A THOUSAND DAYS AGO, 58 people were brought to a a remote area of Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman, in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao. There, on the side of a hill, they were executed in one of the worst cases of election violence in the country, and the worst incident of violence against journalists in the world.
Of the 58 people who were murdered, 32 were media workers who were in the area to cover the filing of the election papers of Maguindanao gubernatorial candidate Esmael Mangudadatu at the Commission on Elections office in Shariff Aguak. Mangudadatu was running against the Ampatuan clan, a powerful and influential family that had dominated the province and the region for more than a decade.
The Maguindanao Massacre appeared to have set a new standard for brutality. Some of the bodies were thrown into mass graves, then covered with a thin layer of dirt before their crushed vehicles were pushed into the mass graves and buried with them. The other victims were left to lie in the sun for hours.
Later forensic investigation showed that some of the victims were shot while still inside their vehicles, while the others were dragged outside and shot. Bullet casings recovered in some of the vehicles tended to show that the perpetrators shoved their assault rifles all the way through the vehicle windows to shoot their victims at very close range. One victim managed to run away for several meters before he was shot dead.
The suspects were identified as senior members of the Ampatuan clan, led by the clan patriarch, former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. Charges of multiple murder have been filed against almost 200 people, including senior members of the Ampatuan clan, members of their private army, as well as officers of the local Maguindanao police who allegedly assisted the killers. The case has been pending with the Quezon City Regional Trial Court for almost three years, with still no end in sight. So far, only two of the Ampatuans have been arraigned in court – Andal Sr. and his son, Andal Ampatuan Jr. After three years, former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Governor Zaldy Ampatuan is still to be arraigned, having successfully blocked his arraignment through a host of legal maneuvers.
The story of Maguindanao is the story of impunity, of power gone wild, and of the power of patronage; it is the story of those who are blind only because they refuse to see, and those who are powerless because they refuse to act. And it is the story of courage, a virtue of those who are afraid, but who still choose to act.
The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism is reposting links to several videos the Center has produced about the Maguindanao Massacre. These include two of the documentaries so far produced on the massacre itself, as well as shorter news items on the continued power and influence exerted by the Ampatuan family in the region.
MAGUINDANAO: THE QUEST FOR JUSTICE is the second documentary on the massacre produced by the PCIJ, and released during the second anniversary of the massacre in November 2011. The documentary was also shown in GMANewsTV, the news channel of GMA Network. It chronicles attempts by alleged emissaries of the Ampatuan clan to strike a settlement with relatives of the victims for the withdrawal of the case. Too, the documentary shows the vast extent of the financial resources of the Ampatuans, and their continued clout in the region.
MAGUINDANAO: ISANG TAON was the first documentary on Maguindanao produced by the PCIJ, and shown on the ABS-CBN News Channel in 2010, for the first anniversary of the massacre. The documentary chronicles the plight of the relatives of the victims as they come to grips with their new reality. It also shows the slow pace of the criminal case against the Ampatuan family.
The story above was also produced by the PCIJ and shown on TV5. It shows in greater detail the resources of the family by detailing the number of mansions and bank accounts that are known to be in the name of the Ampatuans. As well, the story shows how delays and bureaucratic red tape have slowed government attempts to impose a freeze order on the assets to prevent their dissipation.
Lastly, the story above, THE CURIOUS CASE OF MAGUINDANAO’S POPULATION, was produced by the PCIJ early in 2011. While it does not deal directly with the Maguindanao Massacre, it is instructive and unique in that it shows how government statistics may have been tampered with in order to channel more resources into the black hole that Maguindanao had become.
Throughout these stories run a common thread. It is the thread of impunity, the ability of some to exercise their will on other people in spite of all the laws of the land and all the rules of humanity.