Filipino journalists in US, Canada remember Ampatuan Massacre
Filipino journalists in the United States and Canada joined their colleagues back home commemorate the second anniversary of the November 23, 2009 Ampatuan massacre.
In Los Angeles, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines-US chapter, led by Philippine Daily Inquirer correspondent Nimfa Rueda, the Filipino American Press Club of Los Angeles, Philippine American Press Club, Philippine Press Photographers-USA, Frontliners Media Group and F7, in cooperation with the Justice for Filipino American Veterans and People’s Core, held a prayer memorial and photo exhibit at the Filipino-American Community of Los Angeles Hall, at which they demanded the speedy delivery of justice for the victims of the massacre, and an end to the killing of journalists and to impunity.
In Toronto, Canada, journalists and activists from other countries joined the commemoration organized by NUJP-Canada at the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) Hall.
Among the speakers in LA was former National Press Club president Roy Mabasa of the Manila Bulletin, who recalled his colleague and friend Bong Reblando, one of the 32 media workers who perished in the massacre.
Another speaker, American journalist Loren Fleckenstein, recalled that when he wrote investigative pieces that angered politicians and businessmen, his worst fear was losing his job, "but I never had to fear losing my life."
"I stand here humbled by the memory of these journalists who risked their lives," he said.
In all, 58 people died when more than a hundred gunmen, believed led by members of the powerful Ampatuan clan, held up a convoy on its way to file the candidacy for Maguindanao governor of then Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu. The passengers, along with those of two vehicles that just happened to pass by, were taken to Sitio Masalay where they were killed.
In a report from Toronto, NUJP-Canada’s Edwin Mercurio wrote of how the photo exhibit they mounted “brought back painful memories and tears” for colleagues from other countries where journalists are also oppressed.
Argentine photojournalist Victoria Vianc, who lost an 18-year old brother to the former military dictatorship of her country, said: “I felt very much touched and feel sad by the killing of our fellow journalists and express my deep sympathy. I admire you in your work to honor the memory of the martyred Filipino journalists.”
Vianc and other members of the Internationally Trained Journalists based in Toronto shared similar stories of repression in their own countries during the NUJP presentation, “Journalists give their lives for Press Freedom: A Philippine Situationer.”
While noting a similar spate of media killings in Latin America, Colombian journalist Luis Alberto Mata said the Ampatuan massacre was “the worst.”
“It is an honor to be here and to stand in solidarity with the Filipino people,” said Victor Saliva, a Toronto writer and union activist, who said the slaughter reminded him of what his fellow Syrians are undergoing.
Butch Galicia, editor of Libre’to newspaper, recalled how two friends who were among the massacre victims would ask each other, “Pare, buhay ka pa (Friend, are you still alive)?” after returning from coverage.
“They're dead now,” Galicia said. Then putting his right hand over his heart, Galicia tapped his breast twice and said, “To me, they're very much alive.”