MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/24 November) — Journalists in Bukidnon yesterday marked the first anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre with an exhortation to learn from the lessons of a carnage that left 58 people dead, 32 of them media workers.
“They may have killed the messengers but they cannot kill the truth,” Fr. Jonathan Tianero, station manager of radio station DXDB said in his homily in the mass at the San Isidro Cathedral to commemorate the incident.
Tianero said journalists should never come to view evil as normal just because it is everywhere.
“We have seen so much death, so much theft, so much corruption, so much evil. But it should not desensitize us,” he added.
“The death of fellow journalists should strike us, it should awaken us,” he said.
“If the attacks kill us (as an effect of fear) so be it, but we should not lose our humanity,” he stressed.
Tianero said the local commemoration is a way for journalists to proclaim that life is meaningful.
He added the situation of journalists under a culture of impunity is an experience they share with the people.
Journalists, mostly from radio stations attended the mass as part of the local commemoration.
Regional Trial Court 10 Executive Judge Josefina Bacal and local lawyers attended the mass.
One of the victims, Cynthia Oquendo, headed the Public Attorney’s Office here before returning to her hometown, Polomolok in South Cotabato, to work as a private lawyer.
After the mass, local journalists walked from Plaza Rizal to the Freedom Park with lit candles.
At the steps of the Freedom Park, now known as the City Covered Court, they held a short program, listened to updates and sharing, and offered prayers.
Most of the sharing condemned the massacre and noted the slow progress of the murder cases that have been filed against certain members of the Ampatuan clan of Maguindanao, the principal suspects in the massacre.
Some of the speakers said the lessons learned from the experience may help strengthen the local media.
“We should not let a day pass without marking this gruesome crime against our colleagues,” said Sandra Flores, former reporter of the Radio Mindanao Network’s DXMB AM station.
Patricia Nicole Balboa, editor in chief of the Bukidnon National High School’s Filipino school paper, said high school students like her took part in the event because they want a safer place for journalists of her generation.
Towards the end of the candle-lighting activity, around 150 members of progressive groups marched from Plaza Rizal where they held a protest against the massacre and joined the journalists.
Earlier, Tianero, the incoming chairperson of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas Bukidnon chapter said local journalists must derive both memories and hope from the massacre.
The priest spoke at the opening of the MindaNews photo exhibit at the Bukidnon State University Ethno-cultural Museum.
Dubbed “Sudden Death, Slow Justice,” the exhibit runs from November 23 to 30, 2010.
Most of the newspapers and radio stations in Bukidnon were represented in the day-long commemoration of the massacre. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)