PH still a dangerous place for journalists despite verdict on Ampatuan clan: experts

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 19 2019 08:29 PM

MANILA - Many believe the Philippines is still a dangerous and deadly place for journalists despite the conviction of the masterminds in the Maguindanao massacre, in which 58 were killed, 32 of whom were media personnel.

“The fight is far from over. Ten years after the gruesome killings, journalists are still under threat from various fronts," Gabriela Party-list said in a statement Thursday.

The journalists, along with the others, were buried in a hilltop grave using an excavator after they were ambushed on a deserted highway in Maguindanao on Nov. 23, 2009, on orders by the then ruling Ampatuan clan.

Members of the Ampatuan clan -- namely Datu Andal "Unsay" Ampatuan, Jr., Datu Zaldy "Puti" Ampatuan, Datu Anwar Ampatuan, Sr., Datu Anwar Ampatuan, Jr., and Datu Anwar Sajid Ampatuan -- and several others were found guilty of multiple murder in the Maguindanao massacre based on the trial court's verdict earlier Thursday. 

They were sentenced to reclusion perpetua or 40 years in prison without parole.

Melinda Quintos de Jesus, executive director of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), told ANC that journalists in the country work "not only in war zones but just where there is political conflict.”

House Committee on Public Information Chair Ron Salo urged for stronger laws protecting journalists. 

“There is a need to enshrine in our laws global benchmarks and best practices on the protection of journalists and ensuring the security, as well as integrity, of elections,” he said.

"We must strengthen voter education and continue to protect our elections against manipulation and violence from warlords, their goons, and their collaborators."