3:50 am | Monday, June 10th, 2013
OZAMIZ CITY, Philippines—More than 300 delegates to the 28th World Congress of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in Dublin, Ireland, have called on President Aquino to “take steps to expedite the trial” of those accused in the Maguindanao massacre.
The call was contained in an urgent resolution adopted by the congress, according to National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) chairperson Rowena Paraan, who attended the Dublin meeting, which ended on Thursday.
“Everybody is disappointed that… the justice system in the Philippines has not moved forward. Journalists here from 120 countries are absolutely united in making sure that they will help [promote] the widest campaigns until justice is found,” IFJ president Jim Boumelha was quoted as saying in an NUJP news release.
The IFJ is the world’s largest organization of journalists with some 600,000 members in 120 countries. The NUJP is its affiliate in the Philippines.
Fifty-eight people died in the Maguindanao massacre, 32 of them media workers. The massacre has been dubbed the world’s single worst attack on the press and the trial has earned the attention of press freedom advocates.
Nov. 23, the date of the massacre, has been declared by freedom of expression advocates worldwide as the International Day to End Impunity.
It has been three and a half years since the killings and “there has not been a single conviction for the murders,” the IFJ noted.
Among the steps the government can take is “to immediately arrest and arraign all the accused,” the IFJ said.
There are 195 suspects in the case, of whom 106 have been arrested and 92 arraigned.
Eight of the principal suspects belong to the Ampatuan clan. They include former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan; his brother former Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., and their father, former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr.
So far, some 750 motions, petitions and comments have been filed by both the defense and prosecution.
The panel of state prosecutors has submitted a 354-page formal offer of evidence.
The IFJ also demanded that the Department of Justice “take measures to protect the witnesses and the families of the victims” amid reports that they were “receiving threats and noticing unidentified persons monitoring their movements.”
The IFJ congress appealed to its affiliates “to actively support the Philippine media community and the families of the massacre victims” by initiating or joining actions for the speedy resolution of the case. With a report from Jeannette I. Andrade