4 Tagum mediamen trek to Maguindanao massacre site

NOV 25-DEC 1, 2010

Four mediamen from Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley joined thousands who paid tribute to the 58 victims, of whom were 23 mediamen who were killed in the Ampatuan massacre that the world was shocked to know exactly a year ago.

The local mediamen who made it last November 23 to the still feared Ampatuan town in Maguindanao after travelling for about eight hours were Valley & City Chronicle editor Cha Monforte, Wow TV 11 cable channel operator Ben Wang, broadcaster Bogart Saliot and Wow TV cameraman and XFM DJ Uncle Joe- Bin Larawan.


The four left Tagum City using a small jeepy owned by Wang past midnight of November 23 braving the risks during the dusk on the road towards a strange place, the biting cold at dawn and scorching heat towards noon and reached sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman just when the convoy of top officials including Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles reached the place.

About 3,000 families, friends and supporters of the victims led by Maguindanao Governor Esmael “Toto” Mangungudatu and other Cotabato, Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat officials gave their presence in choosing not to forget the crime which became the worst election-related violence in the nation’s history.

De Lima and Deles led the lighting of candles and offering of flowers for the victims. At the massacre site seen were a tarpaulin printed with the victims’ photographs and an unfinished concrete marker containing their names.

Gov. Mangungudatu, whose wife and sister were among those brutally killed by militiamen believed to be loyal to the Ampatuan clan, said in his speech that the Ampatuans should not only be accountable to the heinous crime but also to the ill-gotten wealth they amassed.

When one is near to the mass grave one cannot help but feel an imagined reenactment of a grisly crime pointing that it is where the bullet-riddled bodies of some of the victims including their vehicles were dumped by their attackers using a backhoe.

Security was tight in the area, with several battalions of local military units and police forces stationed along the national road in Maguindanao and adjacent provinces.

From Esperanza, the boundary town before the Ampatuan town, the Tagum-based mediamen were flagged down for inspection in four separate checkpoints of heavily-armed military men with artillery tanks.

The massacre site was cordoned off by heavy presence of military and police forces.
Seen also present were militant groups from Cotabato and General Santos areas.
The Tagum mediamen used the route from Davao del Sur passing Makilala and Tulunan towns of North Cotabato to Datu Paglas and Buluan towns of Maguindanao, President E. Quirino, Takurong City, Isulan capital town, and Esperanza towns of Sultan Kudarat province before reaching the Ampatuan town of Maguindanao.

Mediamen from national news agencies and from Cotabato City, Davao City, Sultan Kuradat, General Santos City and from as far as Iligan City also trekked to Ampatuan town to cover and at the same time pay tribute to the slain mediamen who still have not been given justice until present.

Towards the later afternoon the Tagum mediamen drove back home using the same route and reached Tagum City past the midnight. (RUN)


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