By Julmunir I. Jannaral
The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) commemorated the 1st anniversary of the guilty verdict handed down by Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 221 Presiding Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes on the Ampatuan Massacre case that was handed over in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City on December 19 last year.
In a statement furnished to the Philippine Muslim Today, the PTFoMS also called on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to heed the cries for justice of the victims’ real families and colleagues by classifying the case as resolved.
The task force also vowed to remain steadfast and relentless in its efforts to arrest the remaining suspects.
The Philippine National Police (PNP), a member of PTFoMS, released an order to intensify the manhunt for the suspects who remain at large and placed a bounty for the capture of suspects Datu Bahnarin A. Ampatuan and Datu Saudi Ampatuan Jr. at PhP 300,000 each. The reward for the arrest of the remaining suspects was set at Php250,000 each.
PTFoMS made these statements to commemorate the landmark decision that found 197 accused guilty, including eight (8) members of the Ampatuan clan, for the gruesome murder of 58 people that took place on November 23, 2009 in Ampatuan, Maguindanao. Among the victims were 32 media workers.
“More than a decade has passed since this horrifying crime against free speech and humanity has happened. Many, in fact, doubted that justice will be obtained in our lifetime. It took the political will of the Duterte administration to finally convict the suspects. Once more, I have nothing but praises for Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes for her sacrifice, tenacity, and strong-will resolving this convoluted case,” PTFoMS Co-Chair and Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin M. Andanar said.
PTFoMS Executive Director Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco explained that “legal experts have acknowledged the decision as a milestone in Philippine judicial history. This horrendous attack against media workers that marred the country’s image has finally been resolved. Justice has been achieved.”
“Unfortunately, some organizations misrepresenting themselves as families and friends of the victims have irresponsibly influenced UNESCO to rescind its original decision to classify the case as resolved to serve their selfish ends,” Egco revealed.
It should be recalled that on July 31, 2020, owing to the guilty verdict, UNESCO has classified the case as resolved. However, UNESCO later on flip-flopped on its commitment and decided to retain the status of the case as still on-going or unresolved.
The victims families and friends issued separate Manifestos assailing the misrepresentation made by unscrupulous groups and bewailed the subsequent erroneous backsliding by UNESCO which, they said, ran contrary to the mandate of the UN body to pursue the ends of justice.
The flip-flop, they said, was arbitrary and biased and only caused more suffering as it prolonged the agony of the families of the victims who were expecting to be indemnified following the conviction.
PTFoMS conveyed these manifestos through diplomatic channels to UNESCO to rectify its glaring error.
Following the conviction, five suspects were captured this year and are now under going trial. Egco vowed that the Presidential Task Force will not rest until all the remaining suspects are under custody.
The PTFoMs was created by President Duterte in 2016 with the mandate to protect the life, liberty and security of all media workers in the country. Aside from working to provide a safe environment for journalists, PTFoMS is actively pushing for the enactment in Congress of the Media Workers Welfare Act (MWWA) to ensure that media workers’ economic welfare are protected as well. JULMUNIR I. JANNARAL