The horror of the kidnap and murder of more than 50 Filipinos in the Mindanao province of Maguindanao shook not only the Philippines, but also the international community.
Filipino groups in Sydney has condemned the allegedly politically-motivated violence which took the lives of at least 57 people—among them media men and politicians—on their way to filing the certificate of candidacy of vice mayor Esmael Toto Mangudadatu.
The Sydney-based Filipino Press Groups, cited in an article published in The Filipino-Australian website, recently released its statement on the deaths—currently considered as the single biggest loss of journalists’ lives in one day.
The Filipino Press Group of Sydney moderator Jaime Pimentel wrote in the statement: “Reports about a massacre in Maguindanao, in southern Philippines, tears at the heart of every Filipino and decent people across the globe. The victims, many of them journalists, lost their lives in a hail of gunfire as they went about their job. And because we, members of The Filipino Press Group of Sydney (Filpressyd), are journalists or journalists in intent, it tears at our hearts doubly so.
“The 34 journalists, some of whom were reportedly cut down by bullets and some held captive, had been there to cover a simple event: that of filing a politician’s certificate of candidacy for governor. It should have been routine, with reporters later filing their stories for all of us to read, watch and listen to. But the brave, underpaid storytellers had marched into the jaws of hell.
“On behalf of the Filpressyd, members of whom fully understand the risks journalists face each day, I call on Heaven to welcome those Filipino [journalists] who lost their lives in Maguindanao and to watch over those who continue to suffer at the hands of their captors.”
This statement is one of the latest from press groups condemning the brutal murders of at least 21 journalist, who were invited to join the doomed six-vehicle convoy to the Commission on Elections’ office in Maguindanao.
Earlier, intelligence reports suggested that there are serious threats to the safety of the members of the Mangudadatu clan, but the local authorities had no spare men to provide tighter security for them. Thus, according to some informants, the Mangudadatu family asked the journalists to cover their planned filing of candidacy in the belief that the presence of media people will deter those who want to harm the members of the clan.
The mass slaughter of the journalists, one of the worst in recent history, earned the condemnation of many news organisations.
Reporters Without Borders described the massacre as the “worst loss of life in one day in the history of journalism.”
The organisation further said, “Never in the history of journalism have the news media suffered such a heavy loss of life in one day…. We convey our condolences and sympathy to all journalists in the Philippines, who are in state of shock after this appalling massacre.”
ABS-CBN, in its statement, said: “Three days have passed since more than 50 people, including journalists, were brutally murdered in Maguindanao, and we have yet to see government take decisive action.
“This unprecedented scale of violence erodes our faith in the rule of law. It sends a chill through journalists who continue to shine the spotlight on these killing fields.
“We at ABS-CBN urge the authorities to hold the guilty parties accountable and show that justice is blind to politics.”
On the other hand, GMA said: “We are no longer who we were before Monday. In the annals of political violence in the Philippines, there have been no parallels to the slaughter that occurred on the lonely road to Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao on November 23.
“The crime that occurred in Ampatuan was uniquely savage, but it was also an extreme example of the violent tendency in our politics. At the other extreme are the many citizens who are bravely committed to the difficult and complex process of peacefully deciding who our leaders should be, such as those souls who perished on Monday.”
The news organisation said that they trust the Philippine government to use all its agencies in order to respond to the crime, even as it mourns the deaths of their comrades.
It said in a statement: “We trust that this is just the beginning of a series of actions that will bring all of the perpetrators to justice, including the warlords who orchestrated this bloodbath.
“If they are permitted to escape harsh punishment, it will clearly be a vote for barbarity and for the other savage armies prepared to assault our maiden automated elections.
“As we wait for action, we grieve. We grieve for the believers in a democratic system who paid with their lives. We grieve for the martyred journalists who believed the Constitutional protection of their rights was enough.”
The National Union of the Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) also condemned the violence against the journalists. It said that the incident does not only erase all doubts about the Philippines being the most dangerous country for journalists in the world, outside of Iraq, it could very well place the country on the map as a candidate for a failed democracy.”