Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Journalists slaughtered: Andal Ampatuan Jr. charged

Near the Presidential Palace in Manila, Philippines.
1,000 journalists and activists gathered to protest the
massacre in the southern Philippines of 57 civilians,
including at least 30 journalists and their staff in
the deadliest single attack on the media in the world.

Philippines prosecutors charged Andal Ampatuan Jr.
today, he is the heir of a powerful clan, with murder in the massacre
of 57 people, more than half of them journalists and their staff
who were accompanying the family and supporters of an election
candidate November 23.

News quotes:

"At least 10 witnesses will testify they saw Andal
Ampatuan Jr. leading the gunmen, including police
officers, who blocked his rival's election caravan
moments before the Nov. 23 massacre, according to
prosecutor Al Calica. Ampatuan turned himself in last
week and denied the charges. He belongs to a clan
allied with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo that has
ruled southern impoverished Maguindanao province
unopposed for years. His father, the family's
patriarch, and six other family members also are
considered suspects but have not been charged.

Prosecutors initially filed 25 murder charges against
Ampatuan in southern Cotabato city, whose regional
trial court is nearest to the massacre site in Ampatuan
township. The five prosecutors handling the murder
case carried two boxloads of evidence and affidavits
from witnesses from Manila to Cotabato city aboard two
air force helicopters. They are expected to ask the
court to try the case in Manila for security reasons.

"The evidence is strong," Calica said, adding that at
least 10 witnesses provided written testimonies linking
Ampatuan to the killings. He said three of them were
in the convoy carrying journalists and the wife, two
sisters, an aunt and several supporters of Ampatuan's
rival, Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu of Maguindanao's
Buluan township.

What happened?

Mangudadatu had sent his relatives to file his
candidacy papers for governorship. Mangudadatu said
Ampatuan had threatened to chop him to pieces if he
attempted to challenge the Ampatuan family's ironclad
control over the province. So, Mangudadatu sent female
family members in the belief they would not be harmed.
Hours later, troops found the bullet-riddled and hacked
bodies near the highway sprawled in the grass and
hastily buried in three mass graves by a backhoe
together with three vehicles.

Quoting the three witnesses who survived, prosecutor Al
Calica said they managed to turn their cars from the
tail end of the convoy and escaped after shots were
fired and the gunmen hurriedly took control of the vans
and sport utility vehicles in the caravan. Police cars
were parked along the road as the gunmen led the
victims in their vehicles to a remote hilltop where
they were butchered, Calica said. Police said earlier
they took into custody six officers, including the
Maguindanao provincial police chief and his deputy. Two
inspectors among them were allegedly seen during the
massacre with Ampatuan, said Erickson Velasquez, head
of the criminal investigation division.


Prosecutors said the killings were carefully planned
and that more charges will follow. At least one
witness alleged that the Ampatuan clan had gathered in
the patriarch's mansion in the provincial capital of
Shariff Aguak days before to plan the killings, said
chief state prosecutor Jovencito Zuno. The graves were
dug in advance and a backhoe positioned to bury the
bodies, prosecutors said. The Ampatuans denied any
responsibility in the killings in a rare news
conference in Shariff Aguak on Sunday.

Arroyo has declared a state of emergency in Maguindanao
and a neighboring province and ordered troops and
police to confiscate unlincensed weapons and restore
order. But few think the measures will go far enough
in a lawless region notorious for political warlords
that has been outside the central government's control
for generations.

Journalists support

In Manila, about 1,000 journalists and activists
marched Monday to demand justice for the single worst
attack on the media anywhere in the world. Thirty of
the victims were journalists or their staff. The
protesters hackled Arroyo's spokesman Cerge Remonde
when he tried to address them outside the president's

The carnage drew worldwide condemnation, including from
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Europe, the Usa.

The VDO report on youtube

FCCJ statement Nov 30th 2009

The Foreign Correspondent Club of Japan Freedom of the
Press Committee condemns the massacre in the Southern
Philippines that resulted in the killing of 57 people,
including 30 journalists and media workers November
23rd 2009.

The Committee conveys our condolences and sympathy to
all journalists in the Philippines and expresses our
solidarity with the National Union of Journalists of
the Philippines (NUJP) in mourning their slain
colleagues and demands that those responsible for such
a heinous act are brought to justice without any delay.

The Committee hopes that this terrible tragedy, the
biggest single atrocity against journalists in recent
history, would compel the government to take prompt
actions to protect journalists and the freedom of the
press in the Philippines.

Foreign Correspondent Club of Japan
Freedom of the Press Committee

More later...

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