Int’l group of journalists to probe status of Maguindanao massacre trial
MANILA, Philippines — A solidarity mission led by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) will arrive in the Philippines to look into the status of the Maguindanao massacre trial five years after the killings that took the lives of 58 people, including 32 media practitioners.
The IFJ investigation is part of the week-long activities launched by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) to mark “five years of loss and of a search for justice that remains elusive.”
“We hope this mission will put pressure on the government to make decisive actions to address media killings,” NUJP chairperson Rowena Paraan said in a press briefing in Quezon City on Monday.
Paraan added that discussions of the Maguindanao massacre should include killings of activists, environmentalists, lawyers and indigenous people who have been seeking reforms in their sectors.
“Media killings reflect what is happening in the bigger society. We need to address the system of political patronage, of warlordism and the culture of impunity,” Paraan said.
“These killings happen because you have the likes of the Ampatuans who can remain in power for so many years because they are tolerated, even encouraged, by national leaders who rely on these warlords for votes during elections,” she added.
The Ampatuans — led by former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr.; his sons Andal Ampatuan Jr and Zaldy Ampatuan — are being tried for allegedly masterminding the Nov. 23, 2009, massacre to thwart the gubernatorial bid of their rival Esmael Mangudadatu. Of the 197 accused in the ongoing trial, 15 are members of the Ampatuan clan.
The international delegation will meet with the families of the victims and the local media in General Santos City on Nov. 20. The following day, the group will visit the hilltop in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman, Ampatuan town, Maguindanao province, where the 58 victims were slaughtered.
The delegates will meet with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and other concerned government officials afterwards.
The activities will culminate in a candle-lighting ceremony, “One Million Candles for Justice,” at the Edsa Shrine on Nov. 23, which also marks the International Day to End Impunity. Members of the International Freedom of Expression and Exchange will join the activity in their respective countries.
The public is encouraged to light a candle wherever they are and post a photo in social media to express solidarity.
“From today until Nov. 23 and beyond, let us remind this government of its unfulfilled and broken promises of justice, of respect for our basic rights and freedoms, of good governance,” the NUJP said in a statement.
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