by Inna Cabel and Victoria Uy
Seven years since 58 lives were claimed in the Ampatuan Massacre, the calls of various media and student groups remain the same–break free from the culture of impunity.
In commemoration of the massacre’s 7th anniversary, student leaders launched Tanggulan, a youth network for the defense of human rights and civil liberties at a press conference held at the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Communication (CMC), Nov 23.
“Ngayon higit kailanman nakikita natin ang pangangailangan para sa isang unified campaign sa isang unified protest-struggle for a genuine change mula sa pagsasama-sama ng iba’t-ibang sektor,” said Tanggulan convenor and CMC Representative to the University Student Council Hazel Lobres.
Lobres cited the state neglect experienced during super typhoon Yolanda, the Hacienda Luisita Massacre, the drug-related killings brought about by President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration as well as the burial of former President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani as manifestations of impunity.
International media watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists listed the Philippines as fourth in their 2016 global impunity index.
The Philippines’ ranking was “cemented by its failure to prosecute any perpetrators behind the 2009 massacre in Maguindanao where 32 journalists and media workers were brutally murdered.”
To date, 197 people are accused and 106 are on trial, but no one has been convicted. The main suspect, former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. already died of a heart attack in July last year.
His son, Sajid, was able to run for mayor in Shariff Aguak town in the 2016 elections, but lost to his cousin, Marop Ampatuan. Both are relative newbies to the political scene in a clan active in government since 2001.
Meanwhile, Dabet Castaneda-Panelo of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) urged the “millennial generation” to become bearers of truth in accordance with the current calls of historical revisionism.
“Kasalanan na yung makalimot ngayon,” Castaneda said during the press conference. “Di dapat tayo makalimot. Di dapat tayo tumigil na maningil.”
UP Diliman students, faculty, and staff also showed solidarity in a human chain protest in front of the Quezon Hall, bearing calls condemning the culture of impunity and challenging Duterte to be accountable for the injustices under his administration.
“Wala pong ibang solusyon dito kung hindi gamitin natin ang ating mga lente, mga bolpen, ating talino, at ating kakayahan sa pagsulat upang ipakita sa mga naghaharing-uri na hindi tama ang kanilang ginagawa,” said CMC Student Council Journalism Representative Mikko Ringia.
“Malakas ang kapangyarihan natin kapag sama-sama tayong kumilos,” he added.
Earlier, members of the Ampatuan Massacre victims’ family and various student groups and also marched to Mendiola, Manila to commemorate the single deadliest crime against the press in recent history that took the lives of their kin.
This article is also published in Tinig ng Plaridel’s special print issue centered on the publication’s call to end all forms of impunity.