Three Years After

This day marks the 3rd year, the 1,096th day of the gruesome Ampatuan Massacre, a horrible event in our history where 58 people were killed, 34 of whom were journalists or working for the broadcast industry. Justice is yet to be served, but do you still care?

It seems like the attention of the public on this issue is slowly going to the depths of the abyss of the forgotten. It’s in one of the infamous characteristics of the Filipinos. We have a short attention span. We tend to forget our past easily. Mabilis makalimot. Mabilis magpatawad. Or it is being overshadowed by other news and events.

 

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I partly blame this mentality in our Teleserye culture. For years, or for decades, we have been fed by these drama series shown every weeknights. The stories, though made of recycled plots and formulas, are fast-paced. We are not given an ample time to process what we have seen. We are bombarded every night by the same stories to the point that most of us hardly remember the development of the story, the plot, and the characters. Most TV series abroad are shown on a weekly basis. After each episode – with a definite plot and development – viewers are given an ample time to think, to scrutinize, to discuss, and to process what happened. That ample time, in my opinion, is the way people remember what they have received. And in a larger view, I view this as the way of constantly remembering events that affect our lives in general.

Or perhaps we no longer care about the issue anymore? As I write this piece, the local Twitter trending topics are filled with obscure statements of support for these pseudo-reality love teams and famewhores and other unimportant, self-gratifying topics that would make oneself ‘known’ on the cyber universe. I have always believed that the trending topics on Twitter in a particular country reflects its people’s priority, interest, and views. It’s a tragedy that these fantards behind the so-called ‘famewhore trends’ on Twitter seem to be more influential than the people behind the voices of reform, vital information, advocacy, and policy making. What a shame! 

Whenever there is a viral sensation sweeping online, most of the Filipinos (or those with access on the internet which, I think, is a substantial number) rally behind that thing – giving opinions, fumed reactions, and emotional outbursts. Like an angry mob during the medieval era holding torches and pitchforks, storming the house of an alleged witch or heretic. Take for example the Amalayer brouhaha last week. Almost every Filipinos with social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter expressed their two cents on the issue. It even caught a national attention when the news programs and news portals made a story out of the Amalayer incident.

If we can stand, forgive me for the term, united on this Amalayer thing with lesser significance, then why can’t we do the same with the issues of health, education, poverty alleviation, information, and social reform? Why can’t we do the same thing to rattle the authorities, the justice system, to call for justice for the victims of the Ampatuan Massacre and other extrajudicial killings?

By letting this event just pass us by our consciousness, it would appear that we are condoning the perpetrators of this crime. Or depriving justice to the victims and their families. Or killing the fifty-eight (58) victims repeatedly. The victims’ death will not be given justice if the perpetrators of the crime are not prosecuted and punished.

The victims of this gruesome massacre died doing what is right – the victims, in the sense of a change of leadership by means of a lawful and honest election and the mediamen, by telling their (victims’) story and by acting as our eyes, ears, and mouthpiece of that event.

This massacre is caused by the warlord’s struggle to keep their power and to protect their self-interest against any possible threats. Bad politics, bad leadership, and people continuously feeding these beasts by means of the culture of tolerance, impunity, and patronage politics. But we have seen that it is not impossible to have a good, efficient, and selfless leader to rule among us.

 

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One of the factors why these horrible events happen is because nobody seems to be punished. People choose to be silent for fear of retribution. People choose not to speak out to avoid trouble for them and their family. We are allowing the culture of impunity in our country

Impunity. Kawalang pakundangan. It’s like saying “Go ahead, kill everyone who are against your plans! Shoot the story tellers! We allow murder in our country! No one is punished by the way.”

And we don’t want it that way, right? So what can we do as an ordinary citizen?

  1. Never forget. Let us always put the Ampatuan massacre into consciousness. One way of doing it is to post something about it every 23rd of the month for everyone to see (on Facebook, Twitter, and in your blogs). This will help those who have forgotten to remember. You may notice, especially those who frequent on my blog, that I see to it that I post something every 23rd of the month to commemorate the Ampatuan Massacre and to raise awareness for those who seem to have forgotten.
  2. Be an educated and wise voter. The Ampatuan massacre is an election-related violence which involves (an alleged) private army. Choose your leaders wisely. Do not be swayed by their goods during the campaign season. Yes, we can always say our criticisms against these politicians via our tweets, blog entries, and Facebook posts. But do you know what’s more powerful? Our vote. One single vote can help kick the ass of these ‘powerful’ men of power.
  3. Be vigilant. Stay on guard, be watchful. Let us be our brother’s keeper. And let us keep an eye on the proceedings of the trial (even if it takes 55,000 years, according to Atty. Harry Roque). Let us not lose hope even though it may appear that there is no end in sight for the trial. Believe. Have faith. By means of our watchful eyes, we can achieve justice.

Earlier this morning, I watched the first part of Patricia Evangelista’s documentary ‘58’. Word cannot describe how I felt after seeing those mutilated bodies of the victims. Yes, I used to see gruesome scenes on the movies and TV shows that I watch but this one’s different. It’s real. Nakakapanlumo. Nakakapanghina.

It is painful to admit that the wheels of justice in our country are not well-oiled, causing it to roll slowly. And it is more heart-wrenching to know that the witnesses of this massacre are either being killed one-by-one or being abducted never to be seen again.

But let us not give up, let us not lose hope. As cliche as it may sound, the only way for evil people to triumph – or the culture of impunity to prevail in this country – is for good and responsible people to do nothing.

Let us chase Lady Justice no matter how exhausting, no matter how it seems to be hopeless, and no matter how long it takes.

Justice for the Victims of the Ampatuan Massacre. Never Forget. Never again. 

Photos courtesy of Union Journalists of the Philippines – UP Diliman and John Silva’s Facebook post and Inquirer.net, the website of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Elsewhere:

  • 58 (Fifty-eight) – A documentary by Patricia Evangelista and Kiri Dalena aired over ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) on the Nov. 23, 2009 Ampatuan Massacre.
  • No End in Sight to Trial of the Century – “Three years after the gruesome Maguindanao massacre, proceedings against the accused in what has been described as ‘the trial of the century’ grind at a snail’s pace and have not even reached the  halfway mark.” (Inquirer.net)
  • The Bravest Citizen Journalist I Know: The Maguindanao Massacre Boto Patroller – The story of the Maguindanao Massacre first broke out from a report of a Bayan Patroller. This is the story written by BMPM Head Arlene Burgos.
  • Special Report – Interaksyon.com’s feature on the third anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre. It includes the timeline of the events, an infographic about the massacre, the key events in 2012 about the trial, and other related stuff.
  • #TalkThursday: Remembering the Maguindanao Massacre – “Rappler.com talks to retired Lieutenant General Raymundo Ferrer about the Maguindanao Massacre and the prospects for peace in Mindanao.”

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