kapatagan ng Maguindanao.
Ngayo’y hindi naman tagtuyot,
Ngunit tigang ang rabaw
At sementadong kalsadang
Dinaraanan nila.

Tirik ang araw. Walang ulan
Na puwedeng maging dahilan
Ng alimuom, ngunit nakapagtataka
Na may ibang singaw
Ang lupa. Maaamoy mo ang sangsang

Na bitbit ng mga sumasayaw na dahon.

Hindi ito ordinaryong hapon. Kailangan nilang magdilig –
Upang hindi mamatay
Ang mga halaman at tanim.
Kaya’t sila ay nagdilig nang nagdilig.

Bitbit ang pag-asang maibabalik

Muli ang dating samyo
Ng probinsya.

Tahimik ang paligid.
Kanta lamang
Ng mga ibon ang maririnig.
Ngunit kung nanaising tumahimik –
Madidinig ang alingawngaw
Ng mga katawang nakatanim,
At kung paano sila itinanim.

Kung susumikaping imulat ang mata –
Makikita sa tintadong lupa
Kung anong likido ang kanilang pinang-igib,
Para gamiting pandilig
Sa bitak-bitak na lupa kung saan
Nagpatong-patong ang iniwang gunita.

11.23.18
Andre Gutierrez

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!