journalists in peril
More than 34 (some articles state the number as 18) journalists were massacred on November 23, 2009 in the Philippines. The Committee to Protect Journalists has called the Maguindanao massacre in the Philippines the single deadliest event for journalists in history.
Two days before the incident, the mass grave was prepared using a backhoe.
Statement of GMA Network on the Maguindanao massacre
We are no longer who we were before Monday. In the annals of political violence in the Philippines, there have been no parallels to the slaughter that occurred on the lonely road to Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao on November 23.
57 unarmed civilians all, the majority of whom were media professionals, most of the victims were enroute to perform basic functions in a civilized democracy: the Mangudadatu women were to file certificates of candidacy; the lawyers were to provide legal advice; and the journalists were to bear witness on behalf of the public and to report on an important event without fear or favor.
All of these roles are essential for a political system where power is meant to be transferred without violence.
What met them in a town recently renamed Ampatuan was the exact opposite: a force and mentality that invoked the barbarity of more primitive times.
The crime that occurred in Ampatuan was uniquely savage, but it was also an extreme example of the violent tendency in our politics. At the other extreme are the many citizens who are bravely committed to the difficult and complex process of peacefully deciding who our leaders should be, such as those souls who perished on Monday.
It is this tension between savagery and peaceful process that has marked our electoral history. Those are the most critical choices in 2010.
Much will depend on how the government reacts in the coming days. For what is emerging is evidence that the assailants were not outside the law but part of the political machinery of local officials backed by the Arroyo administration.
The President so far has ordered a thorough investigation and declared a state of emergency in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, and Cotabato City. Philippine National Police Director General Jesus Verzosa has relieved six PNP officials in Maguindanao.
We trust that this is just the beginning of a series of actions that will bring all of the perpetrators to justice, including the warlords who orchestrated this bloodbath.
If they are permitted to escape harsh punishment, it will clearly be a vote for barbarity and for the other savage armies prepared to assault our maiden automated elections.
As we wait for action, we grieve. We grieve for the believers in a democratic system who paid with their lives. We grieve for the martyred journalists who believed the Constitutional protection of their rights was enough.
By travelling without arms to perform their democratic duties in hostile territory, the 57 made their choice. We honor their example and sacrifice, as their fate continues to chill our bones. As fellow believers, we could have easily been them.
Ampatuan surrenders, to be flown to Manila
By Abigail Kwok
INQUIRER.net, Inquirer Mindanao
SHARIFF AGUAK – (UPDATE ) A key suspect in the gruesome killings in Maguindanao province and member of a powerful clan in Mindanao has surrendered to authorities and would be flown to Manila.
Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., son of Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., has been identified as having masterminded the massacre last November 23 that claimed the lives of at least 57 people, including 18 journalists who were supposed to cover the filing of candidacy for governor of the Ampatuans’ political rival, Buluan Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu.
We usually think of journalists who are in war zones as being in danger; that isn’t always (and only) the case.