Media organizations led by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) and Philippine Press Institute (PPI), television networks, media practitioners, members of the academic community, alternative artists, artists’ groups and human rights’ activists, commemorated the 1,000 days of the infamous Ampatuan massacre which claimed the lives of 58 people, including 32 journalists on November 23, 2009.
A prayer-vigil and program replete with solidarity speeches, video documentaries, poetry, songs and dances marked August 19 as the 1000th day of the massacre at the Bantayog ng Mga Bayani memorial center in Quezon City. The crowd estimate was 200.
Dubbed as NEVER FORGET, the program which started late afternoon and ended shortly before midnight underscored the urgent call for the Aquino administration to bring the perpetrators to justice and pass the Freedom of Information bill.
Similar undertaking was also conducted in Gen. Santos City.
Teatro Komunikado from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines-Sta. Mesa rendered the invocation via an interpretative dance.
Nonoy Espina, director of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) reminded everyone that “freedom of the press is not exclusively for the press and media, but a freedom of the people – the right to know and the right not to be fearful of their government”.
He lamented that despite the Philippines having a free press supposedly, the freedom of information bill has yet to be enacted into law and libel decriminalized.
“It has been 1000 days and nothing is happening,” Espina said.
Lead convenor NUJP stated “the activity aims to remember the fallen victims of the massacre, 32 of whom are members of media. The continued killings of journalists and refusal of Congress to pass the Freedom of Information law have underscored the dire state of press freedom in the country.”
A week before the vigil, a pooled editorial that called for the passage of the FOI bill was published online, in newspapers and also read by news anchors on radio and television. It was also carried by bloggers.
Since 1986, the NUJP has recorded 153 slain journalists, 104 of whom were killed under the term of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, while 14 journalists have so far been killed under current administration.
Malou Mangahas, executive director of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), who gave a brief on the massacre, noted that though suspects Andal Ampatuan Sr. and Andal Ampatuan Jr. have been charged for the mass murders, seven Ampatuan family members were elected to local positions in the 2010 elections. She also said the shortcomings of the police in maintaining the integrity of evidence has hindered the progress of the cases.
The PCIJ also presented a short documentary on the effects of of the massacre on the families and relatives of the victims, speaking particularly on the difficulty in seeking justice and coping with family needs.
Other speeches centered on “not only forgetting what happened but also not to keep silent”.
Members of the First Quarter Storm Movement shared their experience during the Marcos regime. Pete Lacaba also rendered a poem.
Middle of the program, the attendees offered candles and prayers for the victims and their families on stage.
Also represented were the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas and Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) . The bloggers community also participated in the program.
Students and teachers were from the Unibersidad de Manila, University of the Philippines-Diliman University of Sto. Tomas, Dela Salle University – Lipa, and Polytechnic University of the Philippines-Sta. Mesa.
McDonalds provided some snacks during the event.
The Right to Know! Right Now! Coalition also announced that there will be another big event on September 21 on the 40th year of the declaration of Martial Law.