Philippines President Gloria
Macapagal Arroyo and her Government must take all necessary measures to provide
local media with protection ahead of upcoming elections, says the International
Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and other members of an international
solidarity mission that investigated the November 23 massacre of 58 people in
the southern Philippines.
Among those killed were 32
journalists and media workers.
“The massacre underlines the
terrible dangers that Filipino journalists face. It also highlights the
inability and unwillingness of the State to ensure the protection and safety of
journalists who are seeking to perform their duties,” the mission members say
in their report, Massacre in the
Philippines: International Solidarity Mission Rapid Assessment, released
The mission conducted its investigations
in the Philippines
from December 5 to 10 in association with the National Union of Journalists of
the Philippines (NUJP), an affiliate of the IFJ. The team included representatives
from leading journalists’ rights and press freedom organisations, including the
IFJ, Indonesia’s Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), the Committee to
Protect Journalists (CPJ), International Media Support (IMS), International
News Safety Institute (INSI), the Institute for Studies on the Free Flow of
Information (ISAI), Australia’s Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance, the
Southeast Asia Press Alliance (SEAPA), the Thai Journalists’ Association (TJA),
and Union Network International (UNI).
“Power-holders in the Philippines
must act urgently on all the recommendations of the mission’s report to reverse
once and for all the country’s shameful culture of impunity for the murders of
journalists, tragically underscored on November 23,” IFJ General Secretary
Aidan White said.
As the mission report went to press,
the toll of media personnel killed in the massacre was revised up to 32, as it
was confirmed that Saksi News photographer Jepon Cadagdagon was among
the victims in Maguindanao province, Mindanao. The toll of 32 media personnel includes
31 whose bodies were recovered, as well as Reynaldo “Bebot” Momay who remains
The mission team says that it holds
grave concerns for the safety of Filipino journalists as the investigation and
prosecution of the accused takes place in a tense environment ahead of national
and presidential elections due on May 10.
“This massacre, coming at the very
beginning of the 2010 election process, not only undermines that process but
has dealt a cruel blow to democracy and free media in the Philippines,” the
mission members say in their report.
They call on the Government to
ensure media is able to report fairly and freely on the election campaign
without undue risk. It also stresses concerns about judicial and forensic
processes in view of the political ties between the Arroyo administration and
the Ampatuan family in Mindanao.
Although at least 100 gunmen are
believed to have been involved in the massacre, Andal Ampatuan Jr, the son of
the clan patriarch, is the only person to be charged and brought before a court
in direct connection to the massacre. He is pleading not guilty.
Among other significant concerns
highlighted in the report is the role of Major General Alfredo Cayton, the
Commander of the 6th Infantry Division in Maguindinao at the time of the
massacre. The mission urges a full investigation into Cayton’s role and actions
preceding the massacre.
Cayton, who denied requests for a
military escort to accompany the convoy that was attacked on November 23, was
stood down immediately after the massacre. However, he has since been promoted
to Vice Commander of the Philippine Army.
The mission further calls for an
investigation into reports that several members of the Philippine National
Police were involved in the massacre.
It stresses that under United
Nations Security Council Resolution 1738 (2006), the Government of the
Philippines is required to ensure its security forces provide the protection
due to citizens in areas of conflict within national borders, including media
The mission, which Arroyo declined
to meet, further recommends:
The Government and local authorities must undertake all
necessary measures to fully investigate the massacre and to ensure all evidence
is properly preserved and available.
The Government and local authorities must provide all
necessary measures for the protection and safety of witnesses, investigators,
prosecutors, lawyers and judges.
Families must be provided with legal support to pursue the
prosecution of perpetrators.
Observers and human rights groups must have full open access
to legal proceedings.
The Government is urged not to reimpose martial law ahead of
the May 10 elections.
The mission report will be officially
released in the Philippines
today at the launch of an organisation of families of journalists killed in the
massacre, Justice NOW! The NUJP and Justice NOW! will conduct a press
conference in Koronadal City, South Cotabato,
where many of the families live.
In Quezon City, the November 23 Movement, which
has been convened by the NUJP, will hold a candle-lighting vigil, among other
activities to mark two months since the massacre.
The report is available at: http://asiapacific.ifj.org//assets/docs/203/037/15d11cb-013d725.pdf
Rowena Paraan, NUJP:
Nonoy Espina, NUJP: +63-9088-650-213
Mike Dobbie, IFJ: +61-401730195
Oliver Money-Kyrle, IFJ: +32 473 97
Ranga Kalansooriya, IMS: +94-112-781-970 /
771-674-167 / 777-704-053
information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
on +612 9333 0919
represents over 600,000 journalists in 125 countries worldwide