Victims’ kin remember, weep | Inquirer News

Victims’ kin remember, weep

/ 02:41 AM November 24, 2011

57 LOST DREAMS ON GROUND ZERO Families of slain journalists offer flowers at the site where 57 people, 32 of them media workers, were mercilessly mowed down by members of a powerful Muslim clan on Nov. 23, 2009, in the town of Ampatuan, Maguindanao province. JEOFFREY MAITEM / INQUIRER MINDANAO

Traveling long distances, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and children on Wednesday came to the memorial service at the massacre site in Sitio Masalay, and quietly wept.

They laid flowers, lit candles, and released doves and white balloons bearing the words “Justice Now.”


Fifty-seven people, including 32 media workers, were killed in the massacre. The body of a supposed 58th victim—journalist Reynaldo Momay—remains missing.


The victims were on their way to Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao to file the certificate of candidacy for governor of then Buluan town Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu. He lost his wife and sisters in the carnage, perpetrated allegedly by armed men led by Datu Unsay town Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr.

Mangudadatu, now the governor of Maguindanao, was then challenging the powerful Ampatuan clan.


Two years after the carnage that put the country on the world map, family members of slain media workers are still calling for justice.

The gruesome massacre was also remembered in other parts of the country and the world. Wednesday was International Day to End Impunity.

Minute of silence

In the courtroom in Bicutan, Taguig City, where the trial of the massacre case is being held, prosecutors, defense lawyers and even the accused stood in silence for a minute before the start of the hearing.

Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes led everyone in the courtroom—lawyers, court staff, police and jail guards, media workers and the victims’ kin—in observing a moment of silence before the start of the morning hearing.

“We wanted to remember the 57 victims with one second each and also our late colleague, Prosecutor Leo Dacera,” said Prosecutor Peter Medalle, who had asked the court for a moment of silence.

Dacera, the former head of the government’s Witness Protection Program, died in November 2010 while working on strengthening the government case in the Maguindanao massacre.

Among those who stood up to remember were eight handcuffed accused in their yellow prison shirts—mostly militiamen—who were present in court because they had not waived their right to attend the trial.

Defense lawyers led by Sigfrid Fortun also stood up and bowed their heads to mark the somber occasion.

Reporters covering the defense and police beats in Quezon City vowed to do their part in bringing to justice those responsible for the massacre.

The Defense Press Corps called on security forces to dismantle private armies and urged authorities to expedite the trial.


“Go tell the world journalists know how to die” were the first words engraved on the memorial marker at the National Press Club (NPC) headquarters in Manila for the 32 media “martyrs.”

Following a motorcade and Mass, the NPC, the Alyansa ng Filipinong Mamahayag, the Burgos Media Center and the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines unveiled late Wednesday afternoon the 5-foot triangular black marker with gold engravings of the slain journalists’ names, media outfits and where they served.

Candle-lighting, flower offering and releasing of yellow balloons followed, while the rest of the evening was spent on showing the concert titled “Unrest.”

Central Luzon

In the City of San Fernando in Pampanga province, some 50 journalists and media workers from the provinces of Bataan, Bulacan and Tarlac gathered in front of Metropolitan Cathedral for a brief program that remembered their fallen colleagues.

Led by members of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), they marched around the city proper to inform the public that media killings must be stopped to protect the citizens’ right to information. They lit candles that were arranged like the outline of a body to represent a slain journalist.

In Nueva Ecija province, a group of students of Central Luzon State University staged a prayer rally to support the campaign against impunity and the killing of media workers.

The students, wearing black shirts and carrying placards, offered prayers and lit candles for the victims of the massacre.

In Baguio City, members of local media organizations planted trees at the Baguio Convention Center compound and held a torch parade to remember the victims of the massacre.

In Pangasinan province, media workers staged a prayer-rally and candle-lighting ceremony in front of the Dagupan City museum to remember their slain colleagues.


A group of beat reporters in Cebu province converged at Sto. Rosario Church on P. Del Rosario Street for a Mass for the victims.

Cebu Daily News, an affiliate of the Inquirer, ran a pooled editorial titled “Self-fulfilling prophecy,” written by Luis Teodoro, former dean of the University of the Philippines-Diliman College of Mass Communication.

The pooled editorial was printed in several member publications of the Philippine Press Institute across the country on Wednesday.

In his editorial, Teodoro lamented the continuing killing of journalists in the country despite the promise made by President Aquino in his first State of the Nation Address (Sona) to “hold murderers accountable.”

“Despite that pledge, six journalists have been killed since then, or a total of 10 since the Nov. 23 Ampatuan massacre,” Teodoro wrote in the editorial.

“After his pledge in his 2010 Sona to prosecute murderers, Mr. Aquino has been surprisingly silent when it comes to both extrajudicial killings and the killing of journalists.”

Noblejas remembered

In Tacloban City, close to 50 journalists attended a Mass at Santo Niño Church at around 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Fr. Oscar Lorenzo, in his homily, called on the government to help the families of the victims attain justice.

After the Mass, the journalists marched from the church to the Ramon “Monching” Noblejas Junction, named after a radio commentator who was shot and killed on Oct. 4, 1987, where a short program was held.

At least 30 journalists held a candle-lighting ceremony at 6 p.m. on Wednesday at the Marker for Fallen Journalists at the public plaza of Bacolod City, Negros Occidental province.

The NUJP will put up a photo exhibit, in cooperation with the Communications Department and the Inter-Disciplinary Studies of the University of St. La Salle.

Memorial shrine

At the memorial shrine that he put up in Ampatuan town, Mangudadatu said, “This place is built to honor those who lost their lives in a cause that ended the power of greed among Ampatuans.”

Speaking before the crowd, Mangudadatu said in almost a whisper that his memories of his wife were still fresh. “I can’t let go. I can move on but not let go,” he said.

“When I go to a mall and see a dress, I would say ‘That’s for Gigi.’ When I go out and partake of a dish, I would say ‘Gigi’s cooking tastes better,’” he said. “I would have embraced her tightly now. I wish she were alive,” the governor added.

But the challenge to make the perpetrators accountable remains because many of them “are still roaming free around Maguindanao,” he said.

“The path we’re taking is still long. But we will finish the fight we are waging together,” he said.

The families of the victims said they appreciated the memorial. “With the shrine plus the development in the area, more people will come here. Then it will send the message about what they died for,” said Marino Ridao, councilor of Cotabato City and father of Anthony Ridao.

Anthony Ridao was not part of the convoy that was on its way to Shariff  Aguak town on that fateful day. The young Ridao was just passing through the highway when the convoy was blocked by armed men.

The elder Ridao proposed to make Nov. 23 a national holiday to allow the people “to contemplate on what happened, and directions to follow to have unity and peace among the tribes here.”


The second anniversary of the massacre was marred by an explosion at 5:15 a.m. near a gasoline station in the town’s center and the discovery of two explosive devices.

“Most likely, the motive was to disrupt the anniversary celebration,” Chief Supt. Felicisimo Khu, chief of the Directorate for Integrated Police Operation in Western Mindanao, said in a text message.

On Tuesday, around 150 people gathered at the massacre site to light candles, offer flowers and prayers for their departed loved ones.

Families of the slain media victims from the cities of General Santos, Koronadal and Tacurong and Isulan town in Sultan Kudarat showed up at the site.

Also on Tuesday, a Mass was offered for the victims by Fr. Robert Reyes.

“This hallowed ground teaches us something profound. Before us is a new marker over the grave of 57 victims of heinous crime. It’s very quiet here like all cemeteries. We sit and are confronted by a different silence though. A silence that speaks more, a silence that shouts. It is angry. It is defiant,” Reyes said.

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He said it was the silence of souls crying out for justice. “We come here to choose to listen to the disturbing silence and to look at the violent emptiness of the killing field of the Maguindanao massacre,” Reyes said. With reports from Philip C. Tubeza Jaymee T. Gamil, DJ Yap and Dona Z. Pazzibugan in Manila; Carmela Reyes-Estrope, Anselmo Roque and Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon; Gabriel Cardinoza, Inquirer Northern Luzon; Carla P. Gomez, Joey Gabieta and Jason Baguia, Inquirer Visayas; and Edwin Fernandez and Aquiles Zonio, Inquirer Mindanao

TAGS: Fr. Robert Reyes, International Day to End Impunity, Sitio Masalay

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