WATCH: Media groups demand 'justice now, convict Ampatuans'
MANILA, Philippines – For 10 years, media groups have consistently called for the conviction of the principal suspects – Ampatuan brothers Sajid, Zaldy, and Andal Jr. – of the Maguindanao massacre, which claimed the lives of 58 individuals, including 32 journalists.
At the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the massacre, held in Mendiola on Saturday, November 23, AlterMidya's Kenneth Guda said, “Anything less [than a conviction] is unacceptable and would unleash a storm of wrath not just from the victims’ families and loved ones but from the greater public, including the media community here and abroad."
On December 20, a verdict on the decade-long trial will be handed down by Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes.
“Ako confident ako na macoconvict talaga ‘yung prime suspects, pero ‘yun nga, sabi natin na this does not end the fight dahil itong paghahantay ng hatol ay isang daan lang ‘to eh. May mga 80 pa more or less at large. Kasama dun ‘yung dalawang miyembro pa ng Ampatuan,” said National Union of Journalists of the Philippines Chair Nonoy Espina.
(I'm confident that the prime suspects will be convicted. But as we've said, this does not end the fight, because waiting for this verdict is just one hurdle. There are more or less 80 that are still at large. That includes the two members of the Amaptuans.)
Espina said that the battle for justice will take more time because of the further charges to be filed against 50 individuals who were involved in attempts to cover up the massacre.
“Ang importante, pagdating ng hatol, may katarungan na dala,” he added.
(What's important is that once the verdict is passed, it brings justice.)
The commemoration of the 10th year anniversary of the massacre was led by NUJP. On November 23, media groups painted a mural depicting members of the press and the public fighting back against the injustices of the massacre. This was followed by a march from Mehan Garden to Mendiola.
Let's Organize for Democracy and Integrity (LODI), Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP), and Photojournalists’ Center of the Philippines (PCP) were among the organizations that joined the activities.
PH not the safest for journalists
“Mula 1986, 187 journalists have been murdered sa bansang ito. At halos wala, walang nakakatanggap ng katarungan. Sa aming tala, 17 pa lang ang convictions. Karamihan diyan gunmen, walang mastermind,” Espina said.
(Since 1986, 187 journalists have been murdered in this country. And there has barely been any justice served. Based on our records, there have only been 17 convictions. Most of them are gunmen, there are no masterminds.)
In the 2018 Southeast Asia Media Report, the Philippines was listed among the deadliest countries for journalists in Southeast Asia. The Philippines also has the highest number of unsolved killings of journalists.
“Ramdam na ramdam natin kahit sa national institution na sinasabi na ang Pilipinas ang isa sa mga pinakadangerous na lugar sa isang mamahayag,” Guda said, citing the arrests of community journalists in Negros including Anne Kreuger of AlterMidya.
(We really feel it, even the national institutions say that the Philippines is the most dangerous place for journalists.)
The groups also protested the attacks on journalists and the threats to freedom of the press.
“Gusto ko lang maipaabot sa taumbayan na yung press freedom, kalayaan ng pamamahayag, ay hindi natin pag-aari. Hindi pag-aari ng media, hindi pag-aari ng ninoman, kundi pag-aari ng taumbayan. Itong kalayaan ay ginagamit natin upang pagsilbihan ang karapatan ng taumbayang malaman ang nagaganap sa bansa,” Espina said.
(We want to let our countrymen know that press freedom, the freedom of journalists, is not owned by us. It's not owned by media, it's not owned by anyone but our citizens. This freedom is used to uphold the right of the people to know what is happening in our country.) – Rappler.com