Ten years after Maguindanao massacre, attacks against journalists amplified, CHR says

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PHOTO BY: Anjo Alimario

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 23) – The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) raised calls for ‘stronger’ protection of journalists, as the country commemorates the 10th anniversary of the Maguindanao massacre, which is also called the world's deadliest single attack on media workers, and the worst case of electoral violence in the Philippines.

The Commission asserted that the quest of justice does not end with resolving the Maguindanao massacre case, saying the number of 'unresolved' violence and harassment incidents against individual journalists is “growing.”

Justice remains elusive for the 58 victims, 32 of whom were journalists, as no one has been convicted yet. Of the 197 accused, 101 people remain on trial, and 80 people are still at large. The decision is expected to come out next month.

“Killings, threats, surveillance, online and offline attacks have made the practice of journalism even more dangerous,” Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia, CHR spokesperson said in a statement issued Saturday.

De Guia also said that the press deserves a better working environment – one that is free from any pressure and intimidation.

The CHR also vowed to continue investigating attacks on journalists and work with media organizations, saying impunity endangers all.

It also promised to “exhaust international mechanisms to elevate the prosecution of media-related attacks.”

PH justice system a ‘failure’

The CHR criticized the country’s justice system for its inability to bring the perpetrators of the 58 Maguindanao massacre victims to justice, saying this “clearly indicates the failure of our justice system to deliver and function effectively.”

“The Commission on Human Rights denounces the longstanding impunity surrounding the Maguindanao Massacre,” de Guia said.

The Commission then pressed for the speedy resolution of the case, as it argued that “apart from the gross violations directed towards the 58 individuals … the slow judicial process aggravates further the suffering of the victims’ families.”

CHR said that whatever the decision will be, it is going to manifest the country's view on democracy and human rights.

The Supreme Court recently approved a 30-day extension for Quezon City Regional Trial Court Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes to rule on the case.

Solis-Reyes asked for a one-month extension from the SC on her deadline to decide on the case, citing 238 volumes of records and evidence which she needs to consider. The extension gives her a December 20 deadline.

Datu Andal “Unsay” Ampatuan, Jr. is the primary suspect. He was mayor of Datu Unsay town when he and his family's private armed group allegedly shot, beheaded and mutilated the victims' bodies with chainsaws, which include civilians and members of the Mangudadatu family, their rival political family.

Last week, Maguindanao 2nd district Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu said he would resign from his post if the court fails to favor the victims of the 10-year old case. His wife, sisters, and relatives were killed that day.

CNN Philippines' Anjo Alimario and Catherine A. Modesto contributed to this report