19 months of injustice

It has been a year and seven months since the carnage took place in broad daylight. Around 60 people were killed, some in a manner that many refuse to describe. It has been a year and seven months since armed men fired bullets at the defenseless lawyers, women and journalists, all in the name of electoral victory. It has been a year and seven months since the Ampatuan massacre shocked the nation and catapulted the Philippines to the top spot in the roster of most dangerous places for journalists.

It has been a year and seven months of injustice.

Some have dismissed the deaths of the journalists as merely “collateral damage.” But the deaths of the journalists are in fact calculated. The perpetrators have planned the assault, and there was no way that they would let even a single journalist live, for once a single reporter manages to survive he will tell the world who did it and how.

Despite the overwhelming evidence against the primary suspects (including the backhoe with the Ampatuan name on it), the government since the time of Gloria Arroyo has been incompetent in resolving the case. It is understandable in Arroyo’s case, for the Ampatuans, the primary suspects and the most feared warlord clan in Maguindanao, have been her staunch allies and were the key players in ensuring her victory in Mindanao during the 2004 elections. The massacre even allowed Arroyo to declare martial law in Maguindanao, a move that would ingeniously make all evidence against the Ampatuans as inadmissible to court.

The case proceeded in a snail-like pace. Witnesses were killed and one of the prosecutors already died, and yet the case was nowhere near resolution. Amid the public outrage and the glaring evidence against the Ampatuans, Andal Ampatuan Sr. pled not guilty. He was arraigned only because he agreed to it, not because the Court acted on the prosecution’s motion. Indeed, prosecution lawyer Harry Roque was right when he said, “an accused can now rewrite the rules to suit his ends.”

The College Editors Guild of the Philippines, as an alliance of student publications which value justice and the freedom of the press, condemns the legendarily slow progress of the Ampatuan case. The delay in the process is a product of the government’s half-hearted attempts to hold the suspects accountable. If anything, it only shows how this government, despite all its sugarcoated rhetoric of valuing democratic rights, does not respect the freedom of expression and the right to life. It only proves that this government is more intent in maintaining the culture of impunity, which turned the Ampatuans into warlords who never hesitate to shoot their detractors in broad daylight, without fear of being held accountable for the crime.

Let this be a reminder to President Benigno Aquino III’s administration that justice, after 19 months, has not been delivered to the victims of the Ampatuan massacre. Let this be a reminder that justice delayed is justice denied.

END THE CULTURE OF IMPUNITY!

UPHOLD PRESS FREEDOM!

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19 months of injustice – Maguindanao Massacre primer and timeline

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