EACH year for the past 10 years, the families of the victims of the country’s worst election-related violence and the world’s deadliest single attack against journalists gathered at the site of the massacre to express their grief and strong demand for justice.
A decade had passed but they still cry for one thing – to end impunity. They want to stop reliving the mockery of disregarding the lives of their fallen loved ones. They want the Ampatuans to pay. Ten years was too long a wait – the traumatized families’ chance at redemption long gone.
On November 23, 2019, the 10th year anniversary of the massacre, justice remained elusive for the victims of the carnage. Still, the families seek for a conviction of the perpetrator of the death of 58 individuals, where 32 were members of the media, who were on their way to cover the filing of the certificate of candidacy of then Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu for governor of Maguindanao against Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr.
The promulgation was supposedly on November 20, but Quezon City Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes pleaded for a 30-day extension due to the huge volume of overall testimonies and evidences. The Supreme Court granted the request, and now, if there would be no changes, the decision should be handed down on or before December 20.
A private prosecutor for the early dealings of the case lawyer Nena Santos said, “If there will be no conviction, I am sorry to say that press freedom in the Philippines is dead.” Santos expects a guilty verdict for at least the principal suspect – Andal Jr., Zaldy, and Sajid Ampatuan. Indeed it is true because otherwise, she said that democracy loses its point and impunity will remain prevalent in our country.
According to the 2018 Global Impunity Index, the Philippines is ranked fifth, which is considered an “improvement” as it was ranked fourth last 2016, among countries with the worst records of indicting the killers of journalists. This makes journalism as one of the most dangerous jobs in the Philippines.
The role of the media as watchdog in the country is truly crucial as it battles to maintain its integrity to provide the truth to the Filipino people which make journalists and media personnel vulnerable to attacks. It’s where the codependency of the media and the people comes in.
The culture of impunity in the country is truly unsettling as the power remains with those minority who hold power or influence which is evident in the Maguindanao massacre as the people have waited 10 agonizing years for justice that has been long overdue. But there is power in the citizens’ voices and collective action to communicate their demand for justice and liability which is proven by the refusal to be silenced in this repudiation of justice. Althea Amaga and Allison Gomez, Communication, Malayan Colleges Mindanao