IT HAS BEEN four years since 58 individuals, including 32 journalists and media workers, were brutally killed in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao.
To date, no one has been convicted of murder charges since the hearing began on January 5, 2010. Even as three of the primary suspects are detained, relatives of the victims fear that Unsay, Andal Sr. and Zaldy Ampatuan are receiving special treatment and that their political clout is still intact. Ninety other suspects remain at large.
President Noynoy Aquino did not heed any of the recommendations of various human rights groups here and abroad in the aftermath of the Ampatuan massacre. He failed to dismantle paramilitary groups. He also did not investigate the alleged use of public funds by the Ampatuans for their private army.
While the world witnesses the legal battle against one of the most powerful clans and their cohorts, media killings continue with impunity and justice for the victims remain elusive. As regards murder of environmentalist and broadcaster Gerry Ortega, just to cite an example, the Court of Appeals acquitted on a mere technicality former Palawan governor Joel Reyes, the alleged mastermind behind the killing.
There is a simple explanation to call President Aquino the country’s “Impunity King”: He allows the perpetuation of the culture of impunity as he has not done anything to end it. This is the main reason why the killings and harassment of journalists continue. According to the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, 19 have been killed in the line of duty under the Aquino administration.
Indeed, Aquino who campaigned and won on promises of reforms has miserably failed to stop the killings not only of journalists but also of other human rights advocates and civilians. Based on documentation by human rights watchdog Karapatan from June 2010 to August 2013, there are 152 victims of extrajudicial killings, 18 victims of enforced disappearances, 80 victims of torture, more than 31,000 victims of forced evacuation and thousands more victims of other human rights violations.
Impunity persists because Aquino has refused to punish – and instead rewarded – the most rabid perpetrators of human rights violations. Gen. Eduardo Ano (implicated in the abduction of peasant activist Jonas Burgos) and Gen. Aurelio Baladad (charged with criminal and civil cases in relation to the arrest and detention of the 43 health workers or the Morong 43) are but two faces of impunity under Aquino.
Impunity is alive because there are whistleblowers of corruption who get harassed and intimidated, if not permanently silenced, and the masterminds remain unpunished. Our colleagues Gerry Ortega (who exposed the misuse of Malampaya funds) and Marlene Esperat (who investigated the P728-million fertilizer fund scam) were killed because the perpetrators do not want them to report the truth. Indeed, there is no accountability as corruption continues and freedom of information is denied.
As we commemorate the fourth year of the Ampatuan massacre and the third year of the International Day to End Impunity on November 23, we refuse to let our call for justice be continuously ignored by those in power. We refuse to bequeath this culture of impunity to the future generations.
Justice for the victims of Ampatuan massacre! Stop media killings and other human rights violations! Prosecute perpetrators of abuses! End impunity!
End Impunity Alliance
News Desk Asia
Radyo ni Juan 783 AM
One Radio News FM
Resource Center for People’s Advocacies
Burgos Media Center
College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP)
Student Alliance for Democratic Rights in UP (STAND-UP CMC chapter)
Union of Journalists of the Philippines-UP (UJP-UP)
UP College of Mass Communication (represented by Dean Roland Tolentino and Associate Dean Danilo Arao)
National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL)
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) – Davao City Chapter