ANGELES CITY –The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) has condemned the latest attack on a witness in the Ampatuan Massacre. In a statement sent on Thursday, NUJP Chair Rowena C. Paraan said being nvolved in the trial of those accused in the November 23, 2009 Ampatuan Massacre is proving to be fatal.
Last Wednesday, former Datu Salibo, Maguindanao Mayor Akmad Baganian Ampatuan, a witness for the prosecution, was wounded in an ambush n his Army-escorted convoy on he boundary of Guindulungan and Talayan towns.
The ambush on Ampatuan, a relative of the principal accused, follows he murder of another witness, Dennis Sakal, and the wounding of another,Butch Saudagal, in Shariff Aguak town. Paraan said the attacks are detrimental to the interests of truth and justice.
It is clear that the slow pace of the trial, which has barely cleared the starting gate after more than five long years because of what have been characterized as delaying tactics, has allowed the continued intimidation,threats and assaults on witnesses and ven relatives of the 58 victims, 32 of whom were our colleagues,” Paraan said.
“Worse, the most recent incidents appear to be the offshoot of an ongoing tug-of-war over witnesses, with both defense and prosecution claiming Sakal as their own and reports alleging that Akmad had threatened Sakal in an attempt to have him jump ship from the defense,” she added.
The NUJP said that “these maneuvers can have fatal consequences for one side or the other clearly proves that government’s claims of advances in eradicating the conditions that made the Ampatuan Massacre not just possible but inevitable – corruption, patronage politics, governance by political expediency, warlordism, to name a few – are just as empty as its promises of speedy justice for the victims of the worst incident of electoral violence in recent Philippine history and the single deadliest attack on the media ever.”
“The continued impunity with which witnesses and others involved in the trial are threatened and assaulted can only make justice ever more elusive,” Paraan said.
“We reiterate our demand for government to fulfil its pledge of justice by ensuring not just a swift but, most importantly, a fair trial and to fulfil its obligation to protect everyone involved in the Ampatuan Massacre trial,” the statement said further.
Paraan noted that the administration has acknowledged that this case will be a litmus test of its determination but it seems now that it is failing very badly.