IFJ Dismayed By Delay For Massacre Trial In Philippines

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.

 

The

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.

 

Fortun is

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.

 

NUJP representatives

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.

 

Catherine

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.

 

Many of

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.

 

“The administration

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.

 

“Failure

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

tactical reasons.

 

She is

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.

 

For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ

represents more than 600,000 journalists in 125 countries

 

Find the IFJ on Twitter:

@ifjasiapacific