Journalists create ‘trail of impunity’ to mark Maguindanao massacre

First posted: 11/23/2011 | 09:25 PM

Local and international media organizations, journalists and college students took to the streets on Wednesday commemorate the second anniversary of the Maguindanao massacre.

From Morayta Avenue, the crowd marched to the foot of the Mendiola Bridge, where representatives from the different groups formed the outlines of bodies enclosed in a police crime scene, in memory of the 57 people who were killed in Ampatuan town on Nov. 23, 2009.

Bayan Muna party-list Representative Teddy Casiño, who was also present during the march, recalled the day he first found out about the killings in Ampatuan town.

“Kaming mga aktibista we really have a close affinity to our brothers in the media because we find ourselves in very similar circumstances,” Casiño told GMA News Online.

Thirty-two of the 57 victims were journalists, while a 58th person remains missing. The victims were on their way to file the candidacy papers of incumbent Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, who was vice mayor of Buluan at that time.

Taking part in the march were the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, the International Federation of Journalists, the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines and students from various Metro Manila universities.

During the march, organizers emphasized the need to hold the former administration, the Ampatuan clan and even the current administration, accountable for human rights violations and killings that remain unsolved —pushing forward the “1st International Day to End Impunity.”

Casiño also stressed the importance of commemorating and remembering the 2009 massacre. “A common observation in Filipinos is that we easily forget these things. Kaya dapat sustained talaga,” he added.

Also on Wednesday, Casino and his co-Bayan Muna party-list representative Neri Colmenares, filed a measure urging government to declare Nov. 23 of each year as “National Consciousness Day to End Impunity.”

‘Massacre has not been forgotten’

“Pero tingin ko naman ‘yung Maguindanao massacre has not been forgotten — ang publiko ay nagmamasid,” he added.

Among the schools that made their presence felt in the march was the UP Diliman College of Mass Communication (CMC).

CMC Student Council chairperson Norman Riego told GMA News Online that members of his college went there not only because they empathized with victims of the massacre but also because the problem, he said, is also felt by non-media people.

“We recognize that this isn’t just a problem of the media, it’s not just electoral politics. We know that it’s a systemic problem wherein the powerful are given even more power to oppress those without,” he said.

Casiño told GMA News Online that two years after the gruesome massacre, he still feels as if it’s a “frustrating quest for justice.”

“’Yung images ng killings medyo nag-fade na… but there is always the frustration that everyone feels because of how slow the case is going and really, the impunity,” he said.

Only 95 of 196 suspects arrested
To date, Philippine authorities have arrested 95 massacre suspects, or less than half of the 196 people wanted for the 57 counts of murder.

However, data from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police indicate that while 83 of those suspects were arrested within the year after the massacre, only 12 more have been arrested since Nov. 23, 2010.

Casino said that while wants all 196 suspects to be tried it would be enough for him if authorities make sure that the ones who are already arrested be convicted.

“We don’t need to round up the entire private army in order for the masterminds to be convicted,” he said.

Of the 95 arrested suspects, eight are prominent members of the Ampatuan clan, whose members held positions of power in Maguindanao during the massacre.

Clan patriarch Andal Ampatuan Sr. was a former Maguindanao governor himself while he has, among his sons, a former mayor of Datu Unsay and principal suspect (Andal Jr.), a governor of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (Rizaldy) and a Maguindanao governor-in-charge (Sajid).

Meanwhile, a day before the second anniversary of the massacre, a P15-million suit was filed against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo by relatives of the massacre victims.

Relatives of the 15 journalists killed in the massacre alleged that Arroyo had in effect aided and abetted the Ampatuan clan when she issued Executive Order 546, which allowed the use of private armies as “force multipliers” when battling insurgents. — VS, GMA News lawbaughgeorgie