Ampatuan Massacre site comes back to life

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MASSACRE SITE, Ampatuan, Maguindanao (MindaNews/01 November)—Almost five years after the grisly massacre here of 58 people, including 32 media workers, a lot of things have changed in the once deserted area.

Corn, oil palm and bananas are now teeming over the landscape, which, according to some residents following the brutal manslaughter, reverberated with alleged haunting noises that triggered them to vacate the place.

At the eve of All Saints’ Day, MindaNews visited the massacre site and saw a community rising once again after years of isolation.

A family now even stayed several meters down the grave dug by a backhoe where the victims were buried by the perpetrators to hide the crime.

Acrima Abdulkarim, 40, said they came back two years ago and rebuild their lives, despite the purported ghost sightings believed to be the souls of the victims.

We’re more afraid of the return of the armed suspects than the ghosts that they said to appear here. We have not felt the presence of ghosts,” Abdulkarim told MindaNews in Filipino.

Unlike before, it’s now easier to reach the massacre site with most of the road already concreted.

The trees planted during the yearly commemoration in the vicinity of the massacre site by journalists, soldiers and members of civil society have grown taller also.

Some of the tombstones of the victims, as seen last rainy Friday afternoon, were flooded, however.

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Rains flood the tombstones of the Ampatuan Massacre victims on Friday, October 31, 2014. MindaNews photo by Ferdinandh Cabrera

The Ampatuan Massacre on November 23, 2009 in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman in Ampatuan town was the deadliest election-related violence in the country and the largest single deadly attack against press workers anywhere else in the world.

Key members of the Ampatuan family suspected of involvement have been arrested and currently detained in a jail in Metro Manila while court proceedings that began on January 5, 2010 continue.

They include former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his sons Andal Jr., former mayor of Datu Unsay town, and Zaldy, former governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The victims were to file the certificate of candidacy (COC) for governor of then Buluan vice mayor Esmael Mangudadatu, who eventually won the contest in the May 2010 polls.

Their convoy was flagged down by around 200 gunmen then commandeered towards a hilly portion where they were massacred. Some of the victims were civilians who passed by the road at the wrong time.

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

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