Ampatuan massacre remembered

Several students of the University of St. La Salle in Bacolod City lighted candles in the school premises Wednesday, November 23, to commemorate the 13th year of the Ampatuan massacre, which was considered as the deadliest single attack on journalists in the world.

The commemoration rites was led by the USLS Communication Society, which also unveiled a two-day exhibit that featured updates on the case 13 years after.

Andrew Matthew Ortoño, society president, said the people involved in the inhumane event that happened on Nov. 23, 2009 is a “manifestation that freedom is still curtailed by those who are in power, and justice remains elusive to people like us—people who are mere commoners in the society.”

“The 32 fallen heroes were a few of the many journalists who lost their lives just in uncovering the truth. The truth that is still pushed back behind close doors by the continues spur of threats, killings, and money-fueled maneuvers against our own journalists,” he added.

He also hopes that this annual commemoration “remind us all that we should never forget, never stop seeking justice, and never let our silence free the oppressors.”

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, who was represented by its national director Marchel Espina at the rites, said that forgetting is still not an option.

“We note as well that it is also almost three years since the families of the victims received partial justice through the conviction of 28 people, including masterminds Datu Andal Jr and Zaldy Ampatuan, for 57 counts of murder. Fifteen other people were convicted as accessories to the murders. According to an update from the Office of the Press Secretary last week, an appeal by prosecutors has led to the conviction of another accessory, bringing the number of convicted to 44. Meanwhile, 83 accused in the murder cases are still at large,” the NUJP said.

Part of the call for justice is the recognition that there were 58 victims of the massacre and that the trial should include the murder of Reynaldo Momay, whose dentures were found at the massacre site and who was confirmed to have joined the coverage on Nov. 23, 2009, the group said.

NUJP joins them and the journalism community in this call. “We offer them our solidarity and support and the commitment to continue following up and reporting on the case until the families get the full justice that they deserve,” it added.

“While we are saddened and enraged that the culture of impunity on attacks against journalists continues to reign, we take solace in the solidarity among our ranks and with other press freedom advocates,” it said.*

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