It isn’t difficult to answer the rallying call to remember the 2009 Maguindanao massacre. Fifty-eight people, including 32 journalists and media workers, were killed in a case of election-related violence brought about by a warlord-coddling government. It is considered the worst case of poll-related violence in the country’s history.
The massacre is also the single worst case of journalist killings in the world – an act so brutal, its anniversary, Nov. 23, has earned the dubious distinction of marking the global day of solidarity in the fight against impunity.
The superlative infamy of the massacre has served to keep the issue burning in the public sphere. Led by the media, human rights groups have been actively campaigning for a quick resolution to the court cases and the full administration of justice for the victims and their families.
As a result of the public clamor, the cases have been fast-tracked: more than 100 suspects face the judge twice a week. Speedy as the cases may be, it has still been estimated that decades could pass before a resolution is reached.
Much hope has been pinned on a successful ending to the Maguindanao massacre tragedy. It seems that the entire country believes that when justice is served on the Ampatuans and the other alleged perpetrators of the murders, the culture of impunity will cease. While winning these cases would be a huge victory in the fight against the string of human rights violations in the Philippines, it carries no guarantee of an end to the struggle.
In spite of the gravity of the Maguindanao killings it remains only one of many instances of violence against journalists, against taxpayers, against human beings. It is a product of a system of corruption, warlordism, dynastic politics and self-preserving “public service.”
The media industry has succeeded in honoring the memory of the 58 who perished in Maguindanao by remaining vigilant in calling not only for justice, but a total end to impunity. By remembering and exerting as much effort in fighting against injustices – even those not directly committed against media practitioners – perhaps it would be possible to keep people, not just memories, alive.
This editorial was edited on Nov. 24, 2011, at 12:30am.