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12,000 watch concert for Maguindanao dead

By Pocholo Concepcion, Jeoffrey Maitem
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:49:00 05/19/2010

Filed Under: Maguindanao Massacre, Media killings, Election Violence, Crime and Law and Justice, Entertainment (general), Music

MANILA, Philippines?It was like picking on a raw wound, except that the pain was cathartic.

A crowd numbering more than 12,000 waxed indignant and thankful at the same time as they listened to impassioned music??Protest Broadcast 3,? a benefit concert for the families of the 32 media workers killed along with 25 other people in Maguindanao in November 2009?on Monday night at the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.

Incorporating elements of theater and film, the presentation opened with a reenactment of the massacre, including a showing of video footage taken from the scene of the crime, and the victims? tearful children standing onstage with photos of their departed loved ones.

A striking lineup of musicians known for their socially conscious songs?Joey Ayala, Noel Cabangon, Lolita Carbon, Gary Granada?proceeded to perform.

?Let?s not bury everything with the dead,? intoned Ayala. ?We need to shed light on the truth.?

A similar message was aired Tuesday in Cotabato City by Maguindanao governor-elect Esmael Mangudadatu, whose wife and two sisters were among the 57 people killed.

Mangudadatu said he would put up a monument on the site where the bodies of the victims were found, as a reminder of the Philippines? worst election-related violence.

The victims were on their way to the Maguindanao provincial capitol in Shariff Aguak town on Nov. 23 to file Mangudadatu?s certificate of candidacy when their convoy was waylaid by armed men allegedly led by Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr.

According to police findings, the victims were herded to Sitio Masalay in Barangay Salman of Ampatuan town and executed there.

Their bullet-riddled bodies were discovered one after the other.

Ampatuan Jr. and a number of family members have since been arrested, detained and charged as main suspects or accomplices.

Conflict and bloodshed

At the concert, Ayala played an ominous-sounding cover of Asin?s ?Balita,? his full baritone adding clarity to the song?s tale of violence in Mindanao.

He followed it up with his own composition, ?Tingnan N?yo,? whose agitated rhythms heightened a similar theme of conflict and bloodshed.

Granada offered two of his own songs, ?Kasama,? a tribute to activism, and ?Bahay,? a portrait of poverty.

The crowd roared with anger as Cabangon performed ?Tatsulok,? a song about social inequity. Just as he sang the lyrics ?Alam mo ba kung ano ang puno?t dulo ng kaguluhang ito (Do you know the beginning and end of this mess)?? video shots of primary suspect Ampatuan Jr. flashed on the screen.

Another image flashed onscreen, that of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, drew boos from the crowd while Cabangon sang the classic Pinoy rock tune ?Tao.?

He ended his set with ?Ako ay Isang Mabuting Pilipino,? as he asked the crowd to rise and pledge to behave according to his lyrics of racial pride.

Carbon touched the audience with her songs, her own as well as those of her former group, Asin.

?Kinikilabutan ako (I?m getting goose bumps),? somebody said as the throng shouted its appreciation of the lyrics of ?Gising Na,? ?Cotabato,? ?Usok,? ?Magulang? and ?Masdan Mo ang mga Bata.?

Not a few were misty-eyed as Carbon dedicated ?Himig ng Pag-ibig? to all the bereaved family members.

Charity concerts

The concert was co-presented by Bible Readers Society International and UNTV, whose media officer and four news crew members, respectively, were among those killed.

Most of the people in the audience belonged to Members Church of God International, which broadcasts programs on UNTV.

The production?s title, ?Protest Broadcast 3,? was an offshoot of the first two editions of ?Test Broadcast??a charity concert series for journalists spearheaded by UNTV head Daniel Razon.

Razon himself sang a few songs and acknowledged some VIPs in the audience.

Before the show ended, he called the victims? representatives to receive the net proceeds of the concert. He also announced that the media workers? orphaned children would be granted scholarships.

A representative of Federation of Philippine Industries Inc. formally committed more than P50 million in donations for the victims? families.

The event ended on a raucous note, with Members Church of God head Bro. Eli Soriano appearing in a live video patch from the United States, where he is on exile arising from charges of sexual assault.

Soriano unabashedly lambasted Ms Arroyo, whom he blamed for his troubles.

He also called on ?the next president,? Liberal Party standard-bearer Benigno Aquino III, to put Ms Arroyo behind bars: ?Please prosecute Gloria ... There is something delightful your eyes will discover.?

Newfound freedom

In Cotabato City, Mangudadatu said the planned monument would ?also serve as testament to the newfound freedom of the people of Maguindanao.?

He was referring to his having been elected and proclaimed governor of the resource-rich but impoverished province that was the longtime turf of the Ampatuan clan.

Mangudadatu said the people of the 36-town province would participate in governance.

He said he did not intend to be vindictive, and that he wanted to mend fences with his political enemies.

Former Sultan Kudarat Rep. Pax Mangudadatu said his nephew?s government thrust was in the right direction.

?Let?s punish only the guilty because I believe not all the Ampatuans are involved in the massacre,? the elder Mangudadatu said.

The governor-elect agreed, saying: ?The key to development is peace and reconciliation. There can never be peace and harmony if we are divided. Our people have suffered a lot from never-ending atrocities and armed confrontation.?

Vice governor-elect Ismael Mastura said one of his jobs was to help push Mangudadatu?s peace initiatives.

Mangudadatu said he would tap the services of teachers, the religious and the media in the reconciliation process.

He said peace dialogues and spiritual renewal activities would also be conducted to address the cycle of violence?primarily caused by rido, or family feuds?in Maguindanao, where many people own firearms.

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