Tag Archives: media killings

NUJP calls for public outrage

 

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews) – “Forget justice. Forget law. Forget democracy,” the one-liner first paragraph of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) statement against Acting Justice Secretary Alberto Agra’s order to drop multiple murder charges against suspended ARMM Governor Datu Zaldy Ampatuan and his brother in law, former Mamasapano mayor, later OIC Vice Governor Akmad Ampatuan, declared.

The Agra order, the NUJP said in its April 18 statement, “is proof that these principles do not, nay, have never existed under the Arroyo government, that this is governance not through the rule of law but through political expediency.”

“It is proof of what we have suspected almost as soon as it became apparent that a clan known to be one of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s closest allies might be linked to the worst election-related violence in our country’s recent history AND the worst single attack on the media ever – that this administration would do everything within its power to assure they would not be held accountable.”

At least 58 persons were killed, 32 of them from the media, when armed men led by Datu Unsay mayor Datu Andal Ampatuan, Jr., stopped them along the highway of Ampatuan in Maguindanao, herded them up to Barangay Masalay and shot them dead. Six of the 58 just happened to pass the highway at the wrong time, the rest were part of a convoy that would have brought the certificate of candidacy for governor of Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangu-dadatu to the provincial office of the Commission on Elections in Shariff Aguak, the next town after Ampatuan.

Ampatuan Jr. was going to run for governor of Maguindanao.

No probable cause

The Manila Times.net reported on Sunday that the DOJ “on Saturday cleared — of murder charges—suspended Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan of Autonomous Region in Muslim Min-danao (ARMM) and Mayor Datu Akmad Ampatuan of Mamasapano town.”

It added that the DOJ granted the two Am-patuans’ petition for review of the multiple murder case against them saying there was no probable cause.

“This Justice department action followed the granting—for lack of evidence—the two Ampa-tuans’ petition for review of the multiple murder case against them,” the report said.

Agra, interviewed by phone from Baguio, told Manila Times.net that the two Ampatuans “were cleared for lack of proof that they conspired with the other accused.”

“Basic reason is walang proof of conspiracy. Nagamit din na proof yung Smart Infinity and the Philippine Airlines ticket at ang sinabi ng isang witness,” Agra told The Manila Times in a telephone interview.

The Smart Infinity phone, the certification from the Philippine Airlines showing that on November 22, 2009, the suspended governor was in Davao City attending the Kanduli meeting with other regional governors, and the words of a witness convinced the DOJ that the governor is innocent of the charges.

Datu Akmad Am-pauan’s petition for review was granted for alleged lack of witnesses to implicate him in the massacre.

Not for NUJP, Not for Agra

The NUJP said it is “not for us to proclaim the innocence or guilt of either Ampatuan for the November 23 massacre of 58 persons, 32 of them media workers. But neither is it for Agra to do so.”

The NUJP said charges had been filed in court, the judge had issued a commitment order, those who were detained in Davao and General Santos cities had been brought to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig, along with chief suspect Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan “Unsay” Jr., and several of the 197 accused.

“It should now be for the court to judge the innocence or guilt of the 197 persons accused of planning or carrying out the massacre,” the NUJP added.

“By issuing the order, which incidentally Agra had already announced earlier he was inclined to do, the man supposedly sworn to uphold justice in this country has preempted that prerogative of the court. Agra has hijacked the judicial process and subverted the very justice he should be upholding,” the NUJP said.

It noted that no legal expertise is needed “to know the alibi is the flimsiest defense in a criminal case. And yet Agra has practically pounced on this straw and used it to buttress his assertion that neither Zaldy nor Akmad Ampatuan should be charged because they were not there when the massacre took place.”

“But surely, this travesty is not Agra’s doing alone, for he could not have done this without the full knowledge and approval of his principal, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. We hold Agra and Arroyo, personally, and this administration accountable for this massacre of the principles that define us as a country and as a people – justice, the rule of law, our basic rights, democracy.

We call on the Filipino people to protest this outrage. More important, we call on the people to demand an accounting. We cannot let this pass. Or we might as well totally forget that we are one country, one people,” the NUJP said.

Families of the media victims of the Ampatuan Masascre will hold a press conference in General Santos City Monday morning.

Ma. Reynafe M. Castillo, daughter of one of the media victims, Reynaldo Momay (his remains have yet to be found but for his dentures), wrote in her Facebook account, “my heart is crying even if I haven’t filed a case against them. Where’s the JUSTICE in this country??? Agra should resign from his post. AGRA RESIGN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”” MindaNews

Maguindanao Massacre 11

NO SHOW IN COURT FOR AMPATUANS

Devils can also be afraid of devils.

The Ampatuans were no-shows in a court hearing on Wednesday in Davao City on their petition for writ of habeas corpus.

For security reasons, said lawyer Sigfrid Fortun, the Ampatuans’ counsel, at the Regional Trial Court Branch 14, beefed up with troopers to abort attempts against the Maguindanao clan accused of killing 57 people including 30 mediapersons in what is now called the Maguindanao massacre.

But Fortun told the court of Judge George Omelio the arrest of former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. was illegal.

Nevertheless, Judge Omelio said the court would resolve the petition in 20 days after the prosecution and defense presented their evidence. However, he said his court is not in position to decide on the petition which should be the RTC Branch 15 in Cotabato City where rebellion chaarges have been filed against the Ampatuans.

Accused in the case are Andal, Sr., and his sons sons Zaldy Ampatuan, governor of the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Andal Ampatuan Jr., mayor of Unsay town said to have led the massacre, and Sajid Ampatuan, and Anwar Ampatuan, mayor of Shariff Aguak town.

Judge Omelio earlier had ordered police and military to bring the accused before his sala after the filing Friday of the writ by Datu Sajid Sangki Druz Ali, head of the regional office the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) of the ARMM and relative of the Ampatuans.

Andal Sr. is still confined at the military hospital in Camp Panacan, while Andal Jr. is detained at the National Bureau of Investigation in Metro Manila.

 

Mindanao Civil Society Statement on the Ampatuan Massacre

November 27, 2009

(Read during the Ecumenical Gathering for Peace and Justice on November 27, 2009 held at Matina Town Square, Davao City)

 Representing the tri-people civil society of Mindanao – Lumad, Muslim and Settler – we reaffirm the strength of our mutual solidarity as diverse peoples and groups in this dark time.  As people unified in our belief that the human spirit cannot be extinguished, even by death, we acknowledge the centrality of our diverse spirituality in nurturing our spirits in this time of trauma. While this tragedy cuts across gender, social, religious, familial and cultural boundaries, we assert that this not be used as a pretext for violence, division or discrimination against any person or group by virtue of their religion, gender, family name or cultural heritage.  Though shocked and appalled by the events of this week, we state that our resolve is firm and our hope burns bright through our solidarity with each other and the creator.  As people who have been on the front lines finding alternative and non-violent ways to bring peace, justice and wholeness to our land, we know that it is critically important, now more than ever, that we make an explicit and concrete way forward through this tragedy.

 

We, the civil society organizations of Mindanao, stand in solidarity with the people of Maguindanao during this painful tragedy.  We deplore and condemn the senseless and brutal killing of innocent and unarmed people going about their daily lives and work and call for justice that meets the standards of both criminal law and global human rights.  Some were killed for exercising their right to participate in the democratic process or report the news, others were simply bystanders caught in the wrong place and time. But the searing pain and anger is the same for the relatives and friends of the victims, while in the back our mind is the nagging feeling that it could have been any one of on that road from Buluan to Sharriff Aguak on Monday, November 23.

 

And this is the reason for our horror as community workers, peace promoters, legal advocates and journalists. It reveals to us that the potential for violence that is already factored into our daily decisions to serve some of the most vulnerable communities is greater than we had feared.  In fact, the systems and society that we strive to improve are in much worse shape than we thought. Let us state emphatically, this is a stark and horrific reality check for our supposed democracy and social order.  As the National Union of journalists noted in their response this week, this could put the Philippines, “on the map as a candidate for a failed democracy.”  As democracy is a non-violent way of engaging competing power bases, an attack on democracy is an attack on the practice of non-violence.

 

We have learned that within every painful situation such as this lay seeds of peace and hope that will grow when watered by justice and truth.  While there is tragedy and danger in this reality, there is also an opportunity to transform this into something new and better.

 

We therefore make the following three (3) specific thematic recommendations to guide us through this tragedy in the hope of preventing further violence and bloodshed while bringing healing and hope to our land:

Healing Justice – A Path to Peace

Mindanao Civil Society Recommendations on the Ampatuan Massacre

 

Nonviolent Humanitarian Response:

1) We call for non-violent moral and spiritual leadership in our families and communities.  We mothers and fathers can no longer teach our children a culture of peace yet demonstrate a culture of violence.  This massacre simply makes obvious the reality that women, especially mothers, bear the brunt of violence throughout the world.  So we call women everywhere to step forward and take the place of those who have fallen in their service as peace builders. 

 

2) We affirm the right of relatives of victims and the public to express their grief, condemnation and demands for justice on this gruesome matter.  However, it does violence to demonize those responsible and generalize about their family members. That leads to the degradation and opens the door for further violence and violation of human rights.  While we denounce the brutality of the actions, we affirm the perpetrators rights to due process – no more, no less. No one is above the law, neither is anyone below it.

 

3) Promotion and dissemination of positive examples of non-violent cultural justice practices. It is too easy to for people to make negative assumptions about the socio-political culture of Maguindanao based on this incident.  For every one violent incident, how many are dealt with peacefully?  We therefore call on media to present a front page headline article of the many stories of Moro communities’ ways of non-retaliation, the peaceful ending of clan feuds and resolving of community conflicts without violence.

 

4) Speedy justice and sobriety and patience by those who are affected: We encourage the aggrieved families, friends and relatives to allow the impartial and rapid investigation into the killing to proceed.  Preliminary findings should be released by law enforcement officials at the end of 30 days in order to provide understanding into the incident and clarify further options for the victims.

 

Disarmament, de-escalation and prevention:

1) We call for the disarmament of the CVOs and the total disbandment of the private armies of all political clans and call on the government to uphold the constitutional provisions which bans private armed groups.  The Philippine police and army are already tasked to provide internal security.  We request the Philippine bar to petition the supreme court for a TRO on executive order 546 which allows local officials to convert their private armed group into legal entities as civilian volunteer organizations (CVO’s).

 

2) Coordinating all law enforcement with the Joint Coordinating Committee for Cessation of Hostilities (JCCCH). We note that the government might take this as an opportunity to go after suspects accused of human rights violations in the recent hostilities between the MILF and GRP, which might lead to displacement of civilians in other communities.  Great care should be maintained to prevent breakdown in the GRP-MILF ceasefire.

3) We recommend that local peace and order committees, peace groups, and other community based mediation groups activate crisis response teams to be on call to respond to potential conflicts. We ask community and government leaders to prevent spillover of communal violence into surrounding communities and the escalation of a cycle of retaliation between involved individuals, families or communities, or the settling of unrelated grudges by unrelated parties through violent means. We encourage the actions of municipal leaders in regulating the entry of armed groups, securing their areas from the proliferation of fire arms and the enforcement of the loose firearms law.

 

4) Demilitarization of Maguindanao: This cannot be used to justify the further militarization of Central Mindanao.  We call for withdrawal, within 45 days of the incident, of all supplemental police and military forces mobilized in the immediate aftermath.

 

Support for victims, justice for all:

1)  Preventive Suspension: We urge the government to issue a preventive suspension of the provincial governor of Maguindanao and ARMM regional governor while the case is ongoing to prevent the use of public office to protect their family interests.

 

2) Establishment of victims support fund: Funds will help pay for expenses to the victims, especially counseling and therapy services, along with a scholarship fund for their children

 

3) Formation of a mobile trauma healing team to assist victims in this tragedy.

 

4) Convening a civil society listening group on to make preliminary recommendations at the end of the 30 day period regarding the diverse justice practices that exist or could be manifested in Mindanao (i.e. legal, indigenous/cultural, Islamic, restorative and transitional).  Justice is not necessarily about going after the “bad guy,” as so many are calling for, or having just one legal option to pursue.  While we believe that the rule of law must be followed and perpetrators of this violent crime held accountable, we also believe in multi-faceted and deep justice that first of all listens to, and then helps bring healing, not just to direct victims, but to the wider community and society. 

 

5) We Invite the United Nations and other members of the international community to assist the CSO community to set up a Peoples Commission on Reconciliation and Truth-telling in Mindanao (Peoples CORT). The recommendations of the aforementioned civil society work group will provide basis for the establishment of a truly cultural process addressing the just needs of victims and the wider community. This would not supplant the current legal system, but we have found the Filipino system, as it is based on a conventional Euro-American model, to be ineffective in addressing the socio-cultural dynamics of this and other crimes and conflicts in Mindanao.

 

  1. Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC)

  2. Peacebuilders Community (PBC)

  3. Mindanao Commission on Women (MCW)

  4. Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID)

  5. Akbayan

  6. Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao (Afrim)

  7. Mindanao Farmers Development Cooeprative (MFDC)

  8. United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD)

  9. A! Mindacom

  10. Akbayan, Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL)

  11. Managing Alternative Group, Inc. (MAGI)

  12. Legal Rights Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan (LRC-Ksk)

  13. Mindanao Comstrat and Policy Alternatives, Inc.  (ComStrat)

  14. Tripeoples Concern for Peace, Progress and Development in Mindanao (TRICOM)

  15. Holy Cross of Davao College

  16. Pilipina

  17. APL-Youth

  18. SALIDA

  19. Kinaiyahan Foundation, Inc.

  20. Women Core

  21. Hinabi

  22. Women in White

  23. Saligan

  24. Technical Assistance for the Development of Rural and Urban Poor (TACDRUP)

  25. Mindanao Peace Advocates Conference

  26. CODE Foundation

  27. Tambayan

  28. Nagkahiusang Kababayen-an sa Barangay Tacunan

  29. Akbayan-Davao

  30. Oxfam

  31. ALFI

  32. Daughters of Zion

  33. Boondocks

  34. World March of Women

  35. Sarilaya

  36. ADDU

  37. FARMCOOP-WomenCore

  38. Jesus the Livign Spring Foundation

  39. CPM

 

Pala, Lintuan slays still unsolved

Police told: Bare results of probe on media slay

By ROGER M. BALANZA

The head of a government information agency in the Davao Region on Thursday said police need to bare results of its investigation into media killings in Davao City.

Efren Elbanbuena, regional director of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), jested police probe on the killing of local journalists have been summed up in the acronym “DNA.” DNA is the medical process of identifying bodies through gene-matching with close relatives.

Elbanbuena sparked guffaws from local journalists attending a forum on press freedom in Davao City on Thursday when he spelled out DNA as “Di Namin Alam “(We don’t know).

The PIA director was one of resource speakers at the forum organized by the Tri-Media Organization for Peace and Alliance in Mindanao (Tropa) which spearheaded the 22nd anniversary of the August 27, 1987 bombing of radio station DXRA. Four radio broadcasters, including anti-communist crusader Leo Palo, were killed in the attack later claimed by the communist New Peoples Army (NPA). Two radio technicians and three civilians visiting the station also perished in the early evening assault at the station along Magallanes Street at the heart of the city.

Elbanbuena said victims of recent media killings in Davao City, like the DXRA attack, remained unsolved, referring to the 2003 murder of broadcaster Jun Pala and the 2007 fatal ambush of radioman Ferdie “Batman” Lintuan.

Until now, we are in the dark as to whether these killings are job-related or not, he said, adding there is a need to clarify if the victims were killed for other reasons than being their members of the working press, according to Elbanbuena.

What we have now is nothing but speculations, he said.

In the forum, Elbanbuena urged  retired Army General and now Representative Jovito Palparan of the partylist Bantay and Representative Jun Alcover of Anad to pass a resolution in Congress asking the Philippine National Police to submit a final report on the Pala and Lintuan killings.

Palparan and Alcover were also resource speakers in the forum held at the University of Southeastern Philippines (USeP).

But Elbanbuena said media could avoid being next on the list of slain media if they stick to the journalists’ code of ethics make accountability and responsibility as the driving force in their commentaries.

The PIA director also urged media to form press clubs which would impose regulations on members. The media is a watchdog, but who would watch over the watchdog? he posited this question to emphasize the need for members of the press to understand that press freedom is not absolute.