The failure of two consecutive administrations to provide effective and swift justice for the victims of the Maguindanao massacre serves as a reminder that obtaining justice in the Philippines will always be an uphill battle unless the current leadership takes action towards sufficient judicial reforms in country.
Amnesty International expresses its disappointment on the slow delivery of justice to Maguindanao massacre victims and their families. This incident remains one of the most brutal, politically motivated killings of journalists in the history of election-related violence in the world.
Amnesty International renews its call for the protection of the remaining witnesses and their families, adequate and sufficient reparation for them, and for justice to be served.
The Maguindanao trials have been marked by delays and judicial wrangling. But seven years after, suspected perpetrators have posted bail, witnesses killed and private armies continue to operate in the Philippines under Executive Order 546, an order effectively authorizing the Philippine National Police to deputize militias and Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVOs) as “force multipliers”. The fact that private armies continue to operate in the Philippines and are employed by the same families in Maguindanao is an affront to the victims and their families.
Journalists have been constantly under fire for practicing their profession. According to reports, 125 members of the media have been killed since 2001. Although earlier in October this year, President Duterte ordered the probe on media killings, Amnesty International has yet to see genuine commitment from the President to protect the freedom of the press, one that is beyond mere rhetoric.
Amnesty International would like to remind the President that in expressing his commitment to truth and transparency, as he mentioned in his State of Nation Address in July, he should also stay true to his promise of prioritizing the freedom of information legislation.
In 2009, had the bill been signed into a law, fact finding missions could’ve scrutinized the methods used by the government earlier in the investigation of the massacre. This could’ve relatively cut the trials shorter, delivered justice to the victims, saved the lives of many witnesses and cleared the government of impunity. President Duterte’s commitment in challenging impunity that leads to narcopolitics and corruption should also manifest in all his work towards eradicating it across all branches of government.
Amnesty International also reiterates the obligations of the Philippine government under international human rights laws in ensuring effective remedy for victims of human rights abuses and their families, and working towards ending impunity. The Duterte administration has a lot on its plate and Amnesty International will continue to work until his government learns to respect, protect and fulfill these obligations.