By Kristin Sue Jimenez and Sarah Torres
A year after the worst election-related violence in the Philippines, students and teachers of the College of Mass Communication (CMC) unveiled yesterday a marker commemorating the 58 murdered civilians, among whom 32 were media workers.
CMC dean Roland Tolentino said in Filipino that the marker, called ‘Pananda ng Pag-alala at Paglaban,’ symbolizes the college’s resolve in calling for justice for the victims of the Ampatuan massacre.
The International Federation of Journalists declared November 23 as the Global Day of Action for the victims of the massacre in Ampatuan, Mindanao, which made the Philippines the deadliest place for journalists in 2009.
In behalf of the college, he called for an efficient justice system, thorough investigation of the accused, the swift prosecution of the culprits.
The dean urged the Aquino administration to abolish the warlord system and to dismantle private armies.
“Bilang at nandito tayo sa masscom at nagtataguyod ng malaya at mapagpalayang midya sa bansa, patuloy tayong naninindigan para sa kawalan ng katarungan na ito,” said Tolentino.
Former dean Elena Pernia read the college’s statement for the first year of the Ampatuan massacre, describing the trial proceedings as “snail paced” with “only a handful of the 197 accused on trial.”
Call for accountability, end impunity
In the statement, the college urged the Aquino administration to make former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo accountable for ignoring the human rights violations of the Ampatuan political clan in exchange for their support during elections.
Dr. Georgina Encanto, former CMC dean and current journalism professor, read the names of the 32 media workers killed in the massacre as a way to commemorate their sacrifices in the line of duty.
“It is also our way of saying that impunity is an act of the state. We who belong to academe, to civil government, to this nation of Filipinos will not allow the state to continue that impunity,” Encanto said.
The CMC Annex lobby was formally named Press Freedom Hall to commemorate the massacre and to reflect the detrimental status of journalism in the country.
After the unveiling, CMC students and faculty marched around the academic oval as the UP Carillon bells rang 58 times, one peal for each victim who died.
The march ended at Quezon Hall where other UP constituents joined them as they headed to the University of Santo Tomas to join other media and sectoral organizations in a torch parade to the historical Mendiola bridge.
‘Most dangerous place for journalists’
On Nov. 23, 2009, the convoy of Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu was ambushed en route to the Commission on Elections where Mangudadadatu in Sharrif Aguak town, where he was to file his candidacy for governor.
Members of the politically prominent Ampatuan family—including incumbent Gov. Andal Ampatuan, Sr., Mangudadatu’s gubernatorial opponent—were arrested in connection with the massacre and are currently on trial.
Following the massacre Committee to Protect Journalists ranked the Philippines as the most dangerous place for journalists, replacing war-torn Iraq, which was previously ranked #1.