GMA News - Senate reso declares Nov. 23 as National Day to End Impunity

24 November 2011

By Kimberly Tan and Amita Legaspi | GMA News

GMA_onlineOn the second anniversary of the Maguindanao massacre, the Senate adopted a resolution declaring Nov. 23 as National Day to End Impunity.

Senate Resolution 642, authored by Sen. Francis Pangilinan, expresses the "firm support" of the Senate for the declaration of November 23 as the National Day to End Impunity.

On Nov. 23, 2009, 57 people, including 32 journalists, were killed in what is considered as the worst case of election-related violence in the country blamed on the powerful Ampatuan clan of Mindanao. One person, a photojournalist, is still missing.

“It’s been two years since the gruesome event and still our countrymen cry out for justice for the victims of the Maguindanao massacre," Pangilinan said. “It was the worst single instance of electoral violence in our country's history and the deadliest affront against freedom of the press."

Also killed were six chance motorists and relatives and supporters of Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu, a member of the Ampatuans’ rival clan.

At least 198 people, including members of the Ampatuan clan, are facing murder charges in relation to the massacre. Of this number, 101 are still at large.

International notoriety
Pangilinan, in his resolution, said the massacre “gave us international notoriety as one of the most dangerous places for journalists."

“We must never forget that day when the culture of impunity showed us its worst manifestation," he said.

Senators Joker Arroyo and Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., for their part, said the Aquino administration should exert the same effort it did with filing the case against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in resolving the Maguindanao massacre.

“They should use the same amount, if not more, of energy, focus, and determination that they used in nailing GMA, in speeding up the cases of the Ampatuan massacre and give cause for the entire country to extol the delivery of justice for the families of the victims and bring the guilty to jail to pay for this shameful and horrendous crime," Marcos said in a statement Wednesday.

"The commitment of the government to human rights cannot be fulfilled if this case is not attended to. It's not getting the attention it deserves," Arroyo said on the Senate floor during the day’s session.

The International Freedom of Expression Network had also already earlier declared Nov. 23 to be the International Day to End Impunity.

Palace: Pace of trial not in our hands

Malacañang, for its part, admitted that the massacre case “is taking so long" as it expressed hope the judicial processes would be fast-tracked.

At a press briefing, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda noted the executive branch has no control over the pace of the case.

“We would wish that the judicial process be fast-tracked," he said. “This case is not in the hands entirely of the executive branch or the prosecution, it is within the discretion of the trial judge, it is within the discretion of the judiciary."

Lacierda also expressed hope the Judiciary would “take a second look" at the pace of the massacre trial so that justice may be obtained before President Benigno Aquino (III’s term ends in 2016.

“We ourselves in the prosecution, we ourselves in the executive branch, we share the public’s concern that this case is taking so long," he said.