CNN iReport: Protest Broadcast 3: Cries for Slain Journalists Louder than Aggressive Ones

iReport – Protests can be riotous and lethal like the one occurring in Thailand. However there is a different kind of protest that recently took place in the Philippines. This protest condemns human rights violations and media-killings through a concert called Protest Broadcast 3. This was supported by an estimate of 20,000 individuals both of prominent personalities and ordinary citizens.

Protest Broadcast 3 served as a vehicle to cry justice for some 34 media workers who were killed in Maguindanao Massacre, south of the country. There are other 25 citizens who were killed in that massacre that happened in November 2009 that caught the world gaping.

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CPJ seeks justice in murders of Philippine journalists

On June 9, CPJ addressed a letter to President-elect Benigno Aquino calling on him to take measures to quell the high rate of impunity in media killings during President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s tenure. The Philippines placed third on CPJ’s 2010 Impunity Index, a statistically derived list of global countries which consistently fail to address journalist killings.

Here is the full content of the letter

Senator Benigno S. Aquino III
Rm. 526, 5th Floor
GSIS Building
Financial Center
Roxas Blvd, Pasay City
Manila
Philippines

Via fax: (632) 552-6601

Dear President-elect Aquino:

With your recent election to office, we are looking forward to engaging with your administration on press freedom-related issues in the years ahead. It is our particular hope that you will translate your strong electoral mandate into a firm commitment to end the culture of impunity that has resulted in the extraordinarily high number of media killings in the Philippines.

In your campaign speeches and press interviews, you promised repeatedly to break from the corruption that has plagued previous governments and create an independent commission to investigate the various allegations of corruption and misgovernance leveled against outgoing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration.

We recommend that you immediately launch a probe into the circumstances surrounding last November’s Maguindanao massacre, the single deadliest attack against the press anywhere in the world since CPJ started monitoring violations in 1981. Thirty-two journalists and media workers were among the 57 people killed in the election-related violence that has implicated members of the politically influential Ampatuan clan.

Despite the local and international outcry condemning the killings, indications are that the judicial process may be compromised by political considerations. In April, acting Justice Secretary Alberto Agra dropped charges against two top suspects—Zaldy Ampatuan, the former governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and his uncle, Akmad Ampatuan, former mayor of Mamasapano—against the advice of the public prosecutors working on the case.

Although Agra later reinstated the charges on the basis of newly submitted evidence, his willingness to intervene by overruling the Quezon City Regional Court that is hearing the case underscored how vulnerable judicial processes can be to political pressures in the Philippines. There have also been reports by a highly regarded press group, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, that family members of victims have been approached with offers of money to drop charges against Ampatuan clan members.

With these developments in mind, we urge you to provide full support and ample resources to the relevant Justice Department agencies to ensure a free, fair, and speedy trial in this landmark case. It is our strong belief that convictions of the masterminds and the assailants involved in the Maguindanao massacre would be a meaningful first step in breaking the cycle of murder and impunity that has taken so many media members’ lives in the Philippines.

Our concerns about the deteriorating press freedom situation in your country unfortunately are not confined to the Maguindanao killings. Unpunished media killings are endemic: CPJ’s Global Impunity Index, released in April, ranked the Philippines as having the third-worst record in the world for bringing the killers of journalists to justice—trailing only Iraq and Somalia. It is a record unbefitting Asia’s oldest democracy, and should be addressed immediately.

Your predecessor initiated a unit of the Philippines National Police, known as USIG, dedicated to investigating and resolving media and other extrajudicial killing cases. Regrettably, the USIG has been unsuccessful in achieving substantial convictions in 62 of the 68 journalist murder cases recorded since 1992, according to CPJ research. CPJ believes that only partial justice was reached in the other six cases.

Task Force USIG member Police Chief, Henry Libay told CPJ in July 2009 that the mishandling of evidence and a lack of witnesses willing to testify were major impediments to serving justice. He said that witnesses shied from the courtroom out of fears of reprisal, lack of financial support, and a general distrust of law enforcement.

We understand that your administration will face obstacles in reversing these trends and breaking the culture of impunity that has resulted in so many media killings, but this should not be an excuse for inaction. A sincere government commitment to press freedom and the protection of journalists is essential to achieving the democratic aspirations embodied in your strong mandate to rule and reform.

Again, we look forward to working with you and your administration on protecting journalists and journalism in the Philippines.

Sincerely,

Joel Simon
Executive Director


Dateline: Six months after Ampatuan massacre, NUJP stages mini concert in CDO

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY- A journalist lights a candle during a mini-concert staged in the Press Freedom Monument in Cagayan de Oro City Sunday night. The concert organized by the NUJP and the Cagayan de Oro Press Club was staged in commemoration of the 6th month anniversary of the Ampatuan massacre.

A journalist lights a candle during a mini-concert staged in the Press Freedom Monument in Cagayan de Oro City Sunday night.

Edith Tiamson, whose husband, Daniel, was among 32 media workers killed in the November 23 Ampatuan massacre, which claimed a total of 58 lives, speaks at a ceremony in Manila’s Port Area hosted by the newspaper Malaya on Sunday to mark the sixth month since the mass murder

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Pain and bloody massacre remembered in protest broadcast for Maguindanao victims

An estimated 20,000 people from all walks of life filled up to the brim Southeast Asia’s biggest closed-door Araneta Coliseum to witness in what may become the year’s biggest protest concert by media men and performing artists whose battle-cry is justice.

Protest Broadcast 3 held last May 17 was aimed at awakening the fervor and awareness of people about the bloody Maguindanao massacre which took the lives of more than 50 innocent people.  Among the total, 30 were journalists and two were media men.

Starting around 8 p.m., the concert opened with the re-enactment of the brutal slaying of the victims, moving almost everyone’s eyes to tears – some angered and pained – when reminded of the barbaric crime and assault to the human rights of the victims.  The bereaved families and the audience were visibly seen pained once again just remembering the act.

Re-enactment of the Maguindanao massacre tragedy

Local actors perform in the re-enactment of the Maguindanao massacre tragedy during the Protest Broadcast concert.

A video showing footages taken from the scene of the crime showed that the victims were on their way to the Maguindanao Provincial Capitol in Shariff Aguak town on the 23rd of November 2009 to file a certificate of candidacy for the Mangudadatu.

The convoy which included the 32 media people, with four from UNTV, was accosted by armed men allegedly led by Datu Unsay, Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr.   Also among those killed, the wife and two sisters of the newly-elected Governor Esmael Mangudadatu, who is the political rival of the Ampatuans, were included.

Police reports revealed that the victims were directed to Sitio Masalay in Barangay Salman and were brutally murdered there.

Then last April this year, the Philippines’ Department of Justice dropped the murder charge filed against the suspected Ampatuan clans – Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Zaldy Ampatuan and former Ampatuan town Vice Mayor Akmad Ampatuan – which it later overturned following increased pressure from the public.

While the prime suspects were detained, justice remains elusive.  This is one of the reasons why Razon said the cry for justice must continue to serve as a reminder of this dark chapter in the history of journalism and press freedom.  Thus, one way to open the eyes of the people could be through a concert presentation, the Protest Broadcast.

The opening number was followed by socially-awakening songs performed by some of the country’s top artists lead by Lolita Carbon of Asin band, Gary Granada, Joey Ayala and Noel Cabangon.

Broadcast journalist and UNTV news head Daniel Razon also performed during the night’s concert.  Aware of the heavy emotional bearing of the concert, Razon lighten the mood by singing songs requested by some of the prominent personalities who graced the event.

“Doing good for everyone will surely not bear evil,” is the message left by Razon to the audience, whose majority comprises members of the Ang Dating Daan.

Although Daniel Razon’s brainchild, Protest Broadcast was organized this year by the youth group Bible Readers Society International.  In the previous years, such benefit concert is titled Test Broadcast.

This year, the concert series was dedicated for the cause of human rights and media freedom.  UNTV, where four of its media men were among those killed, is also one of the lead partners together with Bread Society and advocacy group Kahit Isang Araw Lang.

Mid-way, the bereaved families of the victims especially the widow and the orphaned children were granted scholarship grants from the Manila Business College and cash proceeds from the concert.

Daniel Razon hands out the scholarship certificates.

Awarding of scholarship grants to the bereaved families of Maguindanao massacre victims

International preacher Bro. Eli Soriano graced the event through a live webcast and shared his sentiments about the injustices and human rights violations committed not only to journalists, but to a preacher like himself.

Bro. Soriano, whose popular Ang Dating Daan program is unfairly banned from airing in the Philippines, expressed optimism that the newly-elected administration will be fair to him and the congregation that he leads, the Members Church of God International (MCGI).

The concert ended with the singing of the song, “Isang Araw Lang” and the giving of the platinum award earned in just one night of the Protest Broadcast concert album. (Report by Rose Cemanes)

Local artists lend their voices to the cause of the Protest Broadcast concert.

Awarding of Platinum records to the Protest Broadcast ensemble album


Protest Broadcast Concert Pays Tribute to Journalists Killed in Maguindanao Massacre

UNTV News and Public Affairs Executive Daniel Razon leads a concert for a cause to pay tribute to the unsung heroes of the broadcasting world – the journalists and media men who valiantly work to bring the truth to people.

Protest Broadcast 3: Cry for Justice, is part of a project launched three years ago by Razon to honor some of the leading pillars in Philippine broadcasting and media industry.  Among the honorees in the past include Readers’ Digest Most Trustworthy Person of 2009, Ms. Rosa Rosal, Kuya Eddie Ilarde and more.

This year, Protest Broadcast will honor the 30 journalists murdered in the November 23 Maguindanao Massacre.  Bereaved families of the victims will be granted seed funds to start a small business while Razon will give  scholarship grants to the children of the deceased.

Aside from this project for the media, Razon initiates medical mission projects for the members of the press at the UNTV compound every Sunday.  At UNTV where he host Good Morning Kuya, he launched key public service projects for the indigents like the free legal consultation, job and career consultation and medical services.

From Luzon, the concert event will tour Cebu on May 23 and Davao on May 30.


CNN iReport Coverage: In media “hotspot” Philippines, justice and citizen protection remain elusive

MANILA, Philippines – Although extra-judicial killings are rampant globally, the November 23, 2009 carnage will be singled-out as the darkest in recent memory.  That single day shook the whole world by surprise and instantly made the Philippines the most dangerous place to live and to work for journalists.

International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) Gen. Sec. Aidan White said the November 23 incident is “a traumatic and horrifying incident that means all journalists must now take even greater care.”

When Filipino journalists are no longer safe in their home country, the more that this is true among civilians, said UNTV News and Public Affairs executive Daniel Razon.  In an interview with reporters, Razon added that is why “people should be informed about the reality and that we should not tolerate such to be committed.”

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Clearing of Two Ampatuans: Reflection of Incompetence of DOJ, Malacanan – UNTV Statement

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE SEC. ALBERTO C. AGRA’S clearing of two Ampatuans in the multiple murder cases is not only a blunder of an alter-ego, but a total reflection of incompetence not only of the DOJ but of Malacanan, as well.

In our country’s political hierarchy, the Secretary of Justice is an alter-ego of the President of the Republic of the Philippines. Ergo, the Secretary’s official acts will always bind the person of the President, even if Malacanan had issued a hands-off policy on the controversy.

Also, in our judicial system, which no doubt Secretary of Justice Agra himself fully knows, ALIBI is regarded as the weakest among all defenses available to an accused.

1,477 vehicles joined the funeral convoy of Daniel Tiamzon,

1,477 vehicles joined the funeral convoy of Daniel Tiamzon, the UNTV media man killed in the Maguindanao Massacre

Sec. Agra could have opted to follow the findings of his own prosecutors who, having had personally conducted the preliminary investigation of the cases themselves, necessarily did come to know the facts, far better than him as the reviewing authority. That is why the investigating prosecutors were more than surprised by the Secretary’s resolution and, therefore, have rightly shown their own indignation by walking out of their offices, in protest of the resolution clearing ARMM Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan and Mamasapano Mayor Akmad Ampatuan in the massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao.

Instead of allowing justice to prevail in a full blown trial of the murder cases in court, wherein both parties would be given the opportunity to present their evidences, Justice Sec. Agra had terminated posthaste the cases against the two Ampatuans: a very simple and easy act of the pen but a horrible act of injustice to the victims. In fact, by so doing, the Secretary had relinquished the very reason for existence and mandate of the Office he himself represents and even created a cloud of suspicion over the highest Office in the land for whom the Secretary is an alter-ego.

This questionable act of Sec. Agra is plain and simple blunder on his part. However, in the deepest sense, it is also a blunder of the Department of Justice which the Secretary represents, and in fact, but ultimately, the resounding effect will traverse to the Office of the President of the Republic of the Philippines, to whom the Secretary is directly responsible to.

This is another dark moment in the history of the Filipino people.