(CMFR/IFEX) - 10 March 2010 - In the coming weeks, the Philippines Court of Appeals will be deciding whether Zaldy Ampatuan, the suspected mastermind behind the November 2009 Ampatuan massacre, should be dropped from the list of suspects. The massacre resulted in the brutal murder of 58 men and women including 32 journalists and media workers.
Media groups in the Philippines, including IFEX member Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), are appealing to all concerned individuals and organisations to send a letter to the Court of Appeals ahead of the upcoming decision. Please find a sample letter below.
Statement of the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and the November 23 Movement:
The Ampatuan Massacre trial has entered a crucial phase. This week, barely two weeks after the 15th month since 58 men and women including 32 journalists and media workers were brutally murdered in one of the worst attacks on democracy and press freedom in Philippine history, the Court of Appeals will be deciding on the petition for certiorari filed by suspended ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao) governor Zaldy Ampatuan.
Should the petition prosper, Mr. Ampatuan will be dropped from the list of those accused of masterminding and carrying out the massacre of November 23, 2009, and will be released from detention. If new evidence is found to once more include him in the conspiracy and multiple murder charges, the process will have to begin all over again. There is also the fear that, like a number of other accused Ampatuans who are still at large, he will manage to avoid arrest.
Mr. Ampatuan filed his petition for certiorari against Alberto Agra, the last Justice Secretary of the Arroyo government. On the basis of the weakest defense against criminal charges, the alibi that he was not in Maguindanao at the time of the massacre, Mr. Ampatuan was dropped by Mr. Agra last year from the list of persons accused of planning the massacre and participation in the killing of the 58 victims. Mr. Agra later reversed himself, and returned the name of Mr. Ampatuan among the accused. Mr. Ampatuan has since filed his petition with the Court of Appeals, alleging abuse of discretion on the part of Mr. Agra for reversing his decision.
We are not prejudging the guilt or innocence of Mr. Ampatuan. Both also assume that the justices of the Court of Appeals will base their decision on the strength and credibility of the evidence Mr. Ampatuan has submitted. But for the significance of the trial and its relevance to Philippine democracy and press freedom, it is imperative that the process be perceived as credible and beyond question.
(. . .)
Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
November 23 Movement
Philippine Center for Photojournalism
Center for Community Journalism and Development
College Editors' Guild of the Philippines
Local organisations working in the Philippines need your help! Use the form below to send a letter to the Philippine Court of Appeals to say that the world is watching the attempt of the Ampatuan lawyers to protect their client from prosecution.
Click here to download the sample letter:
Form_letter.doc (25 KB)
Court of Appeals
Ma. Orosa St. Ermita, Manila 1000
Tel. No.: (+632) 524-1241 to 52
CC LETTER TO:
HON. JOSE MIDAS MARQUEZ
Padre Faura St., Ermita, 1000 Manila
Tel. No.: (+632) 521-6809 / 523-7385 / 525-1238.
Public Information Office of the Supreme Court
3rd Floor, New Supreme Court Building Annex
Padre Faura St., Ermita, 1000 Manila
Fax: (+632) 526-8129
Please also cc campaigns (@) ifex.org