Lawmakers call for a stop to extrajudicial killings, speedy resolution of Maguindanao massacre

November 23, 2011 10:47 pm 

By Lilybeth G. Ison

MANILA, Nov. 23 — As the Philippines marks the second year of the Maguindanao massacre, lawmakers on Wednesday urged President Benigno Aquino III to order a stop to extrajudicial killings and resolve past cases of murders.

In House Resolution 1932 filed by Deputy Speaker and Quezon Rep. Lorenzo "Erin" Tanada III, it called on cause-oriented and other groups to help keep a close watch on legal proceedings stemming from the Maguindanao massacre to ensure that justice may be rendered within a reasonable time "and not unduly delayed by underhanded legal tactics."

"We shall keep a close watch on the legal proceedings stemming from the Maguindanao massacre and help ensure that the search for justice is not slowed down by threats, bribes, and underhanded legal tactics," he said.

Tanada said two years have already passed since the November 23 Maguindanao massacre had occurred in which out of the 58 persons who were killed, 32 were media workers.

"This is the worst single instance of electoral violence in our country’s recent history and the deadliest single attack on the press ever," he said.

In his resolution, Tanada also called on the President to keep up to his promise to undertake measures to bring about justice and good governance by undertaking measures to stop extrajudicial killings.

"The failure to solve these murders and to enforce existing laws intended to protect and promote human rights has bred a culture of impunity that has emboldened those who would silence free expression," he said.

"The Maguindanao massacre was the worst manifestation of the plague of extrajudicial killings that has claimed the lives of hundreds of people — media workers, judges, lawyers, religious, activists — whose only fault was to exercise their God-given and Constitutionally guaranteed right to free expression," he added.

Quezon City Rep. Winston "Winnie" Castelo also called for the speedy trial of the suspects in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre, saying that the conclusion of the trial could put a closure to what he described as the "single worst act of violence" against Filipino journalists.

"The Maguindanao massacre is the single worst act of violence against journalists in the annals of Philippine journalism. What makes it painful is the slow grind of the judicial process, which tends to highlight the culture of impunity in our country. We have (to) put a closure to this dark page in our history, if we wish to move forward as a nation," said Castelo in a statement.

Citing an old adage that justice delayed is justice denied, the Quezon City solon said that any further delay to resolve the Maguindanao massacre "should be avoided to erase any doubts that the suspects are working for a settlement of the families of the more than 50 victims of the massacre."

"It is about time that judicial authorities show to the entire Filipino nation that the wheel of justice grinds to its rightful conclusion," he said.

For his part, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said he hopes the courts would resolve the Maguindanao killings the soonest to serve justice to the victims.

"I was hoping that the proceedings would be faster," he said.

November 23 has been declared worldwide as the International Day to End Impunity. Bayan Muna party-list Reps. Teddy Casino and Neri Colmenares filed House Bill 5529, making Nov. 23 of every year as National Consciousness Day to End Impunity.

"Marking it as a National Consciousness Day to end Impunity will remind us that as long as high crimes remain unpunished, the fight against injustice in the country should continue to broaden and persist," said Casino and Colmenares in their proposed measure.

"The people’s clamor and demand for justice should become stronger to compel the government and the authorities to take action and prosecute those who are blanketed with impunity," they added. (PNA)

DCT/LGI

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