Press freedom in PH dead if accused in Maguindanao massacre not convicted – victims’ lawyer
MANILA, Philippines –The lawyer for the victims of the 2009 Maguindanao massacre – where 58 persons including 32 journalists were killed – said that press freedom in the Philippines should be considered dead if the accused are not convicted of murder.
According to lawyer Nena Santos, the essence of press freedom and democracy dies if people responsible for the killing of media people are allowed to get away.
“If there would be no conviction, I am sorry to say that press freedom in the Philippines is dead,” Santos said during a forum about the massacre on Tuesday in Quezon City, which was organized by the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP).
“Impunity, if no one gets into jail because of killing media people, so where is democracy there, where is press freedom there when you can kill anybody?” she added.
Santos handled the case for 38 of the 58 victims, which include relatives of former governor and now Maguindanao 2nd District Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, reporters and bypassers who happened to be at the site of the attack in Sitio Masalay, Ampatuan in Maguindanao.
The incident occurred last November 23, 2009, when the convoy was on its way to Shariff Aguak to file then Buluan town vice mayor Mangudadatu’s certificate of candidacy. He was seeking to challenge the Ampatuan clan’s stronghold in the province.
The convoy was flagged down and gunned down, despite the presence of several women including Mangudadatu’s wife.
The lawyer is hoping that the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC), which has jurisdiction over the case, would decide on the case either before the year ends or in early 2020. Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra previously said that they are expecting the same.
“Tapos na ang kaso (the case is finished), we are just waiting for the promulgation of judgment for the 104 accused,” Santos said. “We are hoping that promulgation of judgment would be (made) this November, in time for the 10th year anniversary of the Ampatuan Maguindanao massacre.”
“Thus far, we have not received any motion and TRO (temporary restraining order) or any pleadings from the prosecution stopping the promulgation,” she added.
Over 200 individuals including former Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his son, Andal “Unsay” Jr. — considered as masterminds of the attack — were charged with multiple murder in the world’s deadliest single attack on journalists.
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