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Anger, justice after massacre's 2nd month

By Ben O. Tesiorna

ANGER and thirst for justice still reigned among those who attended the second month commemoration of the November 23 Maguindanao massacre that killed 57 people, including 30 journalists.

In a visit to the massacre site at Sitio Masalay of Barangay Salman in Ampatuan town, relatives, friends and supporters of the victims are one in demanding justice for the victims of the most gruesome election-related violence in the country.

Family and relatives of the massacre victims went to Sitio Masalay on Saturday, along with around 500 delegates of the National Interfaith Mission for Justice and Peace in Maguindanao that also gathered lawyers, human rights workers, progressive groups, and journalists together.

Initiated by Kalinaw Mindanao, the mission aimed to continue the call for justice by remembering the victims of the massacre. Part of the mission is to visit the site.

"The mission will also document further accounts on the incident that will be of use in the pursuit of the case against the suspects of the massacre and in demanding accountability from all levels of government found complicit or negligent in the crime," said the Kalinaw Mindanao paper.

The participants of the mission will conduct interviews with families of victims, military officials and civilian residents in Maguindanao.

Lawyer Carlos Isagani Zarate, of the Alliance Against Impunity in Mindanao and one of the convenors of Kalinaw Mindanao, said the November 23 massacre showed the link between the suspects’ brutality and the kind of government the Philippines has.

"Our aim is not only to further expose the brutality of the butchers of massacre but more importantly, to unmask the monstrous complicity of the Arroyo government, its culpability in backing not just the private armies of the warlord Ampatuans but also in maintaining the public army--the AFP--that has engendered the violence," said Zarate, also the secretary general of the Union of People's Lawyers in Mindanao.

"This journey is also a show of solidarity with the families of the victims. All of us here lost a family, a colleague and a friend on that fateful day of the massacre, and we are united in fighting for justice and in saying that we will never forget this incident," Zarate added.

Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo, who joined the mission, said justice will only be delivered for the victims of the massacre if more and more people from all sectors will come together and pressure the National Government.

"Condemnation of the massacre must continue until justice will be served. And efforts to end impunity in Maguindanao must not even end if justice is finally served because we all know that there could be more victims of human rights abuses and killings in this province," Ocampo said.

He said there is a need for the government to really show its sincerity in dismantling private armies that are local official’s killing machinery.

The government, he said, must also show that it has the capacity to protect and serve its people.

"Massive decay of injustice happens when the justice system is partial. If this injustice continues, he said, the people's anger and disgust against the government will remain," he added.


Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on January 26, 2010.


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