Thirty-eight domestic and international organizations have written to the Philippines’ Court of Appeals, asking the jurists to withdraw contempt charges against National Union of Journalists of the Philippines secretary general Rowena Paraan and Monette Salaysay, widow of Ampatuan massacre victim Napoleon Salaysay.
Up to now, no one has been punished in the November 23, 2009 massacre in Maguindanao province, which many dub as “the single biggest attack on journalists in modern times.”
The court held Paraan and Salaysay for contempt over their statements questioning the inconsistency of Associate Justices Banton Bueser and Marlene Gonzales-Sison who inhibited themselves from hearing a petition by former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. to exclude him from the list of accused, but not in a similar petition filed by his son, suspended ARMM governor Zaldy Ampatuan.
Both Ampatuans are primary suspects in the massacre.
In their letter, the organizations said that
We accept that there is a need to protect the courts against statements that might undermine the fairness of proceedings, such as intimidation of witnesses. But we feel confident that the Philippine courts are able to withstand strong, even unfair, criticism and yet render justice.
The organizations sent copies of their letter to all the justices of the Court of Appeals, President Benigno Aquino III, Chief Justice Renato Corona, and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, among others.