REFLECTIONS: A timely gathering before the 11th anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre

(Delivered at the online forum ‘From Repression to Resistance” on 21 November 2020)

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 21 November) —  This virtual gathering is timely because this Monday, Nov. 23, 2009 is the 11th anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre that left 58 people, 32 of them journalists,  dead in Maguindanao.

The International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists is a UN-recognized day observed annually on November 2.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said the Philippines is the fifth most dangerous place for journalists in the world.

I will be sharing several graphs of the number of attacks on journalists and their perpetrators as part of my presentation.

Being journalists in the countryside is not easy. We live far away from the nationwide glare and we can be subjected to threats, and worse, be killed.

The Ampatuan massacre in Maguindanao on Nov. 23, 2009 of 58 persons by the Ampatuan clan is the worst single  day loss for journalists.

Thirty-two of those who joined the convoy en route to the Commission on Elections office in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao and were flagged down by armed men and killed that day, were community-based journalists.

Although a verdict has been reached by the courts, compensation to the family members have not been settled, thus, full justice has not been reached.

Nineteen journalists have been killed since Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte assumed the presidency last June 30, 2016.

In two weeks that this webinar was postponed, two community journalists were killed

A block-time radio commentator and local newspaper columnist, Virgilio “Vir” Maganes, 62,  was shot and killed by two men on a motorcycle here on Tuesday morning November 10, four years after he survived the first attempt on his life, police said.

Police and soldiers say Masbate journalist Ronnie Villamor pulled out a gun, foricing soldiers to shoot him while covering a land dispute on November 16.

According to the Freedom for Media Freedom for All report posted by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism,  128 cases of attacks against the press were made from June 30, 2016 when Duterte became president until April 30, 2019.

 

Report of the Freedom for Media Freedom for All network on the Attacks and Threats Against the Press from June 30, 2016 to April 30,2019, posted by the Philippine Center for Investigative journalism.

There were 89 attacks against press people in Luzon, 13 in the Visayas and 26 in Mindanao.

The PCIJ data also showed that online harassment has become a favorite method of attacking the press.

Also I have to mention that Rappler correspondents in the provinces are barred from covering the provincial sorties of President Duterte.

The same PCIJ report says most of the perpetrators of the attacks against the press are state agents and online trolls.

I was a target of red-tagging by military agents last year.

Using Facebook, military agents targeted journalists, lawyers and the clergy of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente or the Philippine Independent Church in Mindanao.

The attacks against me started when I voiced my opposition on how this administration treated Rappler and the closure of ABS-CBN.

Not contented with the online attacks, the state agents distributed pamphlets bearing our names at the bus stations and churches, accusing us of being communists.

After we organized a motorcade in Cagayan de Oro to dramatize the issue of ABS-CBN on  July 25, unidentified persons sent three funeral wreaths to the regional office of ABS-CBN in Cagayan de Oro after the rally.

We asked the police for an investigation but until now there is still no result.

I am glad I was given the opportunity to speak on behalf of community journalists whose lives are constantly under threat.  (Froilan Gallardo, senior reporter of MindaNews, delivered this speech at the online forum, “From Repression to Resistance: A Lawfare Forum on the occasion of the 2020 International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists” on November 21, The other panelists were Maria Ressa,  Prof. Walden Bello, and detained Senator Leila de Lima whose speech was read for her. The forum was initiated by the Committee for the Freedom of Leila M. de Lima)

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