BAGUIO CITY — Media workers with various other groups and individuals with lit “saleng” torches marched down Session Road to commemorate the second anniversary of the infamous Maguindanao massacre.On November 23, 2009, 58 people were brutally murdered by armed men identified to belong to the private army of the Ampatuan family in Maguindanao. Of these, 32 were media workers. The killing occurred when the family and supporters of Esmael Mangudadatu went to file his Certificate of Candidacy (CoC) for governor also contested for by Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr.. They were accompanied by members of the local media hoping this would impede harassment or adverse incidents.
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines-Baguio-Benguet Chapter (NUJP-BB) chairperson, Kathleen Okubo said, the significance of the commemoration is a call for everybody to support the campaign for justice not only for the 58 victims but justice also for all the victims of impunity as nurtured by the present government system.
NUJP data shows that 146 Filpino journalists have been killed since the so called restoration of democracy in 1986. Six were killed under the administration of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III. According to the media group, justice remains elusive. Not a single mastermind was ever brought to court. In the case of the Magunidanao massacre, of the 198 suspects, only 95 are in jail and 103 are still at large.
According to the statement of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) on the International Day to End Impunity, the killers set back press freedom and free elections by so many years. The statement added that the massacre earned for the Philippines the dubious distinction of being the site, not only the worst attack on the press in history, but also of a fraudulent democracy.
“The Massacre, however, was also a turning point, and a test of the will and capacity of the Philippine State not only to assure the safety of its citizens, but also of its ability to provide them justice,” read the statement.
The Philippines became second to Iraq as the most dangerous place for journalists.
According to the statement of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), the massacre will be remembered not only for the sheer scale of the atrocity and the staggering number of journalists killed but more than anything, the incident brought into sharp and stark focus the problem of impunity.The declaration of November 23 as the International Day to End Impunity the statement added is both a statement and a challenge to government, the public sector, and the media.
A minute of silence was offered in remembrance of the victims in the program at the Igorot Park.
The commemoration was joined by the Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club (BCBC), Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA), Community Health Education Services and Trainings in the Cordillera Region (Chestcore), Gabriela, Baguio Writers Group (BWG), Philippine Network of Environmental Journalists (PNEJ), Asia Pacific Individual Youth Network (APIN), Cordillera Youth Center, National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL), student groups from the University of Baguio, University of the Philippines Baguio, Saint Louis University, University of the Cordilleras, and Easter College. # NORDIS with reports