On the third anniversary of the Maguindanao massacre on Friday, President Benigno Aquino III said nothing about that political violence that took the lives of 58 people, including 32 journalists.
Mr. Aquino instead touted his administration’s purported gains in the campaign against journalist killings, which continue to happen on his watch.
“In cases of media killings, for example, we in [the] government are demanding the apprehension of suspects and the filing of charges that stick, resulting in justice for all involved,” he said in a speech at a gathering of media executives in Tagaytay City.
“In other cases of violence involving [journalists], we have taken affirmative and just action,” Mr. Aquino said, referring to a provincial governor suspended for attacking a broadcaster.
The President pointed to the need for an efficient justice system to deal with violence against journalists.
“More than anything, the protection of the rights of all—journalists included—relies on the fair and impartial dispensation of justice,” he said.
“We must have courts that are impartial and fair in the verdicts they hand down. If the courts demonstrate impunity at the top, then the lowest regional trial courts will follow suit. This is why I have been so focused on reforming our justice system,” he said.
While Mr. Aquino did not mention the Nov. 23, 2009, Maguindanao massacre specifically, he discussed two proposals that he said would “lead your industry to close ranks.”
The President was referring to the move to decriminalize libel and the proposed right of reply bill.
“Basic fairness should suggest that these proposals are not motivated merely by hostility to [the] media, but that there may be cases where people are genuinely and justifiably aggrieved,” he said.
“Instead of shutting the door, let us engage in respectful dialogue, so that we can reach a consensus that is fair to all concerned,” he said.
Mr. Aquino said the decriminalization of libel “should not be license to commit it.”
“With a [press] entrusted with greater responsibility and a greater awareness of the import of your work, you will better fulfill your mandate, and gain even more trust and renown from your audience,” he said.
The President has been under fire for his refusal to categorically support the freedom of information (FOI) bill, a measure he had promised to enact in stump speeches during the campaign for the presidential election in 2010.
Two years later, the bill remains stranded at the committee level in the House of Representatives.