MANILA - A US-based media watchdog has listed the Philippines as the 5th worst country when it comes to prosecuting murderers of journalists in 2019.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Tuesday said "the Philippines has been among the worst five countries nearly every year" since their study, the Global Impunity Index, was first published in 2008.
"The country’s fifth-worst ranking is due in part to the deadly ambush of 58 individuals, including 32 journalists and media workers, in Ampatuan, Maguindanao, on November 23, 2009," CPJ said, citing the massacre where more than a hundred armed men stopped and opened fire at a convoy of journalists, lawyers and supporters of Esmael Mangudadatu, who was going to file his certificate of candidacy for governor at the time.
Mangudadatu, then vice mayor of Buluan town, was challenging Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., son of the then incumbent Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., among those accused of masterminding the slays.
Mangudadatu's wife, his lawyers and supporters were also killed in what is considered the single deadliest incident for media workers in history. Mangudadatu was not in the convoy during the incident.
A total of 197 accused are facing multiple murder charges before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221, including primary suspect Andal Datu Unsay Ampatuan, Jr., but around 80 of them are still at large.
Court records show that out of the 117 arrested, cases against at least 6 have been dismissed, 2 have become state witnesses while 5 have died, including Ampatuan patriarch Andal Ampatuan Sr., who suffered a massive heart attack in July 2015.
Some 104 accused remain on trial. The verdict is seen to be handed down soon.
Some 323 witnesses have so far testified in the trial, leading to 64 volumes of transcripts, 161 volumes of records of the case, plus 8 volumes of prosecution evidence.
CPJ ranked the following 13 worst countries when it comes to prosecuting killers of media workers in 2019:
1. Somalia (25 unsolved killings)
2. Syria (22 unsolved killings)
3. Iraq (22 unsolved killings)
4. South Sudan (5 unsolved killings)
5. Philippines (41 unsolved killings)
6. Afghanistan (11 unsolved killings)
7. Mexico (30 unsolved killings)
8. Pakistan (16 unsolved killings)
9. Brazil (15 unsolved killings)
10. Bangladesh (7 unsolved killings)
11. Russia (6 unsolved killings)
12. Nigeria (5 unsolved killings)
13. India (17 unsolved killings)
- with reports from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News