The Lords Still Rule (NUJP on the First Anniversary of Ampatuan Massacre) (PR)

Press Release
21 November 2010

It has been a year, 365 days, since 58 hapless souls, including 32 of our colleagues, were mercilessly mowed down in a hail of bullets on a hilltop in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman, Ampatuan, Maguindanao on November 23, 2009.

It has been a year, 365 days, in search of a justice that remains as elusive as the remains of journalist Reynaldo “Bebot” Momay has been for his family.

Let there be no mistake. Although the Ampatuan massacre was the worst incident of electoral violence in our benighted country’s history and the worst single attack on the press ever recorded, it was worse than these.

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It was the inevitable and logical consequence of a system of governance that has for so long relied on political expediency, governance that woos the support of political clans by allowing them to amass such wealth and strength as to literally wield the power of life and death over their subjects.

Governance that breeds impunity, the impunity that has made a mockery of our claims to democracy through the murder of 141 journalists since 1986, of more than a thousand activists and the disappearance of 200 more over the last nine years, of more than 40 lawyers and judges over that same period.

Governance that President Benigno Aquino III vowed to turn into daang matuwid.

Yet five months into his presidency, we have him refusing to dismantle the private armies, legitimized as government militias, that the
warlord clans have long used with impunity to enforce and protect their rule in their fiefdoms, and to do away with those who would dare
challenge them, as happened in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman, Ampatuan, Maguindanao. Five months into his presidency, and we can barely keep track of the times he has flip-flopped on human rights and taken media to task for painting a less than rosy image of the country and his administration, ignoring the fact that we merely report, do not create, bad news.

It is an all too familiar pattern with dire consequences. Already, human rights groups count 22 extrajudicial killings, a journalist has
been murdered, there has been a spike in recorded threats against media persons, and the warlords still rule with their private armies

Mr. President, again we say, your promise of good governance, of daang matuwid, can never happen without justice. Let there be an accounting. Let it be now. For you, too, shall be taken to account.

Nestor Burgos, Chairman

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