UNESCO classifies Ampatuan massacre case as “resolved “

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DAVAO CITY —— The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has officially classified the Ampatuan massacre as “resolved” as it said the justice system of the country is working to protect the welfare of the working press.

In a letter, Moez Chackchouk, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, announced this in his letter to Ambassador Theresa Lazaro, acknowledging the concrete efforts of the government in bringing to justice the suspects in the 2009 massacre.

“I am pleased to confirm that we will classify these as resolved, both in the UNESCO Observatory of Killed Journalists and in the 2020 Director-General Report on the Safety of Journalists,” Chakchouk said.

A total of 58 people, including 32 journalists, died in the  gory Ampatuan massacre, also known as Maguindanao massacre in  the morning of November 23, 2009, in the town of Ampatuan in Maguindanao province.

In a report by the Department of Foreign Affairs-United Nations and International Organizations (DFA UNIO) to the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS), it was likewise announced that UNESCO is ready to “provide support to the Philippines in the form of capacity-building for the judiciary on international standards regarding freedom of expression”.

Department of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, chair of the PTFoMS, lauded UNESCO’s pronouncement saying the Philippine justice system is fair and effective.

PTFoMS executive director Undersecretary  Joel Egco in an interview with Newsline.ph said, “ We are happy that no less than UNESCO recognized the government’s sincere effort to protect the working members of the press. They see the resolution of Maguindanao massacre and a step higher in our commitment to protect the members of the Fourth Estate”.

Egco recalled, that in 2017, the TFOMS was given specific order from the President “To make sure that justice to the victims of the Maguindanao massacre is served and those found guilty will be put behind bars. We were also instructed to work for the speedy solution of the long delayed case, so we delivered what was expected from us”.

“With UNESCO acknowledging the finality of the Ampatuan Massacre, we can proudly proclaim to the world that any violence against our media workers will never go unpunished, that the so-called ‘culture of impunity’ against journalists in the country has finally come to an end,” Egco said.

Egco added saying that he is confident that the country’s rank in the Global Impunity Index by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) will dramatically improve.

“In view of UNESCO’s pronouncement, combined with the two Duterte legacy bills—the Media Workers Welfare Bill and the Freedom of Information Bill that we are pushing for enactment in Congress—the future is bright for the members of the Fourth Estate,” he said. 

“Once these bills are approved, we will be one of the best countries in the world where the freedoms of information and of the press, as well as the economic rights of journalists, are all protected.”

PTFoMS also gave its support to UNESCO’s project “Fostering the Role of the Philippine Judiciary System in Promoting Key Aspects of the 2030 Agenda,” a series of online and onsite courses and seminars based on the UN Plan of Action on the safety of journalists.

Such capacity-building project is an opportunity for the Philippines to build better relationships with the international community, it added.

The Philippine government’s collaboration with UNESCO will further strengthen PTFoMS’ mandate to protect the life, liberty and security of all journalists and media workers in the country.

As long as the Presidential Task Force exists, the investigation and prosecution of all cases of media violence in the Philippines will be guaranteed.

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