TODAY, 57 months after the Ampatuan Massacre, justice has yet to be had for 58 people who were murdered on a hilltop in the village of Masalay in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao province.
Exactly 57 months ago today, armed men believed to be under orders from some members of the Ampatuan family, brutally killed the victims who were on their way to deliver the certificate of candidacy of Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu who challenged the Ampatuans for the governorship of Maguindanao province.
Thirty-two of the victims were journalists and media workers.
The multiple murder cases against more than 100 accused – including some members of the Ampatuan clan that were identified as the alleged masterminds – have dragged on for years. Lately, private prosecutors made public their disagreement with the decision of public prosecutors to rest the case against 28 of the co-accused. Some families of the victims have also confirmed attempts by the Ampatuan family to pay them millions of pesos in exchange for withdrawing from the case.
The Committee to Protect Journalists has called the Ampatuan Massacre as the single deadliest attack against journalists. The International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) has declared November 23 as the International Day to End Impunity – a day that IFEX has dedicated not only to the victims of the massacre but all those who have been targeted for “exercising their right to freedom of expression, and to shed light on the issue of impunity.”
PCIJ’s Julius D. Mariveles and Cong B. Corrales read their poems in this slideshow of photos taken by Mariveles in 2010 at the massacre site during the first year commemoration.
Mariveles’ poem written in Hiligaynon is titled “Lima Ka Napulo kag Walo,” 58 in the local language, and talks about the slow grind of the wheels of justice. Corrales’ “Ang Pinakamadilim na Tanghali” or “The Darkest Noon describes the Ampatuan Massacre.
Today, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines is leading the commemoration rites at the NCCP Grounds, Quezon Avenue, EDSA. Those who want to attend are requested to wear black.