The bloodied and mangled bodies in the field. Men and women who started the day not knowing that it would their last, that they would meet devils along the way to the Commission on Elections office, and that these same spawn of evil would spare none of them in their rampage. The image will forever stay in this nation’s collective consciousness, and as we remember this, we must also rage at how savage the times have become; how uncivilized and inhumane. Those who promised to protect are the destroyers; and the damage they inflict is beyond forgiving or forgetting.
Never in Philippine history have so many journalists been murdered. The Ampatuan Massacre that claimed the lives of 57 civilians including 13 members of the media is a brutal wake-up call for those who remain asleep of indifferent: human rights and press freedom in the Philippines are under siege.
These unspeakable killings, combined with the murders of human rights advocates, progressive lawyers and religious, point towards the horrifying and despicable truth that private armies and death squads legally operate within the Philippines; and that they operate with the guidance of the powers-that-be with the aim of targeting dissidents in the attempt to stifle dissent.
The media environment in the Philippines continues to undergo a serious and shocking deterioration since the ascent to power of the Macapagal-Arroyo administration in 2001. The late issuance of clear statement of condemnation from the head of the Malacanang, combined with the fact that so little progress has been made in investigating a string of previously unsolved press murders, creates an atmosphere of impunity that can only lead to more bloodshed.
Who now can we rely on to help us? Who can we turn to for justice?
Maguindanao and the rest of the Philippines where this illegitimate and most despicable government allows the operation of private armies and death squads remain a dangerous place for journalists.There is no more need to belabor the motives behind killing journalists, but the climate of impunity created by the failure to fully investigate and prosecute previous murders clearly send the signal to the perpetrator killers that they can get away with it.
Since at this juncture it seems almost futile to ask help from the government, journalists seek the aid of the Filipino people and all who seek genuine democracy and freedom to devote their time, strength and efforts to break this cycle of impunity by calling for the relentless pursuit of investigation into the killing of journalists and all human rights advocates and demand that those responsible are apprehended and punished.
The pattern of impunity surrounding the murder of Filipino journalists and citizens must end. Journalists must be allowed to carry out their work without fear of attacks from those who are meant to serve the public. It is urgent that the Filipino people to become vigilant in defending our civil, political and human rights, and demand justice for the victims of the Ampatuan Massacre. All Filipinos must unite in the struggle for human rights which includes fighting for the rights of a free press and the protection of all journalists so they will be able to perform their duties without fear for their lives.
And now, even as the rest of the nation grieves and rages against the unspeakable horror that is the Ampatuan Massacre, Macapagal-Arroyo via her moronic deputy spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo says that Malacanang will remain friends with the Ampatuans despite what has happened.
It’s not loyalty that Macapagal-Arroyo has for the Ampatuans — its fear. The Ampatuans made it possible for Arroyo to win the 2007 presidential polls by rigging the process in the Maguindanao region. The Ampatuans deployed their private armies to harass the supporters of opposition candidate Fernando Poe and made sure that Poe lost by at least 1 million votes.
If Arroyo drops the Ampatuans now and severs her ties with them, the Ampatuans just might sing an aria on how they helped her cheat her way to another term in Malacanang.
So quiet she is on the Ampatuans’ guilt, and quiet she will most likely remain. She’s probably hoping for extra-terrestials to come and visit the Philippines so everyone will be distracted and however temporary forget the Ampatuan Massacre.
Reflect on this: It took two long days for Macapagal- Arroyo to issue a statement on the Horror and to order the military to take action. The violence that characterized the Ampatuan Massacre is not new under this administration, and the pattern continues to repeat itself because of the administration’s own bent towards violating human rights and promulgating the culture of impunity.
It comforts and assures no one that Malacanang has promised that justice will be rendered to the victims, because in the same breath, its various officials and spokespersons are already issuing excuses that there is no sufficient evidence to pin down the perpetrators. Strong words are all very well and good, but they are useless with no strong and just follow-through, and Malacanang is never known for carrying through any of its promises to uphold human rights and to go after those who violate them.