Amnesty International unhappy over slow pace of Maguindanao trials
The failure of two consecutive administrations to provide effective and swift justice for the victims of the Maguindanao massacre reminds us that obtaining justice in the Philippines will always be an uphill battle unless the current leadership undertakes the proper judicial reforms in the country.
Amnesty International expresses its disappointment on the slow delivery of justice to the Maguindanao massacre victims and their families. This incident remains one of the most brutal, politically motivated killings of journalists in the history of election-related violence in the world.
Amnesty International renews its call for the protection of the remaining witnesses and their families, adequate and sufficient reparation for them, and for justice to be served.
The Maguindanao massacre trials have been marked by delays and judicial wranglings. But seven years after, suspected perpetrators have been allowed to post bail, while witnesses are getting killed and private armies continue to operate in the Philippines under Executive Order No. 546, an order effectively authorizing the Philippine National Police to deputize militias and CVOs (civilian volunteer organizations) as “force multipliers.” The fact that private armies continue to operate in the Philippines and are employed by the same families in Maguindanao is an affront to the victims and their families.
Journalists have been constantly under fire for practicing their profession. According to reports, 125 members of the media have been killed since 2001. Although earlier in October this year, President Duterte ordered the probe on media killings, Amnesty International has yet to see on the part of the President genuine commitment—meaning, one that is beyond mere rhetoric—to protect the freedom of the press.
Amnesty International would like to remind the President that in expressing his commitment to truth and transparency, which he did in his State of Nation Address last July, he also committed himself to stay true to his promise of prioritizing the freedom of information legislation.
In 2009, had the bill been signed into law, fact-finding missions could have scrutinized the methods used by the government earlier in the investigation of the massacre. This could have relatively cut shorter the Maguindanao massacre trials, delivered justice to the victims, saved the lives of many witnesses and stopped impunity. President Duterte’s commitment to challenging the culture of impunity that has abetted narcopolitics and corruption should also apply to all his efforts at eradicating it across all branches of government.
Amnesty International also reminds the Philippine government of its obligations under international human rights laws to guarantee effective remedy for victims of human rights abuses and their families, and to work at ending impunity. The Duterte administration has a lot on its plate and Amnesty International will continue to work until his administration learns to respect, protect and fulfill these obligations.
MARIA EDILYD ORIAS-PALMA, program coordinator, media, communication and publications, Amnesty International Philippines, [email protected]