4th year: Kin, colleagues to visit Ampatuan massacre site

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/20 November) — Families and colleagues of the 32 media workers who were slain in the infamous Ampatuan massacre will visit anew the site of the grisly killings on Thursday as part of the commemoration of its fourth year anniversary on November 23.

Rowena Paraan, chairperson of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), said they will visit the site in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao to retrace the events that took place during the massacre.

Fifty-eight people, including 32 media workers, were killed in the massacre, which had been dubbed as the single deadliest event for journalists in history.

“Four years has already passed and justice has yet to be served to the victims. Our visit to the massacre site is a way of renewing our commitment and making the people aware of our continuing quest for justice, not only for the victims of the Ampatuan massacre but for all cases of media killings in the country,” Paraan said.

The scheduled visit to the massacre site on Thursday will be led by the NUJP and the Justice Now Movement, which is composed of the relatives of the massacre victims.

The activity will be joined by media workers from Metro Manila and the cities of Kidapawan, Davao, Cotabato and Koronadal.

A convoy of vehicles will leave this city at around 7 a.m. and they will be joined by another group in nearby Koronadal City.

The other media delegations, especially those coming from the cities of Cotabato, Kidapawan and Davao, will converge in Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat and later join the main convoy in proceeding to the massacre site.

A team from the Philippine Army-led Joint Task Force GenSan and the 1002nd Brigade will join the convoy to Masalay to provide security.

At the massacre site, Paraan said the group will offer flowers and light candles in remembrance of the 58 victims.

Prayers will be offered to the victims by a Catholic priest and an imam, she said.

NUJP and other media groups launched last November 1 the “23-day action against impunity,” marking the countdown to the fourth anniversary of the massacre.

On Friday, Metro Manila-based media workers will lead a “human chain for justice” along the Roxas Boulevard.

On Saturday, the families and colleagues will separately visit the grave sites of the massacre victims, 13 of whom were from this city and 12 others from Koronadal City and parts of South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces.

Members of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines South Cotabato-General Santos chapter will stage the “Speedy Justice Run” in remembrance of its two members who were killed in the massacre.

On Nov. 23, 2009, the victims were on their way to Shariff Aguak in Maguindanao to file the certificate of candidacy of then Buluan vice mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu for governor when their convoy was waylaid in Ampatuan town.

Around 100 gunmen allegedly headed by former Datu Unsay, Maguindanao Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. herded them off to a hilly portion of Masalay where they were brutally killed.

Mangudadatu was spared from the massacre after he sent his wife Genalyn and several female family members to file his candidacy. The media workers were part of the convoy to cover the filing.

The Ampatuan Massacre has since placed the Philippines in the list of the most dangerous countries for journalists.

The massacre prompted groups around the world advocating freedom of expression to declare Nov. 23 as the International Day to End Impunity in 2011. (MindaNews)