Benigno S. Aquino III
1610 J.P Laurel St.
November 23, 2012
Ampatuan Massacre – Why no action?
Dear President Aquino,
years have passed since the massacre of 58 people including 32 of our
journalist colleagues near Ampatuan Town, Maguindanao.
will recall that shortly after your inauguration, on June 30 2010, we sent you
a 13-point action plan that we urged you to implement in order to meet your
election campaign promise to addressing the problem of impunity in the
must confess that, as representatives of the international community of
journalists, we are deeply disappointed at your lack of any meaningful action.
anniversary of the massacre serves to remind us all of how little has been done
to bring justice for those who have been murdered and to end the decades-long
culture of impunity that continues to stalk the Philippines. The proceedings to
bring those responsible for the Ampatuan Massacre moving with extraordinary
slowness through the judicial system. Of the 196 accused, 93 are still at
large, one suspect has already died, only 76 have been arraigned, 55 accused
have filed a petition for bail, and none have been convicted. Three witnesses
have been killed.
is estimated that, at its current pace and with the number of motions filed by
the defence, the Ampatuan trial will take a minimum of 24 years before a result
is achieved – a mockery that insults the memory of the dead and seriously
questions the resolve of the authorities to see that justice is done.
your term as president, we have also seen a further 14 journalists murdered,
five this year alone (the most recent was the murder of reporter broadcaster
Julius Cauzo on November 8 in Cabanatuan City) as the culture of impunity
thrives and ensures that those in power feel safe in the knowledge that nothing
will ever stop them should they wish to forever silence journalists who are
merely doing their job.
wish to urge you to use this dread anniversary as an opportunity for a new
beginning, a broad government effort to ensure the Philippines turn a new page
and ends the impunity that has plagued your country for decades. We join our
colleagues in the Philippines in hoping for change and call on you to find the
resolve to make it happen.
that goal in mind, we once again ask you to consider the Action Plan to end
impunity submitted to your office by the International Federation of
Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines
(NUJP), (see the attached original
United Nations Security Council
Resolution 1738 (2006), which requires governments to actively protect
journalists and media workers in areas of conflict within national borders, your
government is obliged to ensure the safety of media personnel as civilians.
this in mind, we again call on you to ensure your Government and police and
security forces act on their responsibilities to bring the perpetrators and instigators
of the November 23 atrocity to account, without further delay, and to act now
to end the culture of impunity that has plagued the Philippines for so long.
sympathise deeply with the families of the victims and our colleagues from the Philippines
journalism community, and trust you will do all in your power to assist them to
see justice is achieved.
Federation of Journalists
President Benigno S. Aquino III
1610 J.P Laurel St.
June 30, 2010
RE: Journalists’ Rights and Impunity in the Philippines
Dear President Aquino,
Congratulations on taking office today.
We write regarding the ongoing violations facing journalists
in the Philippines on the eve of your inauguration. We are saddened to learn
from our affiliate, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines
(NUJP), of three murders of media personnel in recent weeks. The killings are
especially disturbing in consideration of the 32 journalists and media
personnel killed in the Ampatuan Town Massacre last November and the 140 media
personnel killed in your country since 1986.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ),
representing more than 600,000 members in 125 countries, has a long and close
working relationship with the media community in the Philippines, through the
work of the NUJP. In the Philippines, we promote the rights of professional
journalists, especially on issues of safety and press freedom. It is our view
that a robust and independent media sector is essential to democracy and
assurance of respect for universal human rights.
However, the long-running culture of impunity surrounding
the deaths and violent assaults and intimidation of Filipino journalists
pervades the Philippines, and is a significant impediment to the full
realisation of these rights.
With respect, the IFJ reminds the Government of the
Philippines of its obligations as a signatory to the Geneva Conventions of 12
August 1949 and to the 1997 Additional Protocol on the Protection of Victims of
Non-International Armed Conflicts (Protocol II) to ensure the protection of
journalists as civilians. Article 13 of Protocol II states: “The civilian
population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of
attack. Acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread
terror among the civilian population are prohibited.”
In addition, we draw your attention to United Nations
Security Council Resolution 1738, which was adopted in 2006 and stresses the
civilian status of journalists reporting in war zones and crisis areas within
national borders. The resolution stipulates: “… that all parties to an armed
conflict comply fully with the obligations applicable to them under
international law related to the protection of civilians in armed conflict,
including journalists, media professionals and associated personnel.”
Therefore, the Philippines Government is required by
international law to remedy the current situation and redress the past
injustices carried out against journalists. The recommendations that follow are
based on close engagement with local organisations and the findings of an
emergency mission the IFJ led in the immediate aftermath of the Ampatuan Town
These recommendations serve as indicators which will be used
by the IFJ and the NUJP, other international press freedom organisations, and
the international community to assess the progress of the Government of the
Philippines in meeting its responsibilities to protect journalists as civilians
and to ensure justice is done for past gross abuses of the rights of media
1. Immediate prosecution of all perpetrators of the Ampatuan
Town Massacre in Maguindanao on 23 November 2009. The trial or trials must be
fully open and transparent so that the public may observe the proceedings
without hindrance. There is to be no political interference in any aspect of
the conduct of the cases.
2. The Government of the Philippines initiates immediately a
full and open investigation into the involvement of Filipino military, police
and government officials in the Ampatuan Town massacre. An independent and
impartial investigator, endorsed by the Human Rights Commission of the
Philippines, is appointed to lead the inquiry. All appropriate resources, including
protection, are provided to ensure the investigator can do his/her work without
hindrance. The investigator’s final report is completed by 1 December 2010 and
tabled in the Congress.
3. The Government of the Philippines establishes an
independent commission with full judicial powers to call witnesses to publicly
inquire into repeated and ongoing instances of assaults, threats, intimidation,
abductions, illegal detention and murder of journalists in the Philippines, and
the reasons for the failure of authorities to take action against perpetrators.
The terms of reference will be devised in consultation with the National Union
of Journalists of the Philippines, the Human Rights Commission of the
Philippines and other media groups. The commission’s recommendations will be
made public and acted upon by the Government of the Philippines. The commission
will be established by 1 October 2010 and will report to Congress by 30 June
4. Noting that 140 media personnel have been murdered in the
Philippines since 1986, the Government of the Philippines in consultation with
the Department of Justice, the Philippines National Police together with the
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and the Freedom Fund for
Filipino Journalists, establishes an independent taskforce to implement
credible judicial proceedings, endorsed by the Human Rights Commission of the
Philippines and international legal experts, to fully investigate these cases
and conduct prosecutions. Action initiated by 1 October 2010. The task force
and proceedings will be funded by the Government of the Philippines. There will
be full public disclosure of all evidence and official records.
5. Any new attacks on media personnel and human rights
defenders (murder, assault, abduction, threats and intimidation) are
immediately and credibly investigated. Perpetrators are swiftly brought to
6. Where any new attacks on media personnel and human rights
defenders (murder, assault, abduction, threats and intimidation) are reasonably
suspected of links to state actors or associates, the Government of the
Philippines will direct that such actors be stood down from their positions
pending full and credible investigations. All information on such cases is
publicly available. Perpetrators are swiftly brought to justice. The IFJ, its
associates and other international organisations will closely monitor such
7. The Government of the Philippines will issue a
congressional statement in defence of the rights of journalists and the media,
recognising the Philippines’ commitment to the Geneva Conventions, the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights and United Nations Security Council
Resolution 1738 and acknowledging the vital role journalists play in
strengthening democracy by informing communities and scrutinising power.
8. The Government of the Philippines will legislate national
laws that enshrine the sentiments of the above congressional statement, with
specific reference to the Government’s commitment and responsibility to protect
and defend the rights of journalists and the media, in accordance with the
Geneva Conventions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and United
Nations Security Council Resolution 1738.
9. The Government of the Philippines provides financial
resources, with full transparency, to the families of all killed journalists
for legal support and ongoing trauma counselling.
10. The Government of the Philippines acts to ensure the
Freedom of Information Bill is passed by the Congress at the first sitting of
the new Congress.
11. The Government of the Philippines commits itself not to
pass any legislation or issue any executive order that will curtail press
freedom and freedom of expression, and it will move to decriminalise libel at
the first sitting of the new Congress.
12. The Government of the Philippines cooperates with the
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, the Human Rights Commission
of the Philippines and media owners to develop and implement a sustained
training program for police, military and government employees and elected
office holders on the rights of journalists pursuant to the above international
legal instruments. The program is fully resourced and activated by 1 December
13. The Government of the Philippines, in cooperation with
the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, the Human Rights
Commission of the Philippines and media owners, initiates and conducts a series
of public meetings in all provinces of the Philippines to raise awareness among
the broader public of the rights of journalists in serving the public interest,
and the Government’s commitment and responsibility to defend and uphold these
rights. The meetings will form the basis of a national public awareness
campaign in support of media freedom, democracy and human rights in the
Again, we respectfully request that you use your authority
as President to act on the grave concerns held by the IFJ and its affiliates
around the world for the welfare of our colleagues in the Philippines, in the
spirit of serving the best interests of all citizens of the Philippines.
Finally, the IFJ believes that media employers must commit
themselves to providing journalists, especially those in the provinces, with
fair treatment. Collective agreements between managements and workers in all
media organisations should be concluded to provide for stability, safety and
security in employment conditions. Structures of self-regulation and
accountability toward the media audience should be strengthened. The media
should aim to speak for all of the Philippines communities, rather than cater
to narrow constituencies and special interests.
General Secretary, IFJ