Philippines: 11 years after Ampatuan massacre, impunity remains rife

Eleven years on from the Ampatuan Massacre, the world’s deadliest attack against journalists, impunity for crimes against journalists continues in the Philippines. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) to call for stronger efforts to end the country’s entrenched culture of impunity.

Relatives of the 58 people slain in the country's worst political massacre, visit the site of the massacre in Ampatuan, Maguindanao province on the southern island of Mindanao on November 23, 2019. Credit: Ferdinandh Cabrera/AFP

On November 23, 2009, 58 people - including 32 journalists - were shot and murdered in Maguindanao, on the southern island of Mindanao. The killing was the single worst massacre of journalists in the history and today media defenders joined the families of the victims in the ongoing fight for justice. Sadly, the spread of coronavirus in the Philippines prevented families from making their annual pilgrimage to the site of the massacre to pay their respects for the victims this year.

On December 20, 2019, the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 221 convicted 28 principal suspects (including eight members of the Ampatuan clan) and 15 others as accessories to the violent murders. Yet not all the suspects have been accounted for and convictions were handed down for just 57 murders – the court did not include journalist Reynaldo "Bebot" Momay whose body was never found.

On September 25, 2020, the IFJ released joint statement with its Asia-Pacific affiliates welcoming the decision of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to maintain the classification of the Ampatuan Massacre legal case as ‘unresolved’.

Today’s grim milestone marks the end of the IFJ’s global 2020 impunity campaign – which continues to demand an end to impunity for crimes against journalists.

Disturbingly, further lives have been lost during the campaign. In the Philippines this month, freelance journalist Ronnie Villamor was shot dead by soldiers on Masbate Island on November 14 and broadcaster and columnist Virgilio Maganes was fatally shot by gunmen on November 10. Since the global International Day to End Impunity (IDEI) on November 3, 2020, a total of six journalists have been killed in the Asia-Pacific region including a further two journalists each killed in India and Afghanistan. 

The NUJP said: "It remains very clear that the massacre case is far from being resolved. The convictions are being appealed, as are the civil damages by the victims' families. And 76 suspects are still at large. Which is why we join the families of the victims on declaring: WE STILL #FIGHTFOR58."

The IFJ said: “As we mark the end of our campaign, it is devastating to report that six more journalists’ lives were extinguished this month. It is a gruesome reminder of the mighty task we face to end attacks on journalists. On this day, IFJ stands with the families of the Ampatuan massacre victims in demanding justice to ensure all perpetrators are prosecuted.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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