Leody De Guzman, Walden Bello vow to uphold Filipino journalists’ rights

Josiah Antonio, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 24 2021 02:08 AM

Media advocates continue to call for full justice as they commemorate the 12th anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre in Quezon City on November 23, 2021. In a verdict in 2019, out of the 197 involved in the massacre, 43 were found guilty, 56 were acquitted, and some 80 remain at large. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News.
Media advocates continue to call for full justice as they commemorate the 12th anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre in Quezon City on November 23, 2021. In a verdict in 2019, out of the 197 involved in the massacre, 43 were found guilty, 56 were acquitted, and some 80 remain at large. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA—Leody De Guzman and Walden Bello, Partido Lakas ng Masa’s presidential and vice-presidential bets, on Tuesday vowed to protect the welfare of journalists in the Philippines.

Their statement came mid the continuing quest for justice 12 years after the deaths of 58 people, including 32 journalists, in the Maguindanao massacre, considered the worst case of political violence in the country.

“When we are elected, we will ensure that concerned executive offices, such as the National Prosecution Service, will give the Maguindanao Massacre case the priority it deserves,” Bello said in a statement. 

“When we assume office, we will immediately put in place measures to protect journalists and uphold media freedom. We will stop any and all attacks against reporters and desist from using language that promotes hostility towards news personalities.

“We will shut down troll farms. We will not allow fake news. We will move to restore ABS-CBN’s franchise. We will defend the likes of Nobel Prize winner Maria Ressa from persecution. And we will do whatever it takes to make sure that the victims of the Ampatuan massacre receive justice.” 

Meanwhile, De Guzman proposed to pass a bill that would seek transparency to information and criminalize acts against human rights. 

“Iprayoridad ang pagsasabatas ng Human Rights Defenders Bill, na matagal nang isinusulong ng mga human rights groups at mga samahan ng masa sa Kongreso,” De Guzman said. 

(Priority will be given to the enactment of the Human Rights Defenders Bill, which has long been promoted by human rights groups and mass organizations in Congress.)

“Pinapalakas ng HRD bill ang proteksyon sa right to seek, receive and disseminate information; right to communicate with non-governmental, governmental and inter-governmental organizations; at iba pang karapatan. Gawing krimen ang mga malubhang paglabag sa mga karapatang pantao, laluna ang pandarahas sa mga nagtatanggol sa human rights.”

(The HRD bill strengthens the protection of the right to seek, receive and disseminate information; right to communicate with non-governmental, governmental and inter-governmental organizations; and other rights. Make serious human rights violations a crime, especially violence against human rights defenders.)

The labor leader said press freedom should be protected. 

“Ang kalayaan sa pamamahayag ay krusyal na bahagi sa mga karapatang pantao. Ang proteksyon sa mga mamamahayag ay depensa rin sa ordinaryong mamamayang dumudulog sa midya para iparating sa publiko ang pang-aabuso ng mga mayayaman at makapangyarihan sa lipunan,” De Guzman said.

(Freedom of the press is a crucial part of human rights. The protection of journalists is also a defense for ordinary people who resort to the media to convey to the public the abuses of the rich and powerful in society.)

Len Olea, secretary-general of the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines, said that despite the conviction of 43 suspects in December 2019, the families of the victims have yet to receive their compensation.

Fifty-six suspects were acquitted in the decision handed down by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court in 2019. Some 80 accused remain at large.

Grace Morales, whose husband Rosell and sister Maritess Cablitas were among those slain in the single deadliest incident for journalists in the world, also lamented the apparent lack of justice for the family of Reynaldo Momay. 

Momay was the journalist said to have been part of the convoy hit by the Ampatuans and their men, but his body was never found. He was named the 58th victim, but in the court’s decision, the accused were only convicted of 57 counts of murder.

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