Combat impunity, prevent HRVs

Letter to the Editor

6 May 2005

Dear Editor,

On your May 4, 2005 editorial entitled “Sacrifice”, a potent cry along the lines of addressing impunity here in the country was shared with the readers. Amnesty International Pilipinas cannot agree more with the manifested exasperation directed to the government when you wrote the words, “…a government whose agents, when not actively persecuting journalists, are indifferent to their fate, or show only half-hearted interest in giving them justice.”.

Despite the existence in the Philippines of constitutional and legal safeguards designed to protect human rights, AI is gravely concerned that a climate of impunity is very much existent to this day. If there were little intervention to start an investigation, no one acts afterwards to confront the crimes against journalist. With a whopping 88 reported killings of journalists within the period of 1986 – 2005, 98% remain unsolved, the suffering goes unacknowledged, and the perpetrators walk free.

The Philippines is known within the Asia Pacific region for its vibrant press but apparently, a very dangerous place for journalists to work. According to a recent survey conducted by the Reporters Sans Frontieres published through the Third Annual Press Freedom Index, the Philippines lands on the 111th spot out of the 167 surveyed countries around the world. A “figure in the bottom half of the index despite having free and lively independent media, (the) killings and physical attacks on journalists, along with outdated laws…  prevent a full flowering of the press” (http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=11715).

The culture of impunity and the state’s lack of due diligence, fuels unrelented killings not only of journalists but human rights activists as well.  For impunity can arise at any stage: in not investigating the crimes or investigating them inadequately; in not bringing the suspected culprits to trial in fair proceedings; in not prosecuting them effectively; in not reaching a verdict or convicting them, despite convincing evidence and in not ensuring that victims and their families are afforded satisfactory reparation. All these are evident in the cases of the killed journalists when looked into with a critical eye where most of the killings were believed to be related to broadcasts or articles seen as exposing alleged corruption or criticizing local political, business or criminal interests. All these have been happening all these years. When will the killing stop?

Amnesty International believes that concrete measures must be taken to tackle impunity and to ensure that all those responsible for these killings (including those to have carried out the killings and, if applicable, those who have ordered them) are held accountable through the justice system. In order to combat impunity and to prevent further human rights violations from occurring, it is imperative that the government makes clear that justice applies to all and that perpetrators will be prosecuted regardless of the position or influence they hold.

The Amnesty International movement worldwide is sympathizing with the family of the fallen journalists. With this, we express our commitment in joining you in the protest and the effort to eradicate human rights violations of journalists and citizens alike.

Yours in the spirit of Human Rights,

Jessica Umanos Soto
Executive Director
Amnesty International Pilipinas