Security tightened ahead of Ampatuan Massacre 4th anniversary

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/11 November)– Security has been tightened in this city and other parts of Region 12 or the Soccsksargen Region in connection with the commemoration of the fourth anniversary of the gruesome Ampatuan massacre on November 23.

Supt. Romulo Estocapio, public information officer of the Police Regional Office 12, said Monday said they have intensified their intelligence monitoring and security operations to avert possible plans by some parties to sabotage upcoming activities in the area in line with the commemoration of the incident, wherein 58 people, including 32 journalists, were killed.

He said that since 2010, the Ampatuan massacre was commemorated annually in memory of the lives that were lost in the killing, which happened in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman in Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

Estocapio cited that in the past years, several sabotage attempts were reported days and hours before the commemoration rites.

Days before the massacre’s first anniversary, he noted that an explosion happened in Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao that injured two persons.

He said that hours before the second anniversary, a blast was heard five kilometers away from the massacre site while government troops recovered near the area two improvised explosives.

“With all its resources and manpower, the PNP (Philippine National Police) is committed to keep the commemoration rites on November 23, 2013 peaceful and secure. Attempts to sabotage the event and related activities will not be allowed,” the official said in a statement.

Estocapio said the entire PNP “is one with the people in honoring the memories of the innocent lives taken from this heart–shattering incident.”

“The victims of the Ampatuan massacre must not be forgotten,” he stressed.

Citing they already have enough of the political clan rivalries that often lead to the killing of the innocent and the defenseless, Estocapio assured the public “that they will not let similar incidents to happen again in the area.”

For his part, Chief Supt. Charles Calima Jr., Region 12 police director, urged the public to be patient and not to lose their hopes.

“Trust that the PNP is committed to help make the people involved in the mass murder accountable for their gruesome actions. Trust also that the entire PNP organization will help ensure that justice for the 58 massacre victims will be served,” he said.

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 Sitio Masalay in Barangay Salman, 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 murderous countries for journalists. The grave nature of the incident prompted free expression groups around the world to declare Nov. 23 as the International Day to End Impunity in 2011.

To date, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said 93 of the accused remain at large, and none of the suspects has been convicted.

At least three crucial witnesses have been killed, while others were barred from testifying. Families were allegedly being offered settlement to withdraw from the case, said NUJP chairperson Rowena Paraan.

Former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his sons Andal Jr. and Zaldy, former governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, were among the primary suspects. They are detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City. (MindaNews)