Police officials have denied they banned media from covering the court proceedings of the infamous Ampatuan massacre.
“We have nothing to do with such barring. By virtue of our function as PIO (public information officer) chief, we only disseminate information. We are not in charge of security,” Philippine National Police public information office chief Wilben Mayor told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in an interview.
On Nov. 11, a coalition of media groups filed a complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman against officials of the PNP and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology for reportedly barring journalists from covering the Ampatuan massacre.
Banning of media coverage, according to Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ), is “an unconscionable attack on press freedom and to the imperative of keeping the public informed on the proceedings of a trial whose outcome will be critical to the dismantling or persistence of the culture of impunity.”
In an interview with Bulatlat.com, FFFJ counsel Prima Jesusa Quinsayas said that the ban on media coverage began with Zaldy Ampatuan’s schedule to present witnesses for his bail hearings.
“The malice that crops up to my mind — why is it that when the defense was about to present their evidence, the reporters found themselves not allowed to cover the proceedings,” Quinsayas said.
The FFFJ, in a statement, maintains that now more than ever, transparency in the criminal justice system is needed and that allowing the press to cover it ensures it.
Mayor, for his part, said they will await for the copy of the complaint.
Apart from Mayor, among the respondents of the complaint are Police chief superintendent Reuben Theodore Sindac, and Jail Senior Inspector Lloyd Gonzaga.
The Ampatuan Massacre refers to the killing of 52 people, 32 of whom are journalists, on Nov. 23, 2009. It is considered as the deadliest single attack on the press ever documented.