The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins
its affiliate, the National
Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), in expressing disappointment over the
suspension of the first day of hearings of the Ampatuan massacre trial.
long-awaited start of the trial on September 1 was postponed after just one
hour by Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes, after defence lawyer
Sigfrid Fortun argued more time was needed to comment on pre-trial documents.
representing former Ampatuan town mayor Andal Ampatuan Jnr and 16 police
officers, who allegedly served as members of the Ampatuan clan’s private army
in Maguindanao, in the southern Philippines.
They face murder
charges for the November 23 massacre of 57 people, including 32 journalists and
media workers, travelling in a convoy with a political candidate running
against Ampatuan Jnr for Governor of Maguindanao province.
attending the trial joined the victims’ families and prosecutors in expressing
outrage over the decision to postpone the trial’s start date to September 8.
Nunez, the mother of slain UNTV reporter Victor Nunez, wept while being
interviewed by the media after the postponement of proceedings, complaining
that the Philippines
legal system favoured the rich and powerful.
the victims’ families had travelled especially from Mindanao in the Philippines’ south to a maximum security
compound at military Camp Bagong Diwa, at Taguig
City, in metro Manila, in the country’s north, where the
trial had been moved due to security concerns.
of Benigno Aquino must ensure these trials are conducted promptly and taken as
an opportunity to bring about a positive change in the way such killings are
handled by the Philippines’
authorities and judiciary,” IFJ Asia-Pacific
Director Jacqueline Park said.
to do so will only embolden killers, and reinforce a culture of impunity in
which the perpetrators of such crimes are rarely held accountable.”
Philippines Justice Secretary Leila De Lima is reported to have expressed concern over the postponement
of the trial, suggesting the defence was causing unnecessary delays for
reportedly exploring the possibility of a Supreme Court intervention to speed
up a long and complicated series of trials, with a total of 196 suspects and
more than 500 witnesses expected to be called before the courts.
* The IFJ refers to at
least 57 people killed in the Ampatuan Town massacre, in the belief that 58
people were killed. The body of Reynaldo "Bebot" Momay was never found. However,
the IFJ believes he was killed. The legal proceedings against the accused refer
to 57 counts of murder, on the evidence of the number of bodies recovered.
information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
on +612 9333 0919
represents more than 600,000 journalists in 125 countries
Find the IFJ on Twitter: