What is the Uncovering Asia conference?

UNCOVERING ASIA is the first Asian investigative journalism conference. The event will bring together top investigative reporters, data journalists, and media law and security experts from across Asia and around the world in Manila on November 22-24, 2014.

The conference is hosted by the Global Investigative Journalism Network, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, with additional support from the Open Society Foundations and more than a half-dozen co-sponsors.

The conference will also mark two important occasions: a special reception honoring the 25th anniversary of the pioneering Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, and a candlelight assembly to commemorate the UN-designated International Day to End Impunity on Nov. 23.

It will be held at the Crowne Plaza Manila Galleria Hotel, Pasig City.

For attendees based outside the Philippines, please register with GIJN here.

For attendees based in the Philippines, click the image below to download the registration form.

Registration Form

KILLED execution-style. Blown up by a bomb. Tortured. Held incommunicado for 13 years. Disappeared.

And all that for chasing stories of crime, corruption, and conflict. Or for sketching cartoons.

They are all journalists. Their tragic stories now constitute the 10 “emblematic cases of impunity” that Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontieres or RSF) has chosen to highlight as part of its #FightImpunity campaign for the first International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.

The aim, RSF said, is “to involve the general public and step up pressure on governments to bring those responsible for these crimes to justice.”

According to RSF, around 800 journalists have been killed in connection with their work in the past decade.

The deadliest year was 2012, with 88 journalists killed.

The number of killed fell slightly in 2013 but the figures for physical attacks and threats against journalists continued to rise.

At total of 56 journalists have been killed since the start of 2014.

RSF said those responsible were many and varied, and include governments, armed groups and hit-men. It blamed the shortcomings of police and justice systems for the failures to solve these cases or to convict the perpetrators and instigators, it added.

On Dec. 13, 2013, the United Nations General Assembly declared November 2 as International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. The day marks the anniversary of the murder of the two Radio France Internationale journalists, Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon in Kidal, Mali, in 2012.

RSF has chosen 10 cases “to put names and faces to the tragic statistics and to show the scale and different forms that impunity can take.”

But it lamented that, “the resources deployed by authorities to solve these and many other cases have been either non-existent or hopelessly inadequate.”

More than 90 percent of crimes against journalists are never solved and therefore never punished, RSF said.

These 10 impunity cases are presented on a specially created website.

Four of the victims had disappeared: Mexican crime reporter María Esther Aguilar Casimbe, Abidjan-based French journalist Guy-André Kieffer, Iranian newspaper editor Pirouz Davani and Sri Lankan political analyst and cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda.

Some had been murdered: Pakistani reporter Syed Saleem Shahzad, the young Serbian journalist Dada Vujasinovic, the Beirut-based columnist Samir Kassir and the Dagestani journalist Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev, who was gunned down in 2013.

One, Dawit Isaak, a journalist with Swedish and Eritrean dual nationality, has been held incommunicado in Eritrean President Issayas Aferworki’s hellish prison camps for the past 13 years.

Another, Bahraini reporter Nazeeha Saeed, had been tortured by police officers for covering pro-democracy demonstrations.

“We must never abandon journalists who are the victims of crimes, not even posthumously,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

“The ten impunity cases we are presenting are shocking examples of incompetence or wilful inaction by officials who should be punishing despicable crimes against those who have tried to describe reality as it is,” RSF said.

“Such a level of impunity just encourages those who commit these abuses. International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists is an occasion for paying tribute to the victims, reminding governments of their obligation to protect journalists and combat impunity, and reminding those who target journalists that one day they will be held to account for their actions.”

“Whether killed execution-style, blown-up by a bomb, tortured to death or disappeared, these journalists paid the price for their commitment to freedom of information,” RSF said. T”hey were targeted for investigating corruption or drug trafficking, for criticizing the government or intelligence agencies or for drawing attention to human rights violations.

Yet while some of the cases have become emblematic, “others are less well known.”

To combat impunity, RSF urged the creation of the position of special adviser to the UN secretary-general on the safety of journalists, saying that “creating such a post at the heart of the UN system would enable monitoring and verification of states’ compliance with their obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 1738 and the General Assembly resolution of 18 December 2013.”

Adopted 23 December 23, 2006, Resolution 1738 reminds states of their “obligations under international law to end impunity.”

The resolution passed by the UN General Assembly on 18 December 2013 calls on states to conduct “impartial, speedy and effective investigations into all alleged violence against journalists (…) to bring the perpetrators of such crimes to justice and ensure that victims have access to appropriate remedies.”

A resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council on September 10 called in similar terms for an end to impunity. “A proper international monitoring and verification mechanism is needed so that all these resolutions can be implemented,” RSF said.

RWB also called for an amendment to Article 8 of the International Criminal Court’s statute “so that deliberate attacks on journalists, media workers and associated personnel are defined as war crimes.”

As a member of the French coalition of the ICC, RSF said it is urging states to pass legislation allowing them, under the principle of universal jurisdiction, to prosecute those in their territory who committed grave crimes in another country.

The European Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have ruled that respect for freedom of information not only requires states to abstain from arbitrarily interfering in the use of the right to information but also requires them to protect journalists and prosecute those who target them, it added.

RSF exhorted governments to “implement these provisions by conducting immediate, effective and independent investigations into attacks against journalists and prosecuting those responsible.”

“The authorities that conduct these investigations must be able to resist any political, diplomatic or technical pressure or obstacles they may encounter.” it said. “In some ongoing cases, RWB has seen how the threat of ending a judicial investigation represents a victory for impunity.”

A FREELANCE journalist in Burma who had been reported missing since Sept. 30 had died while in the custody of the Burmese Army.

The Army’s story: A suspected rebel and was shot while trying to grab a soldier’s weapon.

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontieres or RSF) on Thursday said that journalist Aung Kyaw Naing, also known by the pseudonym Par Gyi, “had been arrested while reporting on growing tensions between the regular Burmese army and the Democratic Buddhist Karen Army in southern Mon state.”

According to RSF, the army had suspected Aung Kyaw Naing of being a member of the rebel secessionist movement in Karen state, which borders Mon.

“False information had been circulating online for several days, including photos of members of the DBKA who falsely identified the journalist as an active member of the armed group,” it added.

For journalists, RSF said “the killing recalls the rule of the authoritarian military junta that was officially dissolved in 2011.”

“This murder is a tragic demonstration of the government’s step backwards over the past year,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk. “With the International Day to End Impunity for crimes against journalists approaching, the government must take all measures to shed light on this case.”

Lucie Morillon, RSF programme director, meanwhile, raised the issue of accountability. “We remind the Burmese government of the importance of fighting impunity,” Morillon said.

“Last year, we brought to the attention of President Thein Sein and Deputy Information Minister Ye Htut the need to identify those responsible for army crimes against Burmese and foreign journalists under the junta. That task is vital for changing the mentality of the security forces and promoting a sense of responsibility among them.”

Aung Kyaw Naing disappeared on September 30. His wife alerted the media during the days that followed but it was not until October 25 that the Burmese Army informed the Press Council that the journalist had been killed three weeks earlier and had already been buried, RSF reported.

“The false allegations that Aung Kyaw Naing was a member of the Karen army circulated after the disclosure to the Press Council. He regularly covered ethnic tensions in the country’s south, near the border with Thailand. He worked for several publications, including the Yangon Times, Eleven Media Group, and The Voice,” RSF said.

Burma ranks 145th of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders 2014 world press freedom index.

Or is the poor vote a stupid vote?

WHEN one is poor in the Philippines, it is supposed that one is also stupid.

That’s why the masa – the ignorant masses – are much sought after when elections are just around the corner. Their sheer numerical power in a country where millions consider themselves poor is too powerful for any politician or any religious leader to ignore.

Their numbers may vary, depending on who conducts the count. A Social Weather Stations survey showed that at least 11.5 million poor families consider themselves “poor” as of June 2014, up by more than 600,000 in March, also this year.

Recently, the term “mahirap” or “poor” in Filipino took on a different meaning when Senator Antonio Trillanes IV remarked that Vice-President Jejomar Binay is portraying himself to be “poor” even as he was supposedly leading a lavish lifestyle.

SEN. ANTONIO TRILLANES IV. Anti-mahirap? Elitist? | Photo from Senate of the Philippines Gallery

SEN. ANTONIO TRILLANES IV. Anti-mahirap? Elitist? | Photo from Senate of the Philippines Gallery

The senator, one of the investigators in the ongoing Senate probe on the alleged corruption charges against the vice-president, was quoted as saying after a visit to the farm that Binay allegedly owns: Ang nakita natin dito sa ocular visit na ito ay ‘yung dalawang mundo ni Vice President Binay. ‘Yung isang mundo na nagpapanggap siya na asal-mahirap, na galing siya sa hirap na maki-mahirap. Even pati ‘yung kulay niya pinagmamalaki niya na ‘I am mahirap’.”

(What we are seeing here in this ocular visit are the worlds of Vice President Binay. One is the world where he pretends to be poor, that he comes from the poor. He is even proud that his color is like that of the poor.)

Trillanes’s comment sent Netizens to anger. Some called him elitist, a charge that he now denies, saying that his statements had only been taken out of context by the camp of Binay.

VICE-PRESIDENT BINAY, left, with President Benigno S. Aquino III. Is Binay pretending to be poor? | Photo from PCOO

VICE-PRESIDENT BINAY, left, with President Benigno S. Aquino III. Is Binay pretending to be poor? | Photo from PCOO

Binay, responding to the allegations, had labeled those behind what his deputies had called “Oplan Stop Nognog 2016″ as “elitists” and “anti- poor” for calling him “kulay-mahirap” and “asal-mahirap.”

But what exactly is the poor vote? Is it really an “unthinking” vote?

In 2004, PCIJ Founding Executive Director Sheila S. Coronel and Yvonne T. Chua wrote a two-part series on the characteristics of the so-called poor vote. Its key findings include:

The poor ranked education, experience, platform, and track record as among the most important criteria for choosing candidates.

They do not necessarily have high regard for the wealthy and powerful. What they do have are idealistic notions of leadership, valuing qualities such as piety (makadiyos), helpfulness, sincerity, and responsibility.

Celebrities are not necessarily preferred by poor voters. Many said they value educational qualifications, but they were also suspicious about those with superior education. They said experience and good intentions more than compensate for a lack of college education.

The most important sources of influence in the choice of candidates among the poor are, in declining order: the media, the family, the church, and political parties. Surveys come in last on the list.

Coronel and Chua also reported:

“While elections are seen as a spectator sport, the poor are not passive spectators. They cheer on or boo and take part wholeheartedly. ‘Perhaps their ambivalent attitudes toward elections are subsumed by the notion of a game of chance, which provides elections with an inherent validity as well as entertainment value,” says the IPC report. “Hence, they will participate in it by following certain criteria and principles. Most are not swayed by survey results. But, given their material needs, they will also take advantage of the money and goods that circulate widely at this time, if they can somehow escape the consequences.’”

Click on the photo below to continue reading the story “The poor vote is a thinking vote.”

A  SUGARWORKER in one of the haciendas or plantations in the Philippines | Photo by Julius D. Mariveles

A SUGARWORKER in one of the haciendas or plantations in the Philippines | Photo by Julius D. Mariveles


FREEDOM of information advocates will meet with Speaker Feliciano Belmonte on Monday, October 27, at 1:30 p.m. at the House of Representatives to submit additional signatures of more than 35,000 individuals who have expressed support for the passage of a Freedom of Information law.

They will be led by the Right to Know Right Now! Coalition. The additional signatures were gathered during the Tanglaw Run of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines community held on October 4, 2014.

Why should you support the FOI? Watch the video of the townhall meeting last July 1, 2014.

The additional signatures will be added to the more than 38,000 submitted to Presidential spokesman, Sec. Edwin Lacierda, last July 25.

Do you want to sign the petition? Just click on the photo below to be redirected to the site.

pass the foi


October 24, 2014 · Posted in: General

A love affair with numbers

By Cong B. Corrales

STRONG with words, weak with numbers. That, for the longest time, seems to be the stereotype of journalists.

As PCIJ Executive Director Malou Mangahas says in jest, most reporters take up journalism because it only has one Math subject for the entire course. However, Mangahas always counters this by saying that it is important for journalists to learn to appreciate what stories they could mine behind the numbers. PCIJ believes that the biggest and most strategic problems that confront the country are all writ large in numbers, thus the organization’s efforts in promoting numeracy among journalists and citizen media.

This, and more, was what the participating journalists and bloggers discussed during the last leg of PCIJ’s training seminar series on Governance by the Numbers: Advanced Investigative Reporting and Numeracy. The four-day seminar was attended by reporters, newsroom supervisors and managers, and bloggers from TV, print, and online media organizations based in Metro Manila.

Participating media organizations included 9TV (formerly Solar TV), ABS-CBN 2, ABS-CBN News Online, Blogwatch, Bulatlat.com, DWIZ 882, GMA 7, GMA News TV, GMA News Research, Far East Broadcasting Company-DZAS, Inquirer.net, The Wall Street Journal/Dow Jones, The Philippine Star, The Manila Times, and RMN-DZXL.

PCIJ Executive Director Malou Mangahas on investigative reporting:

PCIJ Executive Director Malou Mangahas shows Metro Manila-based journalists and citizen media how documents and data connect.

At least 22 participants attended the first half of the seminar last September 17 and 18 at Luxent Hotel in Quezon City. The third and fourth days of the seminar had to be postponed to October 19 and 20 though, because Typhoon Mario pummeled Northern Luzon and its downpour flooded most parts of the National Capital Region.

The seminar series aimed to scale up the investigative reporting skills of journalists, citizen media, and bloggers throughout the country in sourcing, analyzing, and correlating documents, numbers, and information. “Hindi siya special siopao, but you just really need patience in analysing the meaning behind the numbers; the meaning and logic of the data,” said Mangahas.
SOME OF THE participants listen to PCIJ Executive Director Malou Mangahas | Photo by Cong B. Corrales

SEMINAR PARTICIPANTS listen to PCIJ Executive Director Malou Mangahas | Photo by Cong B. Corrales

The seminar was divided into three themes: investigating public funds, investigating public officials, and organizing the story and reporting numbers. The US-based nonprofit National Endowment for Democracy provided grant support for the seminar series.

Each of the themes in the seminar had experts from the government, legal profession, academe, and fraud examiners as resource speakers.

To provide the framework for the entire seminar, PCIJ Executive Director Malou Mangahas discussed the concepts of Freedom of Information, Freedom of Expression, and Data Journalism, and how they all relate to each other and to the practice of journalism in the country.

Photo by Cong B. Corrales

Photo by Cong B. Corrales

Managahas was followed by lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno, De La Salle University College of Law Founding Dean and Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) National Chair, who briefed the participants about their legal rights in their practice of journalism. Diokno also underscored the responsibilities attached to such rights.

In the “investigating public funds” theme, Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Undersecretary Raul C. Asis walked participants through the life cycle of a public works project. He also gave them tips on how they can identify red flags and discussed how corruption could start “even at the design phase of any given project.” Asis assured participants though, that the public works department has been installing measures to weed out corrupt practices in the agency, and said that “integrity breeds excellence.”
Photo by Cong B. Corrales

Photo by Cong B. Corrales

Still under the theme of investigating public funds, Commission on Audit (COA) Director Cora Lea A. Dela Cruz enumerated the different types of audit that the COA does. She also explained key audit terms in layman’s language, and explained how COA auditors interpret the “observations” they attach to each of the types of audit.

Juan Carlos “Juancho” B. Robles, a partner at private auditing firm Punongbayan & Araullo and a director of the Philippine chapter of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, taught the participants how to spot red flags in financial statements that could possibly involve fraud, as well as the elements of fraud. Robles also presented the possible fraud schemes in the private and public sectors, such as bid rigging and kickbacks, deliberate mismanagement, and conflicts of interest.
Photo by Cong B. Corrales

Photo by Cong B. Corrales

He also introduced the participants to the Beneish Fraud Ratio, which was developed by Indiana University accounting professor Messod Daniel Beneish, Ph.D. Beneish devised analysis ratios for identifying possible financial statement frauds.

Roel R. Landingin, Manila correspondent for the Financial Times of London and PCIJ Fellow, — in his session “By the Numbers: Examples of Using Data to Investigate Public Funds” — stressed that the driving force behind the pursuit of investigative reports should be the journalist’s interest and motivation to write the story.

Photo by Cong B. Corrales

Landingin, who won the Jaime V. Ongpin Award for Investigative Journalism in 2008 and 2009 for his reports on corruption in public infrastructure projects and the mismanagement of foreign aid, encouraged the participants to “learn by doing.” He added that numbers and datasets could be used to question the policy assumptions of government projects. He also encouraged the participants to maximize the data sets that are readily available online, in scaling up their stories on governance. This, he said, will even help in advancing genuine transparency and accountability in government.

“Asking for more data is useless if we do not scale up in analysing these data sets,” he said.
Photo by Cong B. Corrales

Photo by Cong B. Corrales

Landingin illustrated his point by making an analogy between a company’s balance sheet to Instagram, and between an income statement with YouTube: “(A) Balance Sheet is like Instagram in that it depicts a picture of a company’s financial position at any given time. (While the) Income Statement is like YouTube because it is where you see the movement of the company’s money,” said Landingin.

PCIJ Training Director Che de los Reyes, for her part, demonstrated how journalists can handle big data sets by using spreadsheets. She led practice sessions on cleaning data and pivoting big data sets. De los Reyes also taught the participants how they could mine the i-View platform of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) by doing corporate search of publicly listed companies, non-government organizations, and foundations.
Photo by Cong B. Corrales

Photo by Cong B. Corrales

On the theme “investigating public officials,” PCIJ Executive Director Malou Mangahas told participants that investigating public officials is key in finding out unexplained wealth, conflicts of interest, and the use, abuse and misuse of public funds. It also helps in understanding the outcomes of government policies and programs.

“Corruption is not a victimless crime. There are basic services foregone because of corruption,” said Mangahas. She demonstrated how journalists could mine public documents on government officials, such as the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN), Statement of Contribution and Expenditures (SOCE), and corporate records from the SEC.
Photo by Cong B. Corrales

Photo by Cong B. Corrales

She also briefed the participants on how they could access, read, and interpret the SALN as it is a mine of what she called ‘defining data,’ such as the Tax Identification Number (TIN), real and personal properties, liabilities, and social networks. Mangahas also discussed the SOCE that candidates and political parties file with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and how journalists could derive data from the SOCE and SALN, and corroborate these with data and information from corporate records. By connecting these documents, Mangahas explained, the reporter could map the backward and forward links of the investigative report that he is writing.

Photo by Cong B. Corrales

Photo by Cong B. Corrales

The blunders of a general

ON WEDNESDAY, the Commission on Appointments conducted a hearing to confirm Army Col. Medardo Geslani’s promotion to brigadier general. However, Maguindanao Representative Zahid Mangudadatu also questioned the promotion. The congressman is the brother of Maguindanao Governor Esmael Toto Mangudadatu whose wife and other relatives were among those killed in the Ampatuan massacre.

What exactly did Geslani fail to do?

It is a fact that, before the convoy of now Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu set out on its ill-fated journey to Shariff Aguak to file his certificate of candidacy, Geslani and his former commanding officer, then Major General Alfredo Cayton, were among those whose help had been sought to provide security because of the very serious threats of violence that had already been floating about days before. These requests were ignored,” NUJP chair Rowena Paraan said.

It can be recalled that in the afternoon of January 19, 2010, widows and families of 13 journalists killed in the Ampatuan massacre filed criminal and administrative charges against then Maj. Gen. Alfredo Cayton and Col. Medardo Geslani before the Office of the Ombudsman.

REPORTERS in the Philippines light candles during a commemoration for the Ampatuan Massacre, the single deadliest attack on journalists in the world. Thirty-two media workers and reporters were murdered in the southern Philippine province of Maguindanao | Photo by Julius D. Mariveles

REPORTERS in the Philippines light candles during a commemoration for the Ampatuan Massacre, the single deadliest attack on journalists in the world. Thirty-two media workers and reporters were murdered in the southern Philippine province of Maguindanao | Photo by Julius D. Mariveles

One of the complainants, Myrna Reblando had alleged that Cayton, then chief of the 6th Infantry Division, was informed by her husband—Alejandro—about their coverage of the filing of Esmael Toto Mangudadatu’s certificate of candidacy for governor in the province. But the Cayton assured Alejandro that there was “no threat from the ground.” The Army’s 6th Infantry Division has jurisdiction over Maguindanao.

An Army internal investigation, however, had absolved Cayton and Geslani of any responsibility in the massacre while a subsequent investigation of the Ombudsman also cleared Geslani. Cayton was also promoted to lieutenant general and has since retired from military service.

InterAksyon.com quoted Army spokesman Lt. Col. Noel Detoyato on June 24, 2014 as saying that there is no legal impediment to Geslani’s promotion to brigadier general.

“All of the Army’s findings were forwarded to them (Ombudsman), then the Ombudsman conducted their own investigation. No legal impediment turned up in his case. It’s the Ombudsman that cleared him. You cannot be promoted without getting the Ombudsman’s clearance,” InterAksyon quoted Detoyato as saying.

Notwithstanding, Paraan insisted that the claims of Cayton and Geslani claims that they had no idea that something could go wrong with the Mangudadatu’s convoy is “nothing but a brazen lie.”

Paraan said that at least three days before the massacre, the provincial police of Maguindanao had set up checkpoints on the highway through which the convoy was expected to pass.

For their part, military officials had confirmed receiving information of the sightings of armed men believed to have been part of those who massacred the victims. But upon inspection the armed men turned out to members of the Civilian Volunteer Organization (CVO) and that the checkpoints appeared to be legitimate and that the military do not have jurisdiction over the CVOs since they were civilian police volunteers.

Surely, the vaunted intelligence network that the military never fails to boast of would have known of this,” she said.

She also pointed out that about two months before the massacre, a convoy of 50 journalists covering the mass evacuations caused by the fighting in Maguindanao at the time were summarily detained at a military outpost in the province. When they asked why they were being prevented from traveling freely and performing their jobs, the soldiers told them they were under orders of Geslani to stop “specifically the media.”

Officers such as Geslani are not only a disgrace to the service and their uniform but are clearly a threat to our freedoms,” said Paraan.

Trick or treat? Army officials treated by CA as Halloween nears
By Julius D. Mariveles and Cong B. Corrales

“SCARY.” “Dismaying.” “Disappointing.” “A threat to our freedoms.”

Reactions flew hard and fast yesterday after the Commission on Appointments confirmed the promotion of two military officials who were commanding Army ground units when the Ampatuan Massacre happened on November 23, 2009 in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao.

“What scares me most is that his promotion as a one-star general means he can be given a command, the logistics of which may be accessible to the accused,” lawyer Prima Quinsayas told the PCIJ after the CA confirmed the promotions of Brig. Gen. Medardo Geslani and Col. Rolando Nerona.

NORMA MERISCO, mother to a murdered son, weeps as she nears the gravesite where her son, Rey, was buried along with the other victims last November 23, 2009. This photo was taken during the first year commemoration last November 23, 2010 | Photo by Julius D. Mariveles

NORMA MERISCO, mother to a murdered son, weeps as she nears the gravesite where her son, Rey, was buried along with the other victims last November 23, 2009. This photo was taken during the first year commemoration last November 23, 2010 | Photo by Julius D. Mariveles

Geslani headed the Army’s 601st Brigade while Nerona commanded the 46th Infantry Battalion when the massacre took place.

Fifty-eight people were killed, 32 of them journalists and media workers, when paramilitary men and armed goons allegedly slew them allegedly upon orders of the Ampatuan family in the village of Masalay, Ampatuan town.

“According to witnesses, Geslani was one of the Army officers very close to the Ampatuan patriarch,” Quinsayas added as she pointed out that the two were even listed as witnesses for the three principal accused – Andal Ampatuan, Sr. and his sons, Andal, Jr., and Zaldy.


Rowena Paraan, national chairperson of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, said the process of the CA in confirming the promotion of the two speaks something about the way alleged failures by military officials are being treated.

“There was no effort to ask the families of the victims and groups opposing their promotion; they were not even asked to attend the hearings to express their side,” Paraan said.

Melinda Quintos de Jesus, executive director of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, said they did not send out any formal opposition to the CA but tried to reach out to some of its members expressing their stand.

“It’s too disappointing,” she said shortly after learning of the CA decision yesterday afternoon. “I don’t know how they could consider those kind of failures in the light of such cases that reflect on the fulture of impunity.”


She adds, however, that she was not “terribly surprised because many of these things are decided by many considerations in the political arena.”

‘No more hope left for this government’

Even relatives of the victims expressed dismay at the CA decision, saying that they were not even invited to the hearings nor were they asked about their views over the promotion of the two officials.

“This government is so unfair. There is no justice. Only those who are in power or allied with those in power have justice in this government. I think there is no more hope left for this government,” Catherine Nuñez, mother of slain UNTV reporter Victor Nuñez, told PCIJ in the vernacular.

“We are dismayed,” Emily Lopez, president of the Justice Now Movement, said in Filipino.

“Does the CA investigate the background of people who are about to be promoted? Weren’t they supposed to be held responsible for their failure to act?” she asked.


Dabet Panelo, NUJP Media Safety Office coordinator, said Geslani pointed to the PNP as the one supposedly responsible for securing the victims.

Panelo, who attended the CA hearing, said Geslani explained to the members that the Army cannot simply step in to attend to “election-related” matters especially during the election period.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, on the other hand, blamed former defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro whom he said had “prior knowledge” about plans to kill then Buluan town vice-mayor and now Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu.

Ric Cachuela, chair of an association of families of the Ampatuan Massacre victims, during a news conference in General Santos City on the first year commemoration of the incident | Photo by Julius D. Mariveles

Ric Cachuela, chair of an association of families of the Ampatuan Massacre victims, during a news conference in General Santos City on the first year commemoration of the incident | Photo by Julius D. Mariveles

The victims were part of a convoy about to deliver the certificate of candidacy of Mangudadatu to an office of the Commission on Elections.

The incident, considered as the single deadliest attack on journalists across the world, is now being commemorated on the same day the International Day to End Impunity is being marked. The massacre date has been chosen by the International Freedom Exchange to draw attention to the problem of impunity as a major obstacle in freedom of expression.

The murder case is now being heard before Regional Trial Court Branch 221 in Quezon City by Judge Jocelyn Reyes-Solis. Hounded by technical and procedural delays, the case is dragging on to its fifth year.