Text and photos by RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — Vivid reminders of the most brutal massacre of our times have been brought to the halls of the House of Representatives, May 23.
A photo exhibit on the Ampatuan massacre on November 23, 2009, that claimed the lives of 58 individuals, including 32 journalists, has been mounted at the North Wing lobby of the Batasan complex. It is organized by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and the Philippine Center for Photojournalism (PCJ), in coordination with the office of Deputy House Speaker Erin Tañada.
“…[W]e bring our case to the hallowed halls of Congress, where the laws that are the bedrock of our national life are crafted,” the NUJP said in a statement released May 23, exactly one year and a half after the massacre.
“We demand that our lawmakers join us and do everything within their means to ensure that the ends of justice are not perverted, that those responsible for this blot on our nation’s life – and that includes those within your ranks—be held to account and that such an outrage shall never happen again,” the NUJP said further.
Jun Sepe, president of PCJ, said that the photojournalists went beyond their comfort zones and went to the massacre site a day after the incident to take photographs.
House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Tanada and Editha Tiamzon, widow of UNTV’s Daniel Tiamzon, one of the victims of the Ampatuan massacre led the ribbon-cutting ceremony during the opening of the photo exhibit. PCP members contributed their photos. Jess Aznar was the curator.
Belmonte, a former journalist, asked: “What made them think that they can do it? What provided them with the mindset that they could do it?” referring to the perpetrators.
“We must not forget until the perpetrators are punished,” Belmonte said.
“Remembering is a mark of our vigilance. These pictures and this commemoration serve as our compass…” Tañada said in his speech.
“As long as we never forget, we keep justice within our reach,” Tañada added.
Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casino, Gabriela Women Representatives Luzviminda Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus also expressed their support for the struggle for justice for victims of the massacre.
Casino also said that they are pushing for the passage of the bills on freedom of information and on the decriminalization of libel.
The exhibit was first staged at the UP College of Mass Communication and then at the University of Santo Tomas. It will be in Congress until May 26.