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Philippines June 11, 2012
REPLY POSTED BELOW 8/6/2012
H.E. Benigno Aquino III
Republic of the Philippines
Fax: (011.63.2) 735.6152
It is less than a month since we last wrote to you about the appalling dangers that face the press in the Philippines. However, the murder of a third witness to the 2009 massacre, Esmil Amil Enog, forces us to appeal once again to your government to put an end to the lawlessness and savagery in Maguindanao.
It is ironic that this killing should have occurred just as the United Nation’s Human Rights Commission was making its periodic review of human rights in the Philippines, as it does of each member state every four and a half years. Many members, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Spain and the Netherlands expressed dismay at the failure of the authorities in the Philippines to bring violators of human rights to justice and urged an end to impunity. In particular, Canada, Spain and the Netherlands urged your government to disarm and disband private militias, and establish police and military control, as you had said you would do when you were a candidate for the presidency.
Mr. Enog was a crucial witness since he had already testified that he had driven some of the Ampatuan family gunmen to the site where the massacre of 57 politicians and journalists took place on November 23, 2009. His murder was intended to be especially terrifying to others who might testify as he was apparently dismembered with a chain saw while still alive. How much more of this savagery can your government tolerate?
We also note that four Filipino journalists have been murdered so far this year and that, unless major changes are made, their killers will enjoy the same impunity that the killers of scores of journalists have enjoyed over the years. At this point, there is no reason to suppose that the killings will not go on. Several freedom of the press organizations report that journalists continue to get death threats, sometimes from the very police who are supposed to protect them.
We can only beg you once again to establish firmly the rule of law that would protect journalists and others from killers in the pay of corrupt politicians and officials. Difficult as it may be to provide better protection to witnesses, that should be done. Most important would be to disband and disarm the private militias and gangs that have hijacked the laws of the Philippines.
We look forward to the day when we can congratulate you on putting an end to the killings and threats in the southern part that have made the Philippines one of the most dangerous places in the world to carry out the normal work of journalism.
Freedom of the Press Committee
H.E. Jose L. Cuisia, Jr.
Ambassador of the Philippines to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines
1600 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
Fax: (202) 467.9417
Ambassador Libran N. Cabactulan
Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations
556 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10036
Fax: (212) 840.8602
H.E. Harry K. Thomas, Jr.
U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines
Embassy of the United States of America
1201 Roxas Boulevard, Manila
Fax: (011.63.2) 301.2399
Philippine National Union of Journalists
The Editor, Manila Times
Editor in Chief
The Midanao Observer
Isagani M. Yambot
Publisher, The Daily Inquirer
Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20520