Remembering The Maguindanao Massacre

 

Remembering the Maguindanao Massacre

A full two years after a political massacre in the southern Philippines became the single worst slaying of journalists in the world, about half of the nearly 200 suspects remain at large.

Leaders of a politically powerful clan and several of their lieutenants have been put on trial over the attack — an ambush of a convoy and the slayings of at least 58 political opponents and media workers. But the proceedings have moved at a snail’s pace, frustrating relatives of the victims.

The government assured relatives of the victims that it would do all it can to give them justice and punish all the suspects. But while the government has taken steps to hasten the prosecution, it has suffered delays because of numerous legal tactics by the suspects’ lawyers in a judiciary notorious for a huge number of backlog cases.

There were also reports that the suspects’ emissaries were also offering money to some relatives in exchange for dropping the case. Amnesty International also has quoted other relatives with similar allegations.

To speed up hearings, private prosecutor Harry Roque has recommended trimming the number of defendants from 196 to just 35 to focus on those who were primarily responsible for the planning and killing two years ago of 57 people, mostly media workers.He said the other defendants could be charged with lesser offenses.

A Catholic bishop also dared the government to apply to the case the same speed it demonstrated in pursuing criminal charges against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

A civil action seeking millions of pesos in damages from former President Macapagal-Arroyo in connection with her alleged involvement in the Maguindanao massacre is now in the sala of a Quezon City judge. Relatives of 13 journalists and two other victims of the Maguindanao massacre asked the court to hold Arroyo civilly liable because of her ties to the Ampatuans, alleged masterminds of the carnage. Arroyo is the sole defendant, arising from her being the president at the time of the massacre on Nov. 23, 2009. The complaint is based on the premise of command responsibility.

The Senate also unanimously adopted Resolution 642 declaring November 23 of every year a national day to commemorate the 2009 Maguindanao massacre. “The failure to solve all but a pitiful handful of these murder cases and to enforce existing laws intended to protect and promote human rights has bred a culture of impunity that has emboldened those who would curtail free expression,” it says.

“Those who defend human rights and issue calls for justice and accountability all too often find themselves targets of extrajudicial killings and other attacks as well,” the resolution adds.

It urges the government to bring justice to the victims and ensure governance by taking measures to facilitate the expeditious disposal of unsolved cases of extrajudicial killings.

Around The Country

In Makati, 23 images taken by documentary photographer Jes Aznar in Mindanao before and after the grisly carnage are being displayed at a multi-media gallery. The exhibit is an attempt to share what he believes is the deeper reason behind the killing. Members of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, photographers, and artists attended the opening.

In Manila, at the National Press Club (NPC) headquarters, following a motorcade and a Mass, the NPC, the Alyansa ng Filipinong Mamahayag, the Burgos Media Center and the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines unveiled a 5-foot triangular black marker with gold engravings of the slain journalists’ names, media outfits and where they served. “Go tell the world journalists know how to die” were the first words engraved on the memorial marker. Candle-lighting, flower offering and releasing of yellow balloons followed, while the rest of the evening was spent on showing the concert titled “Unrest.”

In Pampanga, some 50 journalists and media workers from the provinces of Bataan, Bulacan and Tarlac gathered in front of Metropolitan Cathedral for a brief program that remembered their fallen colleagues.Led by members of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), they marched around the city proper to inform the public that media killings must be stopped to protect the citizens’ right to information. They lit candles that were arranged like the outline of a body to represent a slain journalist.

In Nueva Ecija, a group of students of Central Luzon State University staged a prayer rally to support the campaign against impunity and the killing of media workers.The students, wearing black shirts and carrying placards, offered prayers and lit candles for the victims of the massacre.

In Baguio, members of local media organizations planted trees at the Baguio Convention Center compound and held a torch parade to remember the victims of the massacre.

In Pangasinan, media workers staged a prayer-rally and candle-lighting ceremony in front of the Dagupan City museum to remember their slain colleagues.

in Cebu, a group of beat reporters converged at Sto. Rosario Church on P. Del Rosario Street for a Mass for the victims.

In Tacloban, close to 50 journalists attended a Mass at Santo Niño Church. Fr. Oscar Lorenzo, in his homily, called on the government to help the families of the victims attain justice. After the Mass, the journalists marched from the church to the Ramon “Monching” Noblejas Junction, named after a radio commentator who was shot and killed on Oct. 4, 1987, where a short program was held.

In Bacolod,  At least 30 journalists held a candle-lighting ceremony at the Marker for Fallen Journalists at the public plaza.

In London, Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines (CHRP-UK) with Amnesty International, trade union UNISON, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the National Union of Journalists UK, held a public forum at the Amnesty International Human Rights Action Centre.

Quotes:

“We know that it is not easy to get justice. We need to work for it, it is not voluntarily offered or easily obtained. The families need to act, to remain strong and to continue the fight. It has been two years but we have not yet obtained full justice because not all of them have been detained and sentenced.”

–       Grace Morales, widow of journalist Rosell Morales and sister of Marites Cablitas, reporter

 “At the rate we are going, it could take us at least 20 years to finish this. That’s 11,172 cases. And international studies say that it takes five years to try a single case in the Philippines. So that’s 55,000 years, Let’s just focus on the primary accused . . . the Ampatuan family and those who actually pulled the trigger.”

–       Harry Roque, private prosecutor

“If we’re going to wait for decades, we would already be dead by then. We don’t know but I might already die but there would still be no results,”

–       Juliet Evardo, mother of Jolito Evardo, UNTV editor

 “This is the third Christmas that we will be [in] tears.”

–       Catherine Nuñes, mother of UNTV reporter Victor Nuñes

“(The killings) appears to be single deadliest event for the press since 1992, when CPJ began keeping detailed records on journalist deaths. “Even as we tally the dead in this horrific massacre, our initial research indicates that this is the deadliest single attack on the press ever documented by CPJ.”

–       The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

“(The 2009 massacre is) the worst manifestation of the plague of extrajudicial killings.”

–       Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan

“(In Maguindanao), the people in power can do anything they want and still stay unpunished and powerful. They are not afraid because there is a culture of impunity. Apart from remembering the massacre, I hope to show the context in which it happened—and why it can happen again. What I want to do is to dig deeper, beyond the news reports about the massacre,”

–       Jes Aznar, Documentary photographer

“I don’t feel safe to work. We are fighting so many things, not just fighting for justice. We are confronted with the realities of life that go with what happened to our loved ones. The problem is our enemy has so much money.”

–       Reynafe Momay-Castillo, the daughter of the missing 58th victim, Reynaldo Momay

 “This case underscores what happens when people have full control and absolute power then abuse it. They were so brazen and thought nothing could stop them in their time. We guaranteed that under this administration, there would no longer be such warlords because no government will support them.”

–       DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo

 “(This crime) stands out in barbarism. Washington welcomes President Aquino’s pledge to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice. The prosecution of this case is seen by many around the world as demonstrative of the Philippines’ commitment to upholding the rule of law and protecting human rights.”

–       US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr.

“ (Ensure that the prosecution of those responsible for the massacre be) completed in a timely and credible manner. Canada stands with the Filipino people in the call for the rule of law to prevail and for those responsible to be brought to justice. In remembering the victims, Canada understands that the massacre was not only an act of violence, but also an attack on the values shared by Canadians and Filipinos. Human rights, freedom of the press, freedom of expression and the right to free and fair elections are the cornerstones of our societies and must be respected and protected.”

–       Canadian Ambassador Christopher Thornley

“If they were able to have a speedy resolution on Arroyo’s case overnight, they can also do it with the case involving the Maguindanao massacre.”

–       Cotabato Auxiliary Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo.

 

“This hallowed ground teaches us something profound. Before us is a new marker over the grave of 57 victims of heinous crime. It’s very quiet here like all cemeteries. We sit and are confronted by a different silence though. A silence that speaks more, a silence that shouts. It is angry. It is defiant. The silence of souls crying out for justice. We come here to choose to listen to the disturbing silence and to look at the violent emptiness of the killing field of the Maguindanao massacre,”

–       Fr. Robert Reyes, activist priest at a mass held at the massacre site in Sitio Masalay

 “This place is built to honor those who lost their lives in a cause that ended the power of greed among Ampatuans. I can’t let go. I can move on but not let go. When I go to a mall and see a dress, I would say ‘That’s for Gigi.’ When I go out and partake of a dish, I would say ‘Gigi’s cooking tastes better. I would have embraced her tightly now. I wish she were alive. The challenge to make the perpetrators accountable remains because many of them are still roaming free around Maguindanao. The path we’re taking is still long. But we will finish the fight we are waging together.”

–        Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu at the memorial shrine that he put up in Ampatuan town

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Marge Strohm
    Dec 11, 2011 @ 06:48:14

    Very interesting details you have noted, appreciate it for posting.

    Reply

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