NUJP STATEMENT: Politics should not stand in the way of justice

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We are extremely worried by recent statements emanating from Malacanang regarding the offer of Zaldy Ampatuan to testify as state witness against his relatives in the gruesome Ampatuan massacre of November 23, 2009 that

claimed 58 lives.

These are signals that do not augur well in the search for justice.

It is revolting to see the top leadership of the land cozying up to a key suspect in the worst incident of electoral violence in the country and the deadliest single attack on the press in history.

Zaldy Ampatuan, suspended governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), seems to have struck a harmonious chord with Malacanang by trading revelations of electoral fraud in Maguindanao in 2007 he blames on then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband, Jose Miguel.

That Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma can even consider taking seriously such self-serving revelations, which do not actually bring anything new to what everyone already knows, only bolster suspicions the search for justice for the massacre victims and their relatives is being offered before the altar of political expediency, suspicions first triggered by the earlier statements of Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo and Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda.

Coloma and Lacierda’s insistent peddling of the canard that Zaldy Ampatuan’s testimony is worth considering rings

a sinister tone. These come after Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, whose office has more competence to evaluate the

matter, already rejected the idea.

It has become clearer now that a scenario is being played up. It started to smell when the “surprise” visit of Robredo resulted in reports of Zaldy and Andal Sr. being “estranged” and “not talking to each other.”

We note that among the Ampatuans, Zaldy acts in a deliberate manner; churning out public relations blitz and taking in a topnotch lawyer who can provide significant connections.

How Coloma can lump the 2007 vote-rigging together with the massacre also boggles the mind. If we go by this incredible logic, it’s like declaring a ruthless authoritarian ruler of a country in Africa or Latin America human rights hero in the Philippines for helping to clarify for Filipinos how ruthless the strongman rule of Marcos was.

If this government is serious with electoral reforms, it does not need a Zaldy Ampatuan to tell it where to start.

We warn whoever in this administration may be lobbying to get Zaldy Ampatuan off the hook before he can even be tried: we will not take this sitting down. We are confident that a large number of our people will also do the same.

We call on our colleagues in media to continue being vigilant against any attempts to subvert justice.

We owe this to the memory of our 32 colleagues who died in the slaughter and to the more than 100 others whose deaths

continue to cry for the justice that government inaction deprives them of.

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