10 years after the Ampatuan massacre: zero justice, attacks on journalists continue

Human rights group Karapatan expressed its solidarity with the families of the 58 defenseless victims of the infamous Ampatuan Massacre in commemorating its 10th year and in urging the government to convict the butcher’s merciless masterminds.

“Ten years ago today, 58 individuals, including 32 journalists who were supposed to be at the filing of the certificate of candidacy of then gubernatorial bet Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, were killed in a bloody massacre in Maguindanao, but up to this day, justice has yet to be served,” Karapatan Vice Chairperson Reylan Vergara said.

Often referred to as the single most deadly assault on journalists in the world, the infamous massacre is believed to have been perpetrated by the Ampatuans, a powerful clan closely allied to then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The Ampatuan family was the one in power when Mangudadatu decided to seek the governorship in the province.

“Years have already passed and the children of the victims are now grown-ups. What took the government so long to convict the perpetrators of the deadly attack on defenseless civilians? Truly, we have nothing, but words to condemn this injustice not only to the victims’ families, but to all those victimized by regimes who are afraid of dissent and of losing helms,” he said.

Citing the relentless attacks on the freedom of the press and on the people’s right to free expression, the Karapatan official said: “Trials on the gruesome massacre have already witnessed the terms of various administrations, but justice remained elusive. It is outrageous to know how regimes have set aside the cry for justice of the victims’ families, but what is more enraging is the fact that governments took part in furthering the repression of people’s rights.”

In 2012, former President Benigno Aquino III has signed the Cybercrime Prevention Act, a law that would later be weaponized by the Duterte regime to harass and threaten anyone critical of the powers-that-be, charging fearless journalists of trumped-up suits.

“Sadly, media repression has intensified under the Duterte government. He waged a war against the journalists from media outfits and alternative publications who have been fact-based and courageous in the reportage of the series of his wars against the poor,” shared Vergara.

“Aside from using existing laws to persecute the media, it has even weaponized social media to harass known critics. The government created a pool of paid trolls responsible for the proliferation of misinformation which support the lies peddled by his armed cohorts in the military and the police,” he added.

According to the Karapatan official, the climate of impunity has worsened through Duterte’s all-out war on critics, including journalists. 

“We should hold governments accountable for fascist attacks against the people and on the fearless press. We would like to remind Duterte that the vanguards of truth will always spark the downfall of any tyrant regime,” concluded Vergara.