Three years after Ampatuan Massacre: Campus journalists, students remember the fallen, call on gov’t to expedite justice

November 22, 2012


Reference Person: Michael Alegre

Secretary General, CEGP Southern Tagalog

Three years after Ampatuan Massacre 

Campus journalists, students remember the fallen, call on gov’t to expedite justice

LOS BAÑOS, LAGUNA-Three years after the heinous massacre of 58 individuals—32 of whom are journalists—in the worst election-related violence the nation has ever witnessed, student activists and campus journalists grieved over the slow meting out of justice to victims and lambasted the Aquino administration for its lack of resolve in stopping media and other extrajudicial killings.

Six simultaneous candle lighting activities were launched Thursday in different universities in Southern Tagalog to commemorate the third anniversary of Ampatuan Massacre, where members of the Mangudadatu family and its convoy were brutally murdered allegedly by members of the Ampatuan clan and its private army on Nov. 23, 2009.

Participating universities include Laguna College of Business and Arts, Southern Luzon State University-Lucban, University of Rizal System-Morong, Cavite State University-Indang, Polytechnic University of the Philippines-Lopez, and the University of the Philippines Los Baños. Palawan State University and University of Perpetual Help-Biñan will conduct a similar activity on Nov. 23.

“After three years, an interminable duration for the relatives of the victims, no one has been convicted, 92 suspects remain at large and already four witnesses were killed or were suspected to have been killed,” Princes Bulaclac, UPLB Perspective editor said.

“It tells much about the nature of the justice system in the country, as well as the Aquino administration’s lack of political will to go after the powerful local elite that has turned the electoral system into a farce and a carnival of human rights violations,” Bulaclac added.

For the 2013 local elections, 74 members of the Ampatuan clan are running a bid for various local electoral posts in Maguindano, compared to last year’s 68.

Bulaclac said that the culture of impunity that currently exists and is bolstered by government inaction sends a chilling message to the public and encourages the perpetuation of human rights abuses with its Oplan Bayanihan program targeted even to legal state critics.

“Instead of levying immediate justice, the reigning culture of impunity rewards the violators and blames the victims,” Bulaclac said.

Meanwhile, the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) – Souhern Tagalog chapter condemned the unabated killing of media practitioners in the country.

“Having been condemned as the worst place for journalists to work in, the country still offers no safe haven, with media killings remaining rampant under the Aquino administration, bringing the tally to 15 media killings since Aquino rose to power,” Michael Alegre, secretary-general of the CEGP Southern Tagalog said.

“Media killings and their non-resolution dissuade journalists from fully performing their tasks, preventing them from covering the important issues of the day for fear of persecution by state forces or the local powerful elite,” he said.

He cited the purported “media blackouts” on the militarization ongoing in South Quezon and Bondoc Penisula, where human rights group Karapatan – Southern Tagalog claims that civilians are harassed, intimidated, tortured and even abducted by suspected military elements. He said these cases have direct impacts on students, such as the campus militarization in 2008 which lead to the eventual forced closure of The Epitome, official student publication of PUP-Lopez.

“The media engages in what can only be termed as self-censorship in omitting mention of issues that may put their lives in danger in the absence of government protection,” Alegre added.

Allan Jay Javier, Chairperson of CEGP-Palawan also pointed out the unresolved killing of environmentalist and radio broadcaster Dr. Gerry Ortega, who was killed due to his hard-hitting comments against mining corporations in Palawan.

“Aquino should wake up from his slumber, and instead of vilifying human rights defenders, must take serious steps in bringing to justice human rights violators, especially those from government and military ranks,” Alegre said.

“But it’s really hard to expect that from someone who came from a family that has its share of a bloody history,” he said, pertaining to the Mendiola Massacre and Hacienda Luisita Massacre that has hounded the Cojuangco-Aquino family for years. #