May 23, 2011
Today, it is exactly a year and a half since our nation was jolted by the worst incident of electoral violence in recent history and the single deadliest attack on the press ever.
You would think that in the face of such an outrage, justice would be swift in coming. But a year and a half since November 23, 2009, the wheels of justice, which have always ground slow, appear to have stalled to an almost dead stop and, worse, remain in danger of being reversed.
We have seen how otherwise brilliant minds can twist and bend the law to subvert the search for justice: the multiple motions that slow the judicial process; the perverted arguments – that the victims may have killed themselves or each others, that they died of natural causes, that the hideous injuries were insect bites – that have added insult to the already crushing anguish of the victims’ kith and kin.
We have seen how the dark forces responsible for the carnage have been allowed to remain intact – both in wealth and firepower – and continue to attempt to buy off victims’ relatives, and witnesses and their families, or, failing that, threaten or even harm them.
We have seen how the person who made the Ampatuan Massacre inevitable through her penchant for drawing bloodthirsty warlords to her side by allowing them to build personal empires and armies continues to evade an accounting for this and her many other sins against the nation and the people.
We have seen how, notwithstanding its promises, this administration has failed, indeed refused, to dismantle these private armies, most of them accorded official sanction as state militia, thus allowing extrajudicial murders and the possibility of another carnage like Ampatuan to continue.
Indeed, it is a testament to the extreme thirst for justice that the survivors of those who lost their lives have not wavered in the face of bribes and threats. To them go our deepest respects.
We are encouraged, as well, by findings of the Social Weather Station that, despite the seemingly waning attention of those sworn to see justice done, our people have not forgotten. The SWS survey of May 4 to 7 showed 51 percent of people are dissatisfied with how the government is handling the case, up from 46 percent in November last year, and an overwhelming 75 percent saying the case is proceeding “too slow.”
But while our determination to see this case through has not waned, we now face another threat, one that may well hamper our efforts to keep close watch on the proceedings and gag us from continuing to demand the justice that is due not just the victims but we, the nation and the people, as well.
For commenting on the efforts of one of the accused to wiggle his way out of the charges, Monette Salaysay, widow of one of the 32 murdered media workers, and NUJP Secretary General Rowena Paraan, who is one of those who has worked most closely with the victims’ families, are in danger of being cited in indirect contempt.
Should this happen, we fear that our search for justice might be dealt a fatal blow as a cloak of darkness and silence is thrown over the proceedings.
It is therefore fortuitous that, on this day, we bring our case to the hallowed halls of Congress, where the laws that are the bedrock of our national life are crafted.
We demand that our lawmakers join us and do everything within their means to ensure that the ends of justice are not perverted, that those responsible for this blot on our nation’s life – and that includes those within your ranks – be held to account and that such an outrage shall never happen again.
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP)