MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/08 June) – A worldwide organization of journalists on Friday called on President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and other Philippine authorities to take steps to expedite the trial of suspects in the Nov. 23, 2009 Ampatuan Massacre.
In a resolution passed during its 28th World Congress in Dublin, Ireland, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) also called for the immediate arrest and arraignment all the accused in the 2009 massacre of 58 people including 32 media workers in Maguindanao province, Rupert Mangilit, secretary general of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said in a statement.
Ninety of the 196 accused remain at large and only three of the principal suspects have so far been arraigned.
The resolution also demanded that the Philippine justice department “take measures to protect the witnesses and families of victims,” Mangilit added.
The IFJ Congress “expressed alarm over reports that some of the families of the victims have received threats It also noted how the accused, through emissaries, have reportedly offered money to the families in exchange for signing affidavits of desistance,” the statement said.
“Everybody is disappointed that after years and years of campaigning, the justice system in the Philippines has not moved forward. Journalists here from 120 countries are absolutely united in making sure that they will help the widest campaigns until justice is found,” the statement quoted IFJ president Jim Boumelha as having said.
Introduced by Rowena Paraan and Nestor Burgos Jr., NUJP chair and national director, respectively, the resolution expressed concern at the “slow progress in bringing justice” to the victims and their families.
“More than three and half years, there has not been a conviction for the murders while 90 of the 106 accused remain at large and only three of the principal suspects have been arraigned,” according to the resolution.
The IFJ Congress said it was concerned with “confirmed reports that the accused are coercing families to accept monetary settlements in exchange for signing affidavits of desistance.”
Thirty-two media workers were among the 58 persons killed when armed men stopped the convoy of relatives and supporters of then gubernatorial candidate Esmael Mangudadatu and journalists covering the activity.
Former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao governor Zaldy Ampatuan and other family members are the alleged masterminds in the country’s worst election-related violence. (MindaNews)