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Int’l journalists take up 2009 massacre with police execs

/ 05:10 AM November 25, 2014
Filipinos hold slogans during a candle lighting event to mark the 5th anniversary of the massacre of 58 people, 32 of them journalists, in suburban Quezon city, north of Manila, Philippines on Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014. AP

Filipinos hold slogans during a candle lighting event to mark the 5th anniversary of the massacre of 58 people, 32 of them journalists, in suburban Quezon city, north of Manila, Philippines on Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014.  AP

MANILA, Philippines–Foreign journalists met Monday with police officials tasked with solving journalist killings to urge local authorities to put behind bars all of the accused in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said it was seeing the fruits of the pressure being exerted on the government regarding journalist killings in the Philippines.

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IFJ Australian representative Mike Dobbie said the government was listening to the group’s concerns about the Maguindanao massacre, where 58 people, 32 of them journalists, perished on Nov. 23, 2009.

“There are indications that the local and international pressure from media rights and human rights groups is being considered. The beginning of action is [taking] place,” Dobbie said after the IFJ dialogue with the Philippine National Police Task Force Usig.

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He said the meeting had a “friendly conclusion,” with the PNP giving assurance that it would closely coordinate and exchange information with media groups.

Task Force Usig is the PNP-designated unit that handles the investigation of journalist killings. It monitors the progress of the operations of Task Force Maguindanao, which focuses on the massacre itself.

Complex case

According to data from Task Force Usig, the accused in the Maguindanao massacre case now number 195, after the death of one and the dismissal of the charges against three others.

Of the perpetrators, 118 have been arrested and charged, while 77 are still at large. Of the 77, nine are members of the Ampatuan clan, which is accused of masterminding the carnage.

Fifty-seven are militiamen affiliated with the Ampatuan family, five are policemen, four are soldiers, while six are Ampatuan allies.

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Supt. Henry Libay of Task Force Usig conceded that the massacre is complex, with 58 victims, 195 accused and more than 200 witnesses.

The IFJ visit on the PNP is part of its mission to the Philippines on the Maguindanao massacre.

Role of the press

The IFJ noted that even though justice moves slowly in the Philippines, the increased dialogue between media groups and the PNP is a positive development toward attaining justice.

“I am not a lawyer but the justice system is certainly slow. We understand the average time for a trial to reach its conclusion can reach a decade, that is far too long for the victims of these murders,” Dobbie said.

He stressed the urgent need for reforms in the judicial processes and that delayed justice was justice denied to all victims of journalist killings.

Jane Worthington, IFJ Asia-Pacific director, cited the role of the press in keeping the Maguindanao massacre case alive.

“We are hopeful that the agencies are starting to listen with the pressure being exerted by the international community. This should have happened a long time ago,” she said.

Originally posted: 6:26 PM | Monday, November 24th, 2014

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TAGS: accused in criminal trials, Andal Ampatuan Jr., Andal Ampatuan Sr., courts, Crime, Global Nation, Henry Libay, Impunity, International Federation of Journalists, Justice, killings of journalists, law, litigation, Maguindanao massacre, Mike Dobbie, militiamen, multiple murder, Murder, Philippine National Police, PNP Task Force Usig, Political killings, trials, Zaldy Ampatuan
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