Posts

Arsonists attack radio station after slay try on manager

A radio station was burned down in Mawab, Davao de Oro last Wednesday night, December 11, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) reported.

In an alert, the NUJP said two unidentified men arrived in a motorcycle at 99.9 RP-FM’s transmitter site at around six o’clock in the evening and torched its building while the on-duty staff was in the kitchen.

“The suspects entered the transmitter room and burned equipment like the radio transmitter, Automatic Voltage Regulator (AVR), and electric wiring, causing estimated damage of P1Million,” the NUJP said.

The group said the incident was confirmed by Pat Lucero, former 99.9 RP-FM manager, by phone.

Lucero further told the NUJP the incident could be connected to an attempt on his life on October 11.

Lucero is now in sanctuary for his safety.

He used to host a daily program and was station manager of 99.9 RP-FM.

Authorities are investigating the incident, the NUJP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

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:

Ampatuan Massacre promulgation of verdict will be broadcast live–SC

The promulgation of judgement on the Ampatuan Massacre trial shall be broadcast live on December 19, the Supreme Court (SC) ruled Tuesday, December 10.

The High Court shall allow two People’s Television (PTV) cameras inside the courtroom which other media outfits could hook into, SC assistant court administrator and public information office chief Brian Keith Hosaka said.

Citing space limitations, the Court also decided it would only allow a limited number of reporters inside the court who would not be allowed to bring their own cameras, smart phones and other video and audio recording equipment inside.

The SC Public Information Office shall prepare a list of “accredited media” to be allowed inside the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology compound in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

The High Tribunal decided on the petition for live coverage filed last week by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.

“The live coverage/streaming of the promulgation would allow the families and relatives of the 58 victims who may not be able to attend the promulgation in Metro Manila to hear live the reading of the court’s decision on the killing of their relatives,” the media groups wrote Supreme Court Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta.

Government communication and media offices also asked to be allowed to cover the event.

Before the groups’ petition, the Court, through Hosaka, wrote to PTV requesting for airtime and technical support, including cameras and video footage that would be provided to other media groups, for the live coverage of the verdict set on December 19

“Because of the paramount public interest involved in this case, the Supreme Court, which is overseeing the matter, would like to have live television coverage of the proceedings,” SC Assistant Court Administrator and Public Information Office chief Hosaka told PTV. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

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)

Don’t blame us for SEA Games woes, journalists tell Phisgoc exec

A journalists’ group urged organizers of the 30th South East Asian Games to stop blaming media for the many woes plaguing the biennial regional tilt.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in a statement said it is ridiculously unacceptable when the officials responsible for the problems in the country’s hosting of the games to resort to bashing the media “as if the reports on their shortcomings were to blame for the disaster.”

The group was reacting to Philippine South East Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) chief operating officer Ramon Suzara who called out media for continuously “negative” reporting.

The PHISGOC officer complained Wednesday that so-called negative news on social media makes their job more complicated, adding that fake news spread like wildfire.

“I am appealing to everyone to put a good note on our hosting. Let us be fair in bringing positive news,” Suzara said at a press conference Wednesday.

The NUJP, however, said it is not in Suzara’s place to ask media to only publish positive reports and project the country in a good light.

“The NUJP wishes to remind Mr. Suzara that the duty of the press has always been to report things as they are, based on verifiable facts, and not to pander to anyone’s perception of what is, or should be,” the NUJP said.

The group said that the officer’s attempt to dictate how the media should report the news has no place in a democracy.

“The truth is, even if media chose to distort the image, this would do nothing to hide the gargantuan mess the whole world already knows about,” the NUJP explained.

If anything, the NUJP added, reporting on the true state of the SEA games preparations can only help the Philippines be spared from being so humiliated in the future.

The NUJP lauded journalists “who have insisted on reporting on what is happening without fear or favor, despite the heavy online harassment and trolling.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

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. #

Remembering Ampatuan Massacre and the reigning impunity

By JOHN AARON MARK MACARAEG and ALYSSA MAE CLARIN
Bulatlat.com

MANILA- Nonoy Espina and Jes Aznar could have been dead 10 years ago.

Espina, former director of National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) and now its chairperson, and Aznar, then a photojournalist of Agence France Press, were in Maguindanao covering the armed group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). While in the province, they heard from local reporters that Esmael Mangundadatu would file his certificate of candidacy against Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr.

Espina thought it worthy to write a story about the two big names in Maguindanao. He and Aznar decided to pursue it. Flu struck him the day before the filing however and the two decided to fly back to Manila.

“He couldn’t get up, literally,” Aznar told students of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication in a forum last month. They were not able to join the convoy led by Mangudadatu’s wife on Nov. 23, 2009.

When news came about the worst incident of electoral violence and single deadliest attack on the press—the Ampatuan Massacre — Aznar and Espina were shocked. “We could have been there. We escaped death,” Aznar said.

Espina recalled how he had felt his knees weaken at the news, as realization hit him all at once that he had avoided death. Thirty-two of the 58 victims were members of the media like Espina and Aznar.

“It was really a turning point in the history of Philippine media,” Aznar said.

Jes Aznar at the forum. (Photo by UJP- UP Diliman)

Horrors relived

Aznar and Espina immediately flew back to Mindanao and, along with Rowena Paraan, then NUJP secretary general, were among the first to go to the site of the tragedy.

“As soon as we get there, what greeted our NUJP team was a soldier shouting as he guided the backhoe operator scoop dirt, and as we look closer, along with it were dead bodies,” Espina recalled.

Until now, Espina confessed he could still visually imagine the looping image of the backhoe’s shovel diving then being lifted again.

“At the end of our first day at the scene, there were just 25 bodies excavated. Then they called off the excavation. As we left, I asked myself, ‘Putcha, when will the counting of bodies end?’”

For Paraan,the stench of decaying bodies lingered in her memory.

Under the scorching heat of noon, the NUJP team approached the rolling hills of sitio Malating, barangay Salman, Ampatuan, Maguindanao and stepped on to the unpaved road.

“As we arrived, they were digging out the van of UNTV. It was flattened and despite of it being really hammered with the paint almost all scratched out, you can still make out the ‘tres’,” said Paraan.

As Paraan narrated the horrifying scene she witnessed, the crowd of young journalists listened intently, most of them barely out of elementary when the massacre happened.

Paraan at the forum. (Photo by UJP-UP Diliman)

Aznar described it as “a frightening scenario.”

He said he was more afraid to what would then become of his profession as a journalist if anyone could just kill a journalist. He couldn’t help but think that he was wearing the same press ID as those who were being dug out —a once powerful tool and protection for mediamen.

Reigning impunity

Remembering it ten years later, it pains Espina that until now, the case is still yet to conclude.

“The government and the state remain unbothered by the massacre, considering they were the victims of the agents of state itself,” Espina told Bulatlat in an online interview.

He added that with the current political climate, one cannot doubt that the culture of impunity continuously reigns, worsening by each killing perpetuated by those in power.

Just this month, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released the Global Impunity Index ranking the Philippines fifth as most dangerous country in the world. The Philippines has the highest number of unsolved journalists’ murders in the world, with 41 recorded killings in the past 12 years.

The attacks and harassments continue to persist.

“If justice cannot be found for the worst incident of electoral violence in the country and the single deadliest attack on the press ever recorded, you can be sure the killings will continue without letup,” said Espina. #

Ampatuan Massacre cases to be promulgated before Christmas

The court trying the Ampatuan Massacre cases has until December 20 of this year to announce whether the 197 accused for the murder of 58 victims are innocent or guilty.

In a November 7 memorandum, Supreme Court administrator Jose Midas Marquez granted Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 presiding judge Jocelyn A. Solis-Reyes until the said date to read her verdict to the accused.

The memorandum was Marquez’s reply to Solis-Reyes’ request for a 30-day extension to the original November 20 deadline.

Justice Midas-Marquez’s memorandum to Judge Solis-Reyes.

In an October 28 letter, Judge Solis-Reyes wrote the Supreme Court administrator to request for the extension “due to the voluminous records of these cases.”

The records have reached a total of 238 volumes, broken down to 165 volumes of records of proceedings, 65 volumes of transcripts of stenographic notes and 8 volumes of prosecution’s documentary evidence, Solis-Reyes said.

Marquez replied that he found the ground for the judge’s request “reasonable.”

Judge Solis-Reyes request for extension.

The high tribunal’s administrator however reminded that the 30-day extension is non-extendible.

He also directed Solis-Reyes to submit to his office a copy of the decision within 10 days from promulgation as proof of her compliance to decide the cases within the period requested.

The cases were originally due for promulgation on November 20 after the long-drawn trial was declared submitted for decision last August 22.

Previous to this, groups such as the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said they hoped that the promulgation of the cases to happen before the 10th anniversary of the massacre on November 23.

The NUJP, along with other groups such as the Union of Journalists-University of the Philippines in Diliman and the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines, have announced a series of activities commemorating the 10th anniversary of the massacre dubbed as the worst attack on journalists in history.

Of the 58 massacre victims, 32 were journalists. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)