By ADELA WAYAS
BAGUIO CITY — National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) Baguio-Benguet Chapter unites in condemning the carnage in Maguindanao and called for justice for the colleagues and all the other victims of this heinous crime.
Members of the NUJP, the Benguet Press Club, and other media practitioners showed their solidarity with the victims’ families by holding a candle lighting activity in front of Baguio Cathedral on Tuesday, Nov. 24. City Mayor Reinaldo Bautista joined the media practitioners in the activity and joined them on their call for speedy justice.
Twenty three or more journalists were among those killed in a convoy which accompanied Genalyn, the wife of Vice – Mayor Esmael Mangundadatu, in filing the latter’s certificate of candidacy.
According to the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ report, the massacre was alledgedly perpetrated by Datu Unsay Andal Ampatuan Jr. and Chief Inspector Sukarno Dicay. Ampatuan Jr. is now in the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Manila for further investigation after he submitted himself to clear his name.
In a statement released by NUJP, taking hostage someone about to file a certificate of candidacy is, by itself, a brazen challenge to efforts to strengthen the fragile democracy in the country.
NUJP added that it says a lot about how far government has gone to eradicate the warlord politics that continues to reign over many of the provinces, very often the poorest and most underdeveloped, if it is true that a government official (Ampatuan) and a police officer (Dicay) were involved.
NUJP stated, “To take hostage journalist who were merely going about their job of informing the public worsens the already heinous crime and elevates it into an assault on the Constitution itself and the freedom of the press and expression it enshrines, and the people’s right to know which these freedoms serve.”
Moreover, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has called for the international community to intervene and support impartial investigation that would bring justice to the victims and for the punishment of those responsible for the killing of journalists.
IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said, “This is an event which shocks journalists around the world to the core.” She added journalist need a strong response from the Philippine government and the international community.
The NUJP chapter members here explained they do not stay afloat to seek an end to the supremacy of corruption of wealth and abuse of power since Cordillera region is not new to election related violence where political warlords and dynasties exist, and where private armies are utilized at a maximum to prove that they are in command.
They challenged the people and all members of the media community to open their eyes to these harsh realities. “The moment we shut ourselves from these realities, a bullet may strike anytime in our midst soon…ignorance is an ally of perpetrators of violence,” the NUJP added.
They said the carnage sent a message that anyone across sectors of the society would not be spared in senseless killings and threats of blood bath.
After the Maguindanao massacre, Philippines is considered as one of the most dangerous place for media men outside Iraq.
Aside from the demand for a swift justice for the 57 victims in the Ampatuan, NUJP said that the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. “We should not be silenced by the sound of gunshots but to express rage to end the culture of violence which perpetuates political warlords,” it added.
It also call for the people in various sectors of the society to speak up and let their voices be heard.# nordis.net