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Journalists continue to hope for justice nine years after Maguindanao Massacre

Candles were lit once again last Friday at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani to mark the unrelenting quest for justice for the victims in one of the darkest periods in the country’s history.

Nov. 23, 2009 was the day 58 people, 32 of them media workers, were gunned down in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao. The mediamen were accompanying Genalyn T. Mangudadatu, wife of Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, then Buluan town vice mayor, who was filling her husband’s certificate of candidacy for governor for the 2010 elections.

The perpetrators of the massacre, led by Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., whom Mangudadatu was challenging for the the gubernatorial position, tried to cover up their gruesome act by burying the victims with the use of a government-issued backhoe.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has called the Maguindanao massacre as the single deadliest event for journalists in history and put the Philippines among the list of dangerous places for members of media.

Nine years later, justice for the victims and their families has yet to be served. Out of the 197 accused, 80 remain at large. Some of the alleged perpetrators have already died, including Andal Ampatuan Sr., head of the Ampatuan clan.

The prayer of everybody who held the lighted candles Friday was not only that justice be served soonest for the victims but also for the people not to forget.