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Maguindanao massacre anniversary: Aquino reminded of poll promise

/ 06:51 PM November 23, 2014
Journalists carry torches and display placards bearing the photos of victims of the massacre of 58 people, 32 of them journalists, as they march towards the Justice Department in Manila Friday, Nov. 21, 2014 ahead of Sunday's 5th year commemoration of the massacre in Maguindanao, Southern Philippines. The journalists lamented the slow pace of the trial of the Ampatuan clan, the prime suspects in the massacre as well as 196 others accused in the carnage. The massacre of 58 people is the country's worst election violence. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

Journalists carry torches and display placards bearing the photos of victims of the massacre of 58 people, 32 of them journalists, as they march towards the Justice Department in Manila Friday, Nov. 21, 2014 ahead of Sunday’s 5th year commemoration of the massacre in Maguindanao, Southern Philippines. The journalists lamented the slow pace of the trial of the Ampatuan clan, the prime suspects in the massacre as well as 196 others accused in the carnage. The massacre of 58 people is the country’s worst election violence. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

BULUAN, Maguindanao – Jergi Malabanan, daughter of Gina dela Cruz, one of the 58 killed in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre, was fidgety as her turn to take the stage on Saturday night was nearing.

“So many people,” she said as she walked back and forth at the backstage of the gymnasium here – where some 5,000 people attended Saturday night’s media jam and tribute to victims of the Maguindanao massacre.

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Malabanan, 21, confessed she was not a born singer but added she agreed to brave the crowd to pay tribute to her mother, Gina, a reporter of the General Santos City-based Mindanao focus.

When her turn came, she belted out two tunes that she said were her mother’s favorites – including Irene Cara’s “Fame.”

“She used to sing it a lot,” she later said as her eyes rolled, as if trying to hold back her tears.

“Of course, I miss her. No word could describe how I feel. The anger is still there because after all these years, the perpetrators have not been punished,” Malabanan said.

“But I’m not losing hope that justice would be served,” she added.

Before Malabanan paid tribute to her mother by singing her favorites, media personalities took turns in playing songs in memory of the massacre victims.

Junjie Dimacutac of dzRH nailed various country songs and a composition titled “Nobyembre 23.”

“I wrote this song so that we may not forget the day,” Dimacutac said.

Joseph Jubelag of the Manila Bulletin, who organized the media jam, also brought in a four-piece backup from General Santos City and played various blues and Pinoy rock songs such as Juan dela Cruz “Balong Malalim.” The title, according to another journalist, appeared to describe the pit that the slain Maguindanao massacre victims were dumped into by the killers that used backhoes.

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Other songs played at the media jam night were the ones performed by the 8th project Band of Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Allan Nawal – which included Journey’s “Separate Ways” and “Don’t Stop Believing,” Vixen’s “Love is a Killer,” Steel Heart’s “She’s Gone” and Survivor’s “Ever Since the World Began.”

Famed artist Freddie Aguilar, who has converted to Islam, capped the night with his most popular songs.

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu said the media jam night helped revive memories of those who fell in the gruesome crime and create awareness of the case among the young.

“You now know that five years have passed and we are still seeking justice,” he said in his speech.

Mangudadatu said the pain of losing a loved one could only be eased with justice. “We are not losing hope,” he added.

On Sunday, Mangudadatu visited the massacre site in Barangay (village) Salman in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao. His wife, sister and supporters, and 32 media workers were among those killed in the massacre five years ago.

In Davao City on Saturday, media groups lashed out at President Aquino for failing to deliver justice to the victims of the Ampatuan massacre despite his campaign promise to do so.

Nonoy Espina, director of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) who spoke during the Davao Media’s World Press Freedom Forum here on Saturday, said Aquino failed to make the critical move to put a stop to the killings of journalists in the country, but instead, had issued several statements that tended to justify the killings.

“There’s only one thing that the President should do but which until now the President has failed to do: issue an unequivocal order to stop the killings and punish the perpetrators,” said Espina.

“Not a single President has ever issued such an order to stop the killing of journalists and so, the killing continued,” he added.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, in the same forum, pointed out that justice for the victims of the Ampatuan massacre and the passing of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill were among the two important campaign promises that President Aquino made when he was still running for office in 2010, but which until now, he failed to deliver.

“If you remember, they even made the video with Myrna Reblando, wife of victim Bong Reblando, on the eve of the elections, endorsing Aquino, for she believed the President can deliver justice to the victims–but where is Reblando now?” Zarate asked.

“She is in Hong Kong, seeking asylum because the government cannot protect her from threats to her life,” Zarate said.

Aside from the sweeping mention of the Ampatuan massacre during the President’s first State of the Nation address (Sona), the President has not said anything about the progress of the trial of those accused in the massacre in his succeeding SONAs, Zarate added.

“Now, these politicians are already showing us their real colors,” Zarate said.

Espina said the failure to deliver justice to the victims of the Ampatuan massacre will only worsen the state of impunity in the country and will embolden the other killers.

“We’re often called the freest press because the Philippine press is the noisiest press in Asia but are we really free?” he asked. “The freest press is the most murdered press: 177 journalists since democracy was restored in 1986, not one mastermind was punished. So, how can we be free?” Espina said, adding that the Philippines still ranked number 3 in the list of most dangerous places for journalists prepared by the international group, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

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TAGS: 8th Project Band, Allan Nawal, Asylum, Bayan Muna partylist, Benigno Aquino III, Bong Reblando, campaign promises, Carlos Isagani Zarate, commemoration, Committee to Protect Journalists, concert, courts, Crime, death anniversary, Death threats, dzRH, Esmael Mangudadatu, Freddie Aguilar, Gina dela Cruz, Global Nation, Hong Kong, Impunity, Jergi Malabanan, Joseph Jubelag, Junjie Dimacutac, Justice, killings of journalists, law, litigation, Maguindanao massacre, Manila Bulletin, most dangerous places for journalists, multiple murder, Murder, Myrna reblando, National Union of Journalists in the Philippines, Nonoy Espina, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Philippine president, Politics, remembrance, songs, trials
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