There are claims in the southern Philippines that hired assassins are stalking witnesses to a massacre that took place in 2009.
More than 50 people – including 34 journalists – were killed in the massacre in Maguindanao, a farming province in the southern island of Mindanao.
Human Rights Watch Philippines researcher, Carlos Conde, told Radio Australia’s Asia Pacific programme that a lot of the witnesses are facing very real danger.
“They told me that they don’t feel safe at all and their families are likewise exposed to this danger,” Conde said.
At least six witnesses or their relatives have been killed since the trial of the accused started in 2010.
Conde says while some of the witnesses are in the Philippines Department of Justice’s Witness Protection programme, the programme lacks resources and some witnesses are wary of it.
“This other witness…who was supposedly murdered and chainsawed, he resisted the idea of being under the protection programme because he thought he was not safe there.”
“There’s this resistance to be enlisted on this programme, precisely because of the limitations of the programme before.”
The massacre was allegedly orchestrated by the Ampatuan clan in a bid to stop Mangudadatu from challenging one of its members for the post of governor in Maguindanao.
197 people have been charged over the murders, but about 100 of those remain at large.
The Department of Justice has added another six people to the witness protection list, but rights groups say it’s poorly resourced and the government should do more.
“The obvious immediate impact is that this will terrify the witnesses who’re scheduled to testify, and also discourage anyone from coming out and testifying against the Ampatuans,” Conde said.