They are hoping that the principal accused, Andal “Datu Unsay” Ampatuan Jr., would be convicted along with the others who participated in the killing of 58 people, including 32 journalists, on Nov. 23, 2009.
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Justice still elusive for Maguindanao massacre victims
Cecille Suerte Felipe (The Philippine Star) - November 25, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Nine years after the Maguindanao massacre, cases of killings, death threats, surveillance of media agencies and journalists, libel and online and other harassments have made the practice of journalism in the country even more perilous, Sen. Francis Pangilinan said yesterday.

“We can only count the years that have gone by since the massacre of 58 people in Maguindanao, but we have nothing to reckon as victory,” Pangilinan said.

Officials and the families of the victims had expressed confidence that they will finally secure a conviction in the case by next year.

They are hoping that the principal accused, Andal “Datu Unsay” Ampatuan Jr., would be convicted along with the others who participated in the killing of 58 people, including 32 journalists, on Nov. 23, 2009.

“Nine years later, the same conditions that led to the massacre persist – the dominance of warlords and corrupt clans, the impunity of the powerful who can get away with murder, the fundamentally flawed justice system,” Pangilinan said.

To make matters worse, the opposition lawmaker said the Duterte administration “does not acknowledge deaths due to extrajudicial killings but instead thrive on fake news and misinformation to get back at its critics.”

“We see altered and controlled public disclosure to suit the purpose of the ruling power,” he said.

Under the present situation, Pangilinan said freedom of the press and the right to information is restricted.

“The cases of killings, death threats, surveillance of media agencies and journalists, libel, online harassment, website attacks, revoked registration or denied franchise renewal and verbal abuse have made the practice of journalism even more perilous,” Pangilinan said.

“Today, against this backdrop, we remember those who were killed in the Ampatuan massacre to call for justice and vigilance against repression and manipulation of the press,” he added.

The victims were on their way to the provincial capitol in Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao to file the certificate of candidacy for Esmael Mangudadatu, then vice mayor of Buluan.

Militiamen identified with the Ampatuan clan flagged down the convoy, herded the victims to a nearby hill and gunned them down with automatic rifles.

Of the 58 killed, 38 of them were journalists accompanying the convoy.

Bacolod City barangay kagawad Andrea Jayme, whose sister Connie Jayme-Brizuela was among the victims, said she is expecting a conviction.

Jayme said they hope to get justice for her sister by the first quarter of next year, as promised by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) is also hoping for a resolution of the case.

“We should not tire but should continue the struggle until we get justice not only as members of the media but as Filipinos, especially in these times when the country is facing danger,” NUJP president Jose Jaime Espina said.

Former special assistant to the president Christopher “Bong” Go said Filipinos should stand firm for freedom of speech and expression.

“As we remember and continue to seek justice for the victims of this terrible tragedy, we must also make a commitment to uphold the principles of free speech and to pursue a policy that would protect all those who exercise this fundamental right,” Go said.

Just like everyone else, Go also called for the speedy resolution of the case.

Go has cited the critical role media plays in nation building and has called on the industry to be the government’s partner in development. 

“The media plays an important role in our society. They are the primary source of information that shapes the policy of our nation,” he said.

Go said he continues to grieve for the families of the victims as well as the whole media community who are still seeking justice for the killing of the 38 journalists.

“I offer my deepest sympathies to the families of the victims. I am one with you in remembering the heroic lives of your loved ones,” he said. – With Gilbert Bayoran

JUSTICE MAGUINDANAO MASSACRE
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