By ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
“The killings should be stopped! The killing of a journalist is an attack against press freedom!”
These were the words of Mary Grace Morales, 36 years old, whose journalist husband Rosell was among those killed in the gruesome Maguindanao massacre, more than two years ago.
Teary-eyed, she narrates that time when her husband bade her goodbye. Rosell was joining the media in the coverage of the filing of the gubernatorial candidacy of Esmael Mangudadatu, who challenged the Ampatuan political dynasty in Maguindanao. As she understood the work of her husband, she allowed him and her husband left their home in General Santos.
It was the last time she saw him. On November 23, 2009, 58 civilians were massacred by the Ampatuans and their armed followers. Fifty seven of the victims were journalists, including her husband. While members of the Ampatuan clan, who ruled Maguindanao like their fiefdom, were charged in court and some in jail, she and her family’s lives were never the same again.
She struggled to fill the void left by her husband. She needed to be strong and raise their three children: aged 13, 12 and 7.
From her stories were the bad consequences of extrajudicial killings. The killing of her husband was not only a violation to the inalienable right to life. Nor was it just the cutting off of their source of livelihood. She pointed the effects of the killing to the surviving parent and their children, a collateral damage that would never be compensated.
At the Maryknoll Sanctuary in Baguio City, the families of the killed journalists were gathered in a summer camp. Here, various psycho-social activities were launched by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines – with the help of psychologists – to help the kids and the surviving parents slowly recover from their trauma.
“With the NUJP support and the activities, like the summer camp, we slowly overcome the bad experience in our life,” Morales explained.
It was also during their summer camp that the families of the killed journalists founded their organization. They call it Samahan ng mga Pamilya ng Pinaslang na Mamamahayag (SPPM).
“We will closely monitor the cases of the killed journalists,” added Morales as she shared that the cases filed against the Ampatuans in the Maguindanao massacre are moving on at a turtle pace.
NUJP’s facts on the case show that there were 196 suspects in the massacre, 93 of them are in jail while 103 are still at-large. Twenty-eight of the suspects are Ampatuans where six of them are in jail but only two are arraigned.
In a show of legal maneuvering by the Ampatuans and other suspects, their topnotch lawyers filed more than 100 motions, where eight of these were motions for the judge to inhibit himself from the case.
It is from the reality of losing a husband and the Philippine’s slow paced justice system that she resolved to seek for justice. And it is not only for her extra-judicially killed husband and for her family. It is for all the victims of extra-judicial killings and a transformed society – where justice is a reality. # nordis.net