Week-long commemoration of Ampatuan massacre opens with video campaign

“Patay na ang balita ‘pag patay na ang nagbabalita (News is dead if the one who delivers it is gone),” says veteran journalist Cheche Lazaro in a video campaign by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, urging Filipinos to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Ampatuan massacre, which claimed the lives of 58 persons, 32 of whom were journalists.

By: Tricia Aquino, InterAksyon.com | November 17, 2014 6:12 PM

The online news portal of TV5

MANILA – “Patay na ang balita ‘pag patay na ang nagbabalita (News is dead if the one who delivers it is gone),” says veteran journalist Cheche Lazaro in a video campaign by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, urging Filipinos to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Ampatuan massacre, which claimed the lives of 58 persons, 32 of whom were journalists.

The CMFR, Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication, Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Photojournalists’ Center of the Philippines, Philippine Association of Communication Educators, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, and Philippine Press Institute will be holding week-long events beginning Monday, leading up to a candle-lighting activity on Sunday at the EDSA Shrine.

This will be replicated in other parts of the Philippines, and the world through IFEX, a global network defending and promoting free expression, which has declared November 23 as the International Day to End Impunity.

The media organizations are encouraging Filipinos to light a candle wherever they are, take photos of themselves while doing so, and post these on social media.

“Six days from today, we will look back and see how five years of corruption and apathy have conspired to thwart not only justice for the Ampatuan 58 but allowed the impunity with which journalists, activists, lawyers, environmentalists, farmers, indigenous people, religious, and others, whose only crime is to exercise their right to free expression, continue to be murdered,” said NUJP in a statement.

“From today until November 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.”

Here is the schedule of events for the week.

Monday: Public service advertisements will begin airing on television. The 30-second video produced by the Philippine Integrated Advertising Agency shows a girl chasing after a dog in a field of grass, only to stop and find herself facing a huge backhoe, similar to the one allegedly used to bury the victims of the massacre. The ad closes with the words, “A backhoe can bury anything except the memory of 58 lives. Ampatuan Massacre: 5 years, 0 justice.”

Print ads by will also be published in newspapers on Sunday, while radio ads will be aired in the coming days.

The airing and publication of these advertisements symbolized the media community’s quest for justice, said NUJP chairperson Rowena Paraan at a press conference.

PCP representative Jimmy Domingo added that they planned to place blank squares in newspapers with the words “No journalists, no pictures.” Slide shows on news web sites would also have blank slides in the place of photos.

Thursday: An international solidarity mission composed of representatives from the International Federation of Journalists, Southeast Asia Journalists Union, Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, and NUJP will arrive in General Santos City to speak to the local media and families of media victims.

Friday: The international solidarity mission will go to the massacre site, then meet with Maguindanao Governor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu. Paraan said that according to him, the massacre site is now a banana plantation.

Saturday: The international solidarity mission will meet with Justice Secretary Leila De Lima in Manila. Last month, she announced that she would be personally overseeing the prosecution panel.

Sunday: An art installation recreating the massacre site will be unveiled at Bantayog ng mga Bayani.

Monday: The international solidarity mission will meet with Task Force Usig head Col. Henry Libay. The task force was created to investigate killings of, among others, media workers.

The Asian Investigative Journalism Conference Organized by the Global Investigative Journalism Network, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, and PCIJ will also coincide with the commemoration. Delegates will also participate in the candle-lighting activity.

Since the Ampatuan massacre, according to NUJP director Sonny Fernandez, only 111 of the 197 accused had been arrested and arraigned. One was discharged and another died in prison. 41 of them were granted bail.

There have been 152 witnesses so far, with at least three potential witnesses killed.

The year was marked by the public and private prosecutors’ difference in legal strategies, as well as accusations of bribery against the defense. Three defense lawyers also quit.

A third assisting judge was assigned to handle “non-trial” incidents such as arraignments and pre-trials, said Fernandez. The Supreme Court also allowed judicial affidavits or sworn statements with the witnesses’ testimony in question-and-answer form to be used. It authorized the judge to issue decisions on cases of an accused against whom the prosecution no longer had evidence to present, without waiting for the completion of the presentation of evidence for all accused, as well.

At least 33 more journalists had been killed in the Philippines since the Ampatuan massacre, according to NUJP.

The situation of the media was a reflection of what was happening in larger society, said Paraan. Activists, lawyers, and priests, among others who were critical and sought reforms became targets, too.

President Aquino may have focused his campaign on the Tuwid Na Daan (Straight Path), but he overlooked the human rights situation in the country, said Fernandez.

Instead of creating concrete solutions to the problem, the President was just issuing statements, some of which might even encourage the perpetrators to continue their attacks on media workers, said Fernandez.

In August, President Aquino was interviewed by Bombo Radyo (http://www.gov.ph/2014/08/28/transcript-president-aquinos-interview-with-bombo-radyo-august-27-2014/) on media killings, among other issues.

He said that journalists should never be silenced in their search for the truth, and that killings would never be acceptable. However, he also pointed out that some media workers were being killed “not in the pursuit of the profession.” Instead, angles like “love triangles” and “extortion” were possible.

“Pero ulitin ko, hindi natin tino-tolerate ‘yan at hinahabol nga natin lahat … Pero masasabi natin naman siguro at sasang-ayon kayo, maski anong samahan, merong maayos, meron hong hindi maayos. Ulitin ko lang ho, obligasyon ng estado, ano man ang ginawa mong krimen kailangang pagbayaran mo (But let me repeat, we do not tolerate that and we are after the perpetrators … But we can also, perhaps, say, and you might agree, that in any organization, there are decent people and there are people who are not. But let me repeat, it is the state’s obligation that whatever crime you have committed, you will pay),” Aquino added.

The killings will continue if the public is not aware of the issues related to it, said Paraan.

“Killing happens because you have the likes of the Ampatuans who can remain in power for so many years because they are tolerated, even encouraged, [by those] who rely on these warlords for votes during elections,” she said.

The resolution of the case would be the measure of how decisive the government is in addressing the issue of media killings, Paraan stressed.

View the CMFR’s “Million Candles” campaign here.

SOURCE www.interaksyon.com