By ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
The Maguindanao massacre which happened two years ago on November 23, 2009 was remembered by members of the Fourth Estate and their supporters in Baguio City. This year’s commemoration was declared as the international day to end impunity.
The city commemoration was historical for media practitioners as we were able to march, with torch, from the Convention Center down Session Road to the Igorot Park. A march by journalists is a rare act which could have been done only during the dark years of Martial Law. As we had been commemorating the activities in the past by candle lighting ceremonies, this year’s commemoration brought a strong message to end impunity as we are not only warmed by the torches but more by the presence of our colleagues. Convinced that Fourth Estate is under attack, we joined in the collective expression that the impunity must end now!
The march served as the peak of the campaign commemorating the Maguindanao massacre known worldwide as the worst single atrocity against press freedom, the killing of journalists – where 32 of the 58 victims were media workers. A week ago, a forum was held in one of the institutions here where updates on the Maguindanao massacre was substantially discussed, including the updates on the cases filed against the charged perpetrators. The forum unmasked the kind of justice we have in the Philippines and its turtle-paced processes.
As the worst single killing of journalists worldwide, the Maguindanao massacre served to convince that extra judicial killings in the Philippine is done with impunity. It happened prior to the massacre and it continues to happen even after.
Killings of journalists after the restoration of democracy in 1986 had been shared by the Ilocos and Cordillera regions. The Baguio – Benguet chapter of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines had documented journalist victims of impunity.
We remember Rey Pedronio who was gunned down in 1999 by members of the paramilitary Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army. Two of the perpetrators were convicted and are now in the National Bilibid Penitentiary but the masterminds remain unknown.
On our lists after that were: Roger Mariano, an announcer of the DzJC, was ambushed in San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte on July, 31, 2004; Stephen Omaois, a reporter of the Guru Press, was brutally killed by an alleged group of youth in Tabuk, Kalinga on November 26, 2004; Rogelio Villafuerte, a technician of DzEQ in Baguio City was shot to death by an alleged policeman on January 26, 2005; Romy Sanchez, a radio announcer in La Union and the Desk head of Northern Dispatch in the Ilocos region was killed in broad day light in Baguio City on March 9, 2005; Andres Acosta, an announcer of DzJC, was attacked by a knife-wielding man in Ilocos on December 21, 2006; and Lito Agustin of dzJC who was shot by gunmen ‘riding in tandem’ on motorcycle in Laoag City on June 16, 2010.
Even during the time of Pres. Noynoy Aquino, the killings of journalists continued despite his promise. On our lists were Jose Daguio, a retired media practitioner of Tabuk, Kalinga, who was killed on July 3, 2010 and Cirilo Gallardo of dwWM of Abra who was killed on January 31, 2011.
What is common among the cases was the authorities’ consideration that a case is solved when they have only identified the gunman. And most of those perpetrators roam freely.
Another, these journalists killed were the bread winners of their families. Their deaths had not only orphaned their children and widowed their wives but most they left their families struggling to cope up with the present economic crises. They continue to cry for justice.
For journalists, the killing of a fellow media practitioner is not only a violation of that precious right to life but also a violation of the public’s right to know (or to be informed), which is a direct threat to democracy. We join the families of these journalists killed in the country in their call for justice. We urge the government to act swiftly and end the impunity. # nordis.net