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Killings of journalists still persist, says study

By Marlon Ramos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 04:36:00 11/23/2010

Filed Under: Media killings, political killings, Maguindanao Massacre, Crime and Law and Justice

KORONADAL, South Cotabato?The killing of journalists and political activists in the country has persisted even after the slaughter of 57 people in Maguindanao last year, a US-funded study showed.

Speaking at a training of journalists here on the eve of the massacre?s first anniversary, lawyer Al Parreño disclosed that extrajudicial killings continued mainly because of the government?s failure to address the problem squarely.

While the slayings brought to international attention the issue of impunity in the Philippines, the government had done little to deal with it, he lamented.

?Have we learned our lessons after the massacre? The figures show we haven?t,? Parreño said in his presentation.

Since the grisly killings on Nov. 23, 2009, he said 26 members of Left-leaning groups were killed by suspected ?state actors,? including soldiers and policemen.

Citing data from the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), he said five journalists in different parts of the country were also murdered after the massacre.

?The perpetrators of these killings went on with their activities because they were not arrested or charged in courts,? he said.

?The mind-set of these people is that they can do whatever they wanted since they will not be made accountable for their crimes anyway,? he added.

Some personalities tagged in previous murders were also linked to recent cases of violence against members of the media, Parreño noted.

Considered the worst election-related violence in the nation?s history, the massacre of 57 people, among them 32 media workers, was blamed on members of the Ampatuan clan.

Twenty-one members of the powerful political family have since been arrested and jailed, with the primary accused, Andal Ampatuan Jr., charged with multiple murder.

A human rights lawyer, Parreño was the project consultant of the study backed by the US Agency for International Development and the Asia Foundation.

Although the research did not focus on violence directed against journalists, he said the findings clearly indicated that such acts went unabated.

First presented to the public in September, the study evaluated 305 cases of extrajudicial killings?including 30 media killings?from 2001 to July 2010, which were reported to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.

?The intensity of the killings and the number of victims killed at one time may be much lower than the Maguindanao massacre, but the murders had been incessant,? Parreño said. ?The killings had been ongoing in other parts of the country following the massacre.?

If left unchecked, Parreño warned that more journalists and activists may be killed under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III than during the entire nine-year presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The lawyer pointed out that since Mr. Aquino took his oath as president in June, at least 26 political activists were assassinated without their killers being arrested or identified.

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