National Press Club of the Philippines has spent nearly P1M to help massacre victims

December 14, 2018

IN order to further spread the information as regards the effort made by the National Press Club (NPC) in helping the victims of the infamous ‘Ampatuan Massacre’ that happened on November 23, 2009, I am reprinting below the club’s statement on the matter, thus:

“The National Press Club of the Philippines (NPC) said it has so far spent P979,776.67 or nearly P1 million, to help the families of the victims of the infamous ‘Ampatuan Massacre’ in 2009 that left 58 people dead, of which 32 were members of the press.

“Rolly Gonzalo, NPC president, said they took the initiative of giving out a full accounting of the money, including donations from abroad, in response to the call of the families of the members of the press that they aired to Presidential Communication Operations Office (PCOO) secretary, Martin Andanar and, undersecretary, Joel Sy Egco, executive director of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS).

“The two Palace officials met with the victims’ families last month in General Santos City, as the world media community commemorated the 9th year of the massacre which occurred on November 23, 2009.

“It was in this meeting that the families asked for an accounting of the millions in pesos of donations and assistance collected on their behalf by various media groups in the country.

“In response, the NPC on Wednesday, December 12, 2018, submitted to Egco its list of expenditures connected to all the activities it has done since 2009 in support of the massacre victims’ quest for justice and cry for help to help them cope with the aftermath of the tragedy.

“The turnover of the documents was made in the presence of other media groups and representatives from various government agencies during the regular meeting of the PTFoMS at the Malacañan complex in Manila.

“Citing from the club’s records, Gonzalo, then NPC auditor, said he went to General Santos City from December 1 to December 3, 2009, together with former National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) chairman, Joe Torres, where they met with the victims’ families and distributed to 15 of them, cash assistance in the amount of P10,000 each.

“Let me emphasize that the P150,000 given to the victims’ families came from the personal money of then NPC president, Benny Antiporda,” Gonzalo said. Antiporda is now undersecretary at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

“Gutierrez, for his part, noted that prior to this trip, on November 27, 2009, the NPC had just rejected a P20 million cash bribe offered to him and Antiporda by an emissary of the Ampatuans, for the NPC to “tone down” its campaign for justice for the victims.

“On this meeting, Antiporda bluntly told the emissary that “even the Devil would be ashamed” for the atrocious crime committed by the Ampatuans.

“The powerful Ampatuan clan is the principal suspect of the bloodbath that has been described as the world’s “worst single day attack” against members of the press.

“Gonzalo added that on January 2, 2010, the NPC also distributed cash assistance of P10,000 each to 10 more of the victims’ families, the money coming from a donation of P123,703.45 the NPC received from the Filipino Press Group of Sydney, Australia.

“From this donation, the NPC also gave P20,000 to the family of Central Mindanao Inquirer reporter and columnist, Andres Teodoro; the Club supplemented the balance of P3,703.45 for the legal expenses of its lawyer, Atty. Michael Mella.

“Mella, who was tasked to attend the court hearings of the massacre, received a total of P8,000 in court appearance fees for the four hearings he attended on behalf of the NPC between August and September 2010.

“Gonzalo noted despite Teodoro not being a member of the NPC, they decided to “adopt” his son, Andrian, by supporting his education with a P10,000 cash assistance each year since the opening of the 2011 school year.

“To date, the NPC has given a total of P90,000 cash assistance to the Teodoro family.

“Despite the NPC always struggling to raise funds for its many projects, we remain committed in helping the families of the victims anyway we can, especially the Teodoro family,” Gutierrez added.

“He also stressed that aside from the donation received by the NPC from the Filipino journalists in Australia in 2010, all other expenses incurred by the Club in its fight to give justice to the victims in the last nine years came from its own internally-generated funds.

“Thru this full accounting, we also believe that being transparent in our contribution -- ‘meager’ as it may be compared to the money raised by other media groups -- is also our way of showing continued solidarity with the victims by making known to them that they were not ‘scammed’ by the NPC from the assistance due to them,” Gutierrez added.