The Ampatuan massacre: A treason of the spirit

LOS ANGELES—This is a little back story.

There are moments with such magnitude that they must be clearly remembered — whether you were sitting before the television set or reading the blood-curdling headlines. It might serve a purpose to record what a few and surely a multitude more, saw and felt, thought and smelled, of the decay of electoral violence during that single, deadliest attack on the press on November 23, 2009.

Then, the wild careering moment of the multiple murders — the insane kaleidoscope in the camera’s eyes, as it swung and jolted from shocked and restrained photographers running through the chaos, turning into commotion upon discovery of the carnage.

From then on, until today the question is how does one give herself over entirely to an appalling tragedy? Because to evade it was a treason of the spirit.

It is hard to remember the exact sequences of the events that November three years ago — when at least 58 people were massacared, including 32 members of the media, by the hands of a hundred gunmen stopped a convoy on its way to file the candidacy of now Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu.  The hapless victims were systematically murdered in cold blood,  buried into shallow pits or strewn in grasslands by a remote highway, in a barrio in Ampatuan Town.

The incredulity and shock at this immense unreason left no place for an orderly succession in the people’s minds thereafter.

It was, all at once, a scene of dilapidated funeral cars, police cars, bewildered newsmen and civilians. Agonizing faces of orphans in morbidity were flashed once in a while. In silnece, grief echoed the glaring tawdriness of those days that followed into an implacable sequence which defies description.

Now, three years later, those left behind are infinitely weary. They’re beyond commiseration, with their marathon of mourning.

Questions seethed in minds: How in God’s name could the alleged murderers have done these merciless killings in the open? To a jamble of harmless, simple people who were shot at close range? Who on earth could do that and why?

And then, we heard some answers. Incredulity was supplanted by disgust and fury, as outrage took over because of the enormity of the act of violence.

What is lamentable is the slow pace of the trial to this date. The families of the victims of the Ampatuan Massacre are starting to lose hope in the justice system.

Three years have passed, yet nothing has happened to the trial or the case, even as groups across the nation espousing free expression and press organizations marked its third anniversary, calling for the speedy resolution of the case.

Here in Los Angeles, it was a somber memorial Forum for Press Freedom and Human Rights that marked the sixth anniversary of the Maguindanao Massacre held at the FACLA Social Hall in Filipinotown.

Former Malacañang newshen, Nimfa Rueda (our precious link to patriotic endeavors of our colleagues back home) put together a gathering together with media partners such as NUJP, FAPCLA, F7, PPP/USA, and the Pens and Lens Press Club of LA.

The Tribute concert of the NUJP/USA for the Ampatuan tragedy victims was a great evening. It was varied as Andy Tecson’s violin wept, Rhony Laigo’s guitar moaned with this songs, Mat Relox impressive passage of peace, Mon Concepcion offered songs of holy solemnity, the Florantes patriotic longings brought tears.

Because we remember, the mourning never stops.

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