A SIMPLE but moving presentation was held by members of the National Union of Journalist of the Philippines (NUJP) – USA chapter and their allies in downtown Los Angeles on November 22 to commemorate the people who perished in the infamous Maguindanao massacre that happened seven years ago.
Emceed by community leader and columnist Art Garcia and led by NUJP-USA chair Nimfa Rueda, the event was held at the Kapistahan Grill restaurant at Temple St, in the Historic Filipinotown.
The names of those who perished in the massacre were called and a communal prayer was said. Candles, arranged in a shape of a heart, were lighted afterwards to symbolize the continuing empathy of Los Angeles-based journalists and their allies for the victims of the gruesome murders.
Former National Press Club (NPC) president Roy Mabasa of Manila Bulletin took part in the ceremony and also played guitar and sung during the so-called “celebration of life” portion that followed the solemn part of the program.
Freelance writer and singer Lou Sabas also rendered song numbers for the participants. She was alternately joined on the stage by another singer Joni Villamil and her 13-year-old daughter Jasmine and by journalists Joe Cobilla, Roger Parajes, Nikki Arriola, Carmelo Breeze and this reporter.
In an interview with ABS-CBN-Balitang America Steve Angeles, the LA-based journalists decried the slow grind of the judicial processes to uphold the guilt of the 197 people, including prominent members of Maguindanao’s Ampatuan clan and some policemen, who were charged for the crimes.
On November 23, 2009, during the heat of the Philippine elections, 58 people, 32 of them media workers, were executed and their bodies dumped into a common grave that was hurriedly dug up using a backhoe tractor.
The journalists had joined family members and election supporters of then Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu who were on their way to the provincial capitol to file his certificate of candidacy for governor of Maguindanao.
Mangudadatu’s candidacy was regarded as a challenge to the Ampatuan family who had ruled the province for decades.
The Maguindanao massacre was regarded as the most savage election-related killings in the Philippines and as the single deadliest attack against the media.