Security measures up for 3rd year anniversary of Ampatuan Massacre

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/ 19 November)—Security preparations for the third anniversary of the infamous Ampatuan massacre are being finalized to thwart possible attempts to sabotage the commemoration, a military official said Monday.

Hundreds are expected to troop to the massacre site in Sitio Salman, Barangay Masalay in Ampatuan, Maguindanao on November 23 to pay tribute to the victims of the carnage three years ago that killed 58 civilians, 32 of them journalists and media workers.

Col. Prudencio Asto, 6th Infantry Division spokesman, said among their security concerns is the road safety of those that will be coming to the massacre site.

“We are still determining which [Army] troops will be deployed to secure the event,” said Asto, speaking on the phone while the security conference for the third year massacre anniversary was in progress.

Asto said that security forces, which include members of the Philippine National Police, will provide escorts if the situation warrants it, although he added that the area’s security condition remain in a “normal status.”

A state of emergency, however, still prevails over the provinces of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat and Cotabato City, which was declared by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in the aftermath of the November 23, 2009 massacre.

Asto said they are also discussing where to position the reporters that would be covering the event on Friday.

Families and friends of the civilians and media workers that were killed in the grisly manslaughter were expected to offer prayers and light candles at the massacre site.

Emily Lopez, president of the Justice Now Movement, the association of families of the killed media workers, said build-up activities have been lined up in the rundown to Friday in the cities of Koronadal and General Santos, where most of the media victims resided.

These include candle lighting, tying of red ribbons, mounting of placards and local media interviews that would start on Tuesday, she said last Saturday.

The theme of the third year massacre anniversary commemoration is “march against impunity”, Lopez said.

At least 196 people have been accused in the worst pre-election related violence in the country and the single largest attack against media workers anywhere else.

Of the figure, nearly 100 suspects have remained free to date.

Among the key suspects are members of the powerful Ampatuan clan.

Those jailed include former Maguindanao governor Andal S. Ampatuan Sr.; Zaldy Ampatuan, former governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao; Andal Ampatuan Jr., former mayor of Datu Unsay town; Sajid Islam Ampatuan, former Maguindanao vice governor; Akmad “Tato” Ampatuan Sr., former Mamasapano mayor; Anwar Ampatuan Sr., former Shariff Aguak mayor; and Anwar “Ipi” Ampatuan Jr.

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, who lost his wife and several female family members in the massacre, is also expected to go to the site on Friday.

Mangudadatu had sent his female family members that fateful day to file his certificate of candidacy when the convoy was stopped and herded to a hilly portion where they were brutally killed. The media workers were part of the convoy to cover the filing of the COC. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)