Some things new, old in Ampatuan massacre site

AMPATUAN, Maguindanao (MindaNews/31 March) – At the mouth of the dirt road leading towards the massacre site in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman, all but two of the photographs of the 58 victims were bundled in a tarpaulin, a grim reminder of the shocking gory manslaughter on November 23, 2009.

In the actual site of the massacre, the building constructed supposedly to protect visitors from rain or shine remained unfinished four months after the first year anniversary of the crime allegedly perpetrated by some members of the Ampatuan clan. The building was rushed for the first year anniversary commemoration, which drew thousands of people.

The two huge gaping holes dug up by a backhoe for the grave of the victims – purposely to hide the bloodbath – also remained as they were, and on them planted various tree species now as fat as the size of a thumb and about knee-high tall.

The white concrete marker bearing the names of the victims, which was unveiled during the massacre’s first year anniversary, gawked eerily with the misspelled names still uncorrected.

For example, Bong Reblando was engraved as Bong Deblando, and Joel Parcon as Joel Arcon. Reblando was reporter of the Manila Bulletin and Parcon was publisher-editor of Prontiera News based in Koronadal City.

Also, there’s Reynaldo Bebot Mumay, when the right surname is Momay, who was photographer of the Midland Review based in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat province.

The marker, at the bottom of which reads “Memoir of Maguindanao Massacre” in all-capital red letters, also showed that the victims include four unidentified students of Notre Dame University when there were no reported victims from that school based in Cotabato City.

John Fuentes, reporter of the Davao City-based Davao Catholic Herald weekly, prayed that justice should be served to the victims.

“Hopefully, no same incident will happen again,” he said at the graveyard late Tuesday afternoon.

At the tarpaulin at the mouth of the dirt road, Momay was victim number 34, and a note in parenthesis reads: “Except for his dentures, he has not been found.”

Momay’s picture was right before the photograph of Genalyn Tiamzon-Mangudadatu, wife of Maguindanao Gov. Esmael “Toto” G. Mangudadatu, who was spared from the massacre because he sent her and several female relatives to file his certificate of candidacy.

There were no photographs of Abdillah Ayada and Meriam Calimbol, both supporters of Mangudadatu, in the tarpaulin hanging under a tin-roofed shade.

Of the 58 massacre victims, 32 of them were media workers, including the unrecovered body of Momay.

Mangudadatu earlier said the provincial government wanted to develop the massacre area into a “tourism site.”

But the building apparently intended for the purpose still has an incomplete roof of iron sheets. There were indications of pilferage of roofing sheets.

The road towards the massacre site appeared to have been maintained, but half-way into ground zero the houses remained deserted.

The massacre was blamed on former Maguindanao governor Andal S. Ampatuan Sr. and his sons Andal U. Ampatuan Jr., former mayor of Datu Unsay town, and Zaldy U. Ampatuan, suspended governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and several other clan members in power until the May 10, 2010 elections.

Ampatuan Jr. allegedly headed more than 100 gunmen in stopping the convoy and later brutally killing the victims some three kilometers off the national highway. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)