COTABATO CITY, Maguindanao: Today, there will be the usual offering of prayers and flowers as the country remembers a dark blotch in its history: the cold-blooded murder of 58 people, 32 of them members of media.
Six years after the Maguindanao massacre, the families of those mowed down by a powerful clan continue to mourn and seek justice.
Maguindanao Gov. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, whose wife Gennalyn was among those killed, vowed to continue the quest for justice.
“We vowed before the shallow graves of our loved ones to continue the fight for justice. We also promised each other to continue the fight for justice, though elusive for six years now,” Mangudadatu said.
For some, like Hope Teodoro, the long wait has been excruciating, especially with the death recently of one of the principal suspects and the alleged mastermind of the crime—former Maguindanao Gov. Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr.
But true to his name, Hope, whose father Andy Teodoro was among the members of the media believed killed by the private army of the Ampatuan clan on November 23, 2009, remains hopeful that justice will be served them. Teodoro was the News Bureau chief of the Mindanao Inquirer.
“It has been six years since the heinous crime happened, until now all the suspects remain as suspects,” Hope said.
He noted that Ampatuan Sr. died in jail without being convicted.
Hope called on President Benigno Aquino 3rd to make good his promise that the massacre suspects will be convicted before he steps down from Malacanang.
The murder cases against the Ampatuans and more than a hundred suspects are being tried in the sala of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes.
At least 80 other suspects remain at large.
Mangudadatu said his children have not gotten over the loss of their mother.
“They, too, want justice for everyone who were murdered together with their mother.
There is no closure until justice is attained,” he added.
Mangudadatu, who also lost his two sisters in the massacre, admitted that justice remains an “elusive dream” but they are not losing hope. He urged the families of other victims not to give up the fight.
“It’s been too long since the prosecution rested the case against some of the accused.
Obviously, the defense is delaying the presentation of its evidence resulting in the delay of the resolution of the bail of Andal ‘Unsay’ Ampatuan Jr.,” he said.
“Once the bail petition of Unsay is resolved, the prosecution can rest its presentation of evidence and the court will hand down the verdict,” Mangudadatu explained. “We are not losing hope.”
The governor said he and his children last week visited the mass grave where the victims were buried.
The mass grave, located in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman, Ampatuan town, is now surrounded with banana plantations and trees.
This morning, Mangudadatu and the families of the other victims will again converged on the mass grave to pray and offer flowers for the victims.
In the evening, there will be a media fellowship and tribute in Buluan, Maguindanao, to commemorate the massacre.
John Unson, vice president for print media of the Kampilan 6th Infantry Division Press Corps in Camp Siongco, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao, said their members as well as the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) Cotabato Chapter headed by Carlos Bautista will show their solidarity with the relatives of the victims.
“We are joining NUJP in the call to speed up the hearings and beyond that to end impunity,” Bautista said.
“We wish there will be a conviction before President Benigno Aquino 3rd steps down on June 30, 2016. The proper dispensation of justice will also remind people that the media deserves protection from the government,” Unson said.
Journalists and musicians from the cities of Davao, General Santos, Koronadal, Kidapawan and Cotabato will also pay tribute to the victims of the massacre on Monday night in in Buluan.