Photo by Jes Aznar.
Two years ago today, under a glistening sun on a far-flung barren hill, 58 people, including 32 journalists, were massacred to death in the Philippines. The massacre is considered the worst election-related violence in recent years.
Two years on, the grief and the pain remain immeasurable. The families of the victims of decades-old clan war continue to cry out for justice. The carnage, which came to be known as the ‘Maguindanao massacre’, happened on November 23, 2009, somewhere between Ampatuan town in Maguindanao in the southern Philippines and the heart of darkness.
According to Task Force Maguindanao, the group handling the investigation, a total of 100 people are accused: nine policemen, four military personnel, 18 members of the Ampatuan clan, and 69 members of the private army of the Ampatuans, a ruling clan in the province.
It happened on a Monday, as the group was on its way to Shariff Aguak to witness the filing of election candidacy of Toto Mangudadatu, a member of a rival clan of the Ampatuans in the province. His wife Genalyn would be filing his candidacy for him, along with a convoy of supporters and members of the working press.
But on their way to the provincial capital, around 100 armed men intercepted the convoy and led them up a dirt road, some four kilometres from the highway they were on.
They were brought to an empty lot, from where they could only dream of their loved ones in the distant valley below as they stood helplessly to meet their deaths.
Two years have passed but justice for the victims of the massacre that happened in broad daylight remains elusive.
So that people will not forget, media organizations here have lined up various activities for the commemoration. There is a photo exhibit on Mindanao by Filipino photojournalist Jes Aznar. Under the Lord's Shadow takes a deeper look into the conflict in Mindanao, the very same conflict that led to the massacre.
There is also a ‘Countdown to End Impunity’ as Filipino journalists join the International Day to End Impunity initiated by the International Freedom of Expression Exchange.
Today, media organizations, journalists and other groups will march to the presidential palace to remind the government that justice has not been served and that the massacre has not been and will never be forgotten.