Wednesday, 30 November 2011 00:00
Families of the dreaded Maguindanao massacre were offered P25 million each for their withdrawal.
“That sum of money is tempting especially that most of those killed journalists were bread winners,” Rowena Paraan, executive director of the International Federation of Justice Media Safety Office in the Philippines said ahead of Wednesday’s second year commemoration of the mass murder, tagged as the worst single deadliest attack on the press ever.
This as Paraan, also the secretary general of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) noted that aside from the snail-paced procedure of running after all 196 suspects that includes 6 members of the powerful Ampatuan clan, 55 witnesses have so far been presented into the court after two years.
Prosecution have prepared 300 witnesses while the Ampatuans have 320 witnesses on their side.
Lamentably, said Paraan, as of this week, there were 104 motions filed by the Ampatuans that needs to be heard by the court that holds three-day a week hearing on that particular case.
At the heels of this tedious process, is the sum of money being offered, admitted Paraan, while the Ampatuans have been doing the best they can to derail, if not to finally junk the case with the use of their money.
The Ampatuans will have to ready P1.45B just for the “withdrawal fund” of the families while their legal team who according to Paraan are apparently “paper mills” who produce lots and lots of motions a day to defend their clients is another huge cost.
Aside from offering journalists P50,000 for every favorable story, the Ampatuans have hired a public relations agency to manage their propaganda, Paraan said.
The support system among the victims’ families and journalists seeking justice have not failed though, Paraan said. “So far, none have been swayed to get the money and forget about it.”
The nationwide and worldwide commemoration on Thursday, Paraan admitted is yet among events that makes the families and the prosecution lawyers firm in pursuing the case.
In Baguio City, journalists to be joined by social activists are planting 58 pine saplings at the Pine Trees of the World, beside the Tower of Peace park in Burnham Park. The pine saplings are live symbols of the memories of the victims, said journalist Day Caluza, president of the local NUJP chapter here.
Last year, 58 pine tree saplings were also planted at the Pine Tree patch beside the Baguio Convention Center to commemorate the victims “rather that cold edifices”.
In Abra, local broadcasters and newspapermen are holding a motorcade around Bangued, the town’s capital, to remember the massacre. “The provincial government will be joining the motorcade to show that our spirit are with the victims and their quest for justice,” said Serafin Alzate, Abra gov. Eustaquio Bersamin’s spokesperson.
Kalinga broadcaster Jerome Tabanganay of the state-run DZRK-Radyo ng Bayan Tabuk who was ganged up by Gov. Jocel Baac and his armed men inside the radio station’s booth June this year said he will remember the second year anniversary of the massacre both in high spirits and despair. High spirits because there are still people fighting for justice, their rights and freedoms, despair because the Aquino government seemed have “slept” on his case.
Gov. Baac who belied hitting Tabanganay, was complained of administrative and criminal cases. “But Baac and other abusive officials like Mayor Duterte are still in power,” the broadcaster blurted out while calling DILG sec. Jesse Robredo to step down “if he cannot discipline abusive officials.”
As the sun sets on Wednesday, journalists and other groups including members of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines, Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club march down Session Road in their version of New York Wall Street’s “Occupy Session Road”.
By Artemio A. Dumlao
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