Philippines: Impunity rampant on the anniversary of Ampatuan Massacre

As impunity runs rife for crimes against journalists in the Philippines, November 23 marks the thirteenth anniversary of the nation’s Ampatuan massacre, the world’s deadliest attack against journalists. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), in urging the government to continue to pursue full justice for this heinous crime and expressing solidarity with the victims’ families and the journalist community in the Philippines.

On November 23, 2009, 58 victims, including 32 journalists, were fatally shot and buried in Maguindanao, on the southern island of Mindanao. The attack stands as the single deadliest incident of violence against journalists internationally.

In 2019, Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court convicted brothers Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr and Zaldy Ampatuan, as well as 26 others, of murder charges for up to 40 years imprisonment without possibility of parole. Fifteen others were found to be accessories to the massacre and sentenced to a maximum of ten years and eight months imprisonment.

According to a recent update from the Office of the Press Secretary, an appeal from prosecutors has led to the conviction of another accessory to the murders. Despite this, 83 accused are still at large.

Journalists, media and press freedom organisations, and the families of the victim have advocated for the recognition of photojournalist Reynaldo Momay as a victim of the massacre. Momay has been missing since the massacre and was a part of the convoy targeted by the perpetrators.

Judge Solis-Reyes’ has stated that her 2019 decision to exclude Momay was due to insufficient evidence from the prosecution, despite the procurement of Momay’s dentures at the site of the massacre. Due to this decision, the family of the deceased photojournalist are not currently eligible for compensation.

According to the NUJP, families of the victims were able to return to the burial site in Ampatuan for the first time after two years of pandemic travel restrictions.

Journalists and media workers in the Philippines are facing increasing rates of impunity. In 2022, the IFJ documented the deaths of four journalists in the Philippines, including the murder of radio broadcaster Percy Lapid in October, and the fatal shooting of Federico ‘Ding’ Gempasaw in June.

The NUJP said: We take note of the administration's commitment… that the government will not forget this heinous crime and hope, along with the families, that full justice will not take another 13 years. While we are saddened and enraged that the culture of impunity on attacks against journalists continues to reign, we take solace in the solidarity among our ranks and with other press freedom advocates.”

The IFJ said: “After thirteen years, the IFJ stands resolutely in solidarity with the families of the Ampatuan massacre victims in demanding justice to ensure all perpetrators are prosecuted. The killings of four more media workers in 2022 is a solemn reminder that impunity continues for crimes against journalists and more must be done to guarantee journalists’ fundamental rights to work safely and securely.”

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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