NUJP condemns abduction of journalists, lawyers and others in Maguindanao

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines condemns the abduction Monday of 40 persons including four of our colleagues who were accompanying the wife of a town mayor in Maguindanao province to cover her filing of her husband’s certificate of candidacy.

It is even more troubling that the Armed Forces of the Philippines has reported that the abductors were allegedly led by a mayor, Datu Unsay Ampatuan, and a police officer, a Senior Inspector Dicay, and that Mangadadatu Mayor Toto Mangadadatu went on air over a Cotabato City station to report that six members of the party led by his wife, Genalyn, had been beheaded.

Taking hostage someone about to file a certificate of candidacy is, by itself, a brazen challenge to efforts to strengthen our admittedly fragile democracy. And, if true that a local government official and a police officer are involved, then it says a lot about how far government has gone to eradicate the warlord politics that continues to reign over many of our provinces, very often the poorest and most underdeveloped.

But to take hostage journalists who were merely going about their job of informing the public worsens the already heinous crime and elevates it into an assault on the Constitution itself and the freedom of the press and of expression it enshrines, and the people’s right to know which these freedoms serve.

We demand that government, from Malacañang to the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and Maguindanao, and its security forces, move swiftly to resolve this crisis and ensure that no harm befalls the hostages; and, if true that violence has been inflicted on some of the hostages, to ensure swift justice on the perpetrators, no matter who they are.

We demand that the abductors release the hostages, including the journalists, unconditionally.

Should any harm befall our colleagues, we will hold accountable the civil and security officials of Maguindanao, the ARMM and the national government for their failure to end the culture of violence and warlordism that lays waste not only to those who engage in politics but to innocent victims as well.

We call on all journalists to band together and demand no less.

Signed by all members of the National Directorate of the NUJP

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