Kin to parade makeshift coffins on 3rd anniversary of Ampatuan massacre

GENERAL SANTOS CITY(MindaNews/ 21 Nov) – Coffins fashioned from boxes used to ship large fresh mature tuna are among the props that will highlight the third anniversary commemoration of the Ampatuan Massacre on Friday.

Emily Lopez, president of the Justice Now Movement, said Wednesday that at least six makeshift coffins would be paraded in streets here starting 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 23.

“The coffins are symbolic representation of the 58 victims killed in that grisly massacre. We are using boxed coffins to symbolize the ‘boxing’ of the case,” she said, apparently referring to the slow pace of the court trial three years after the manslaughter.

Lopez said the coffins would be paraded in the city from the SM City General Santos towards the Carlos P. Garcia Park fronting the city hall building, with the theme “March against impunity and for justice.”

From there, the coffins would be motored towards the Forest Lake Memorial Park outside the city proper, where 12 of the 32 media workers slain in the massacre were buried.

Lopez said the families of the media victims finally agreed in a meeting Tuesday, attended by the local chapter of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), that they would no longer go to the massacre site in Sitio Masalay in Barangay Salman, Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

We would not go there as a group, referring to the Justice Now Movement, but we have delegated two or three families to represent us in the massacre site during the third anniversary commemoration, she said.

Edwin Espejo, NUJP chapter chairman, said that security concern was among the factors why the families of the media victims decided not to go to the massacre site.

On Thursday night, a candle lighting activity will be held at the rotunda in Koronadal City, where at least five of the media victims came from.

Lopez said that Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu was invited to attend the commemoration activity at the cemetery here, but as of noontime Wednesday, there’s still no confirmation from his end.

Mangudadatu was expected to lead the third anniversary remembrance at the massacre site.

He lost his wife Genalyn and several female family members to the brutal carnage on November 23, 2009 allegedly perpetrated by some members of the Ampatuan clan, including former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his sons Andal Jr., former mayor of Datu Unsay, and Zaldy, former governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Mangudadatu, then the vice mayor of Buluan town, was spared from the massacre because he sent his wife and several female family members to file his certificate of candidacy (COC) as governor.

The slain media workers were part of the convoy to cover the COC filing.

In Bukidnon, three media organizations decided to jointly mark the anniversary rites.

The Bukidnon Press Club (BPC) and the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (Bukidnon chapter) have backed the commemoration at a local mall in Valencia City Friday afternoon to be led by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines-Bukidnon.

The journalists decided to stage a mock burial with a coffin to represent the death of freedom and justice. Journalists said during discussions that the delay in the justice means justice is denied to the victims.

The groups coordinated with the private sector for the use of a portion of a local mall where the program will be held.

All radio stations, newspaper outlets and bureaus, and online publications, were requested to hang streamers or tarpaulins outside their offices to express sentiments from the media community. Radio hopping was also schedule in the run up to the program.

The officers of the three organizations agreed on the joint commemoration at the end of the two-day Basic Legal Competency Training for Bukidnon Media from Nov. 18-19 at the Farmers’ Training Center in Musuan in Maramag town.

The training, organized by the Bukidnon Press Club, sought to address the need of local journalists for basic training on the legal aspect of reportage.

Lawyer Prima Jesusa Quinsayas, legal counsel of the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists, was the resource speaker in the training. She is also a private prosecutor of 17 victims among the 32 journalists killed in the massacre. (Bong S. Sarmiento and Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)