MANILA, Philippines - International media groups yesterday joined the commemoration of the fifth anniversary of the Maguindanao massacre.
Along with local journalists and human rights organizations, participants of the Journalism Asia Forum and the Uncovering Asia Conference in Manila joined in a million candle lighting activity in marking the fifth anniversary of the Maguindanao bloodbath.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) yesterday joined the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility in unveiling an art installation at the Bantayog ng Bayani in Quezon City.
The IFJ sent an international mission to the country last week. The representatives, along with relatives of the victims, revisited the massacre site on Nov. 21.
The mission also met with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Undersecretary Jess Yu on Nov. 22 to discuss updates on the massacre case and the conditions of Filipino journalists five years after.
The Danish Union of Journalists and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) also sent solidarity messages in commemoration of the massacre.
“The annual meeting of the European Federation of Journalists sends a strong message of support and encouragement to the Philippine union of journalists on the 5th anniversary of the Ampatuan massacre, the worst killing of journalist known in modern history,” read the EFJ statement.
“Five years later, not a single person has been convicted for participating in the bloodshed,” it added.
The EFJ demanded justice for all the slain journalists, and urged authorities to ensure that the massacre trial will be completed without further delay.
The Board of the Freelance Group of the Danish Union of Journalists stressed that violence against journalists is still going on.
“Dozens of journalists in the Philippines have been threatened, attacked and killed in the past five years while impunity continues to rule,” said the group.
“We have not forgotten Nov. 23, 2009. A crime against any journalist is a crime against us all,” it added.
In addition to the massacre, the University of the Philippines-College of Mass Communications (UP-CMC) said it also remembers the other events related to impunity, including the Hacienda Luisita massacre and the murder of botanist Leonard Co.
“We take this opportunity to remind the government of its utter disregard for the people’s basic rights. It has not done enough to protect and uphold the people’s welfare, much less give justice to the victims of human rights violations like the massacre of 58 people,” said the UP-CMC.
“As we repeat the call to end the culture of impunity in the country, we call on the people to remember the month of November beyond the massacre. The culture of impunity goes beyond media killings,” it added.
During the visit at the massacre site last Friday, relatives of some of the victims wrote a letter for Pope Francis, who is set to visit the country in January.
“Our relatives are not perfect,” read the letter written in Filipino. “They also commit mistakes and sometimes forget about the teachings of our Lord. But for them to be killed and buried like animals is unacceptable.”
The relatives called on the pope to help them seek justice for their slain relatives.
“Give us the strength to continue our struggle for justice,” read the letter.
Earlier, relatives of some media men killed in the Maguindanao massacre trial asked the government to apologize for the incident, saying the state failed to provide effective remedy and reparations to the victims.
Alejandro Reblando Jr., son of slain Manila Bulletin reporter Alejandro Reblando Sr., asked why the government agreed to apologize and compensate relatives of slain foreigners, but not those who died in the massacre.
He was referring to the families of those who died in the bloody hostage taking involving Hong Kong nationals in Manila in 2010 and the fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman in 2013. – Edith Regalado