FIFTY-EIGHT. Candles were lighted to remember the victims of the worst election-related crime in recent history. Photo by Adrian Jimenea/UPV Media.com
Seven years after 58 people were slaughtered, 32 of whom were journalists, in Ampatuan Maguindanao, the UPV community held a series of activities to commemorate the victims of the massacre and at the same time called for the end of impunity and media killings in the country.
Together with the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), journalism (CMS 131 and CMS 134) classes under Dr. Zoilo Andrada, Jr., sponsored a screening of “58,” a documentary by Patricia Evangelista and Kiri Dalena, on Tuesday, November 22.
The documentary showed what happened a year after what is considered as the single worst incident of media killings in history.
A forum with NUJP National Director Nestor Burgos followed the screening where he talked about the slow movement of the cases filed against the Ampatuan clan, the alleged mastermind behind the massacre. Burgos revealed that after seven years, no convictions have been made and that four of the witnesses against the Ampatauns have been killed since trial started.
Burgos also traced the delay back to the changes in counsel by the defense, which has happened four times already. He said that a change in counsel means the lawyers could ask for an extended time to review the cases. This can delay hearings and other proceedings of the court.
When asked if he thinks justice is still within reach for the victims, Burgos admitted that “there is still a long way to go” since the most families of victims rely solely on free aid in the trials while the defense have the resources and power.
No more names to light for
Following the program, the UPV community lighted candles in memory of the victims near the dorm area on November 23, the same day the massacre happened 7 years past. Joining the crowd were representatives from student organizations as well as teachers who shared their testimonies towards the heinous killing.
Humanities Division faculty member Katherine Valencia shared that she was able to talk to one of the families of the victims when she was working for the now defunct GMA Bacolod. “This is close to my heart as I was a working reporter when the massacre happened,” she said.
The candle-lighting ceremony also had students share messages of solidarity as they called for justice for the families of the victims and joined the rally for the end of media killings in the country.
Janelle Marahay, a fourth years CMS major, shared that the event not only acknowledged the mistreatment of journalists in the country but also because it is a reminder that there is hope. “Hope that until it is so [justice served], in the next few years, there will be more candles light, but no new names to light them for,” she stated.
In January, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) ranked the Philippines as the second most dangerous country for journalists. The only country fell short behind Iraq.
The candle lighting ceremony ended with a number by students as they sang “Pilipinas Kong Mahal” while the image of “58” was being lit by the attendees.