BACOLOD CITY—“The wheels of justice grind slowly. Where do we turn to for justice?” asked Catholic priest Felix Pasquin in his homily during the Mass that preceded the commemoration on Saturday by 70 journalists, mass communication students from two universities here and members of civil society groups of the Maguindanao massacre.
At least 30 members of Gabriela and Bayan lighted candles and offered flowers at the marker for fallen media workers at the city center here as the country commemorated the fourth anniversary of the gruesome slaughter of 52 persons, more than half of them media workers, in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao province, on Nov. 23, 2009, by militiamen and alleged supporters of the Ampatuan clan headed by then Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr.
At noon on Saturday, militants and journalists held a “die-in” at Rizal Street in front of Bacolod Cathedral to protest what they saw as the Aquino administration’s “trivializing things” when Malacañang issued a statement that the cases of media killings were “not that serious,” despite a Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism report that showed there were 23 journalists killed in the first 40 months of Aquino’s administration.
“Trivializing is worse than lying. It insults people. From wanting to downplay the deaths caused by [Supertyphoon] ‘Yolanda,’ now the government wants us to believe that the killing of journalists is no big deal. This is the most calloused act of this government,” said Julius Mariveles, interim chair of National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) Negros.
“If this government can afford to say that media killings are not serious then there is no hope for justice,” added Nonoy Espina, national director of NUJP.
The NUJP Negros Occidental chapter also called Aquino the “newest endorser” of impunity after Malacañang came out with the statement. Bacolod City Mayor Monico Puentevella, a former president of Negros Press Club, also echoed the calls for justice. “It should be now, not later,” he said.
MassKara Theatre Ensemble of the University of St. La Salle also held a tableau while leaders of journalists’ groups staged the die-in in front of the cathedral. Carla P. Gomez, Inquirer Visayas