CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/24 May) — Journalists here marked the sixth month of the Ampatuan Massacre with songs, candle-lighting and calls for vigilance during a concert at the Press Freedom monument along Velez Street Sunday night.
Organized by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and the Cagayan de Oro Press Club (COPC), the three-hour concert ended with lighting of candles as the names of the 32 slain journalists were called one by one.
Thirty two of 58 victims of the Ampatuan Massacre on November 23, 2009 were from the media. The victims were on their way to the provincial office of the Commission on Elections to cover the filing of the certificate of candidacy of Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu by his wife Bai Genalyn and his sisters and aunts. Mangudadatu was running for governor against Datu Andal Ampatuan, Jr.,
The convoy from Buluan was stopped along the highway of Ampatuan town, and along with six occupants of two vehicles that happened to pass at the wrong time, was herded towards Sitio Masalay in Barangay Salman, some 3.5 kilometers uphill from the highway, where they were gunned down.
“The massacre has united the otherwise fractious press club. It has also revitalized the relationship between the press club and the NUJP,” said Herbie Gomez, editor-in-chief of the Gold Star Daily and a director of the COPC.
“This unity would not be here if there has been no threat to us. In a way, the massacre has united the journalists into the banner of press freedom,” Gomez said.
At least 50 journalists listened to colleagues perform on a stage with the Press Freedom monument as background.
They also listened to NUJP national director Rowena Paraan who gave an update of the cases filed against the Ampatuan clan.
Art Bonjoc, ABS-CBN news manager, said journalists here are preparing for a bigger concert on Nov. 23, 2010, as the country marks the first anniversary of the massacre.
Like last night’s concert, Bonjoc said the concert on Nov. 23 will be staged and performed by local journalists. (Text and photos by Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)