UNESCO says Ampatuan case “unresolved” as families still pursue justice

Sep. 25, 2020

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – A United Nations body made changes in their position on the Ampatuan massacred case from “resolved” to “ongoing/unresolved” following appeals of the family of the media victims and media organizations.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) acknowledged they have changed their position after learning that the case, which convicted the 43 people on the “worse journalist killing in recent history”, has been under appeal.

“Based on this new information, the legal cases concerned will, therefore, be maintained as ‘ongoing/unresolved’ in the UNESCO Observatory of killed journalists, as well as in the upcoming ‘Director-General’s Report on Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity’ until such a moment when a final verdict is reached by the Philippine judicial system,” said UNESCO Deputy Director-General Xing Qu in his letter dated September 24, 2020.

The new information was raised by Justice Now, the group of the families of the 33 media victims, and from 100 individuals from media and other advocacy groups.

The appeal letter led by Freedom for Media, Freedom for All Network urged Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information Moez Chakchouk to review its finding as the case is far from being resolved.

Aside from the ongoing appeal in court for a reversal of the verdict and the families’ motion, the group also raised the case of photojournalist Reynaldo “Bebot” Momay to include as a victim bringing the total of 58 cases of murder even if his body was never found.

UNESCO had earlier declared on September 12 that the case was “resolved” following the conviction of 28 persons of murder and 15 others as accessories to the crime. Among the convicts are the Ampatuan children and relatives who once dominated Maguindanao politics through impunity.

Justice Now secretary-general Grace Morales said they are thankful for UNESCO’s decision in changing its classification since the UN body only based the facts on the court’s guilty verdict, but the quest for justice still continues.

“We are thankful that they have acknowledged the plea of the families and those media organizations that supported us since the beginning of our struggle for justice. We will not forget this event and those who use our case for their own interests,” said Morales in a phone interview.

Morales suspects that there “are maybe misinformation” provided to UNESCO about the status of the case since convicted Ampatuans are still filing appeals before the Court of Appeals, while some others also appealed before the trial court.

“We cannot accept the fact that even if the case is still in the court, they consider it as resolved already as if they ask the families about our opinion. From the very start, we are vocal that we are still seeking justice, our children and family are afraid of our security since a lot of suspects are still free. That alone speaks a thousand reasons why we cannot reconcile on UNESCO’s findings,” she added.| With reports from Jigger Jerusalem (davaotoday.com)

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