ucanews.com reporters, Manila and Davao CityUpdated: November 22, 2012 10:26 PM GMT
Media and press freedom advocates today held a mock funeral procession in the streets of Manila to mark the third anniversary of the mass killing of 58 people, including 20 journalists, in southern Maguindanao, the worst massacre in the country’s recent history.
Carrying coffins bearing the names of those killed, allegedly by Mindanao’s powerful Ampatuan clan, journalists joined family members of those killed in calling for justice.
"The objective of the event is to stress the continuing attack against journalists and the prevailing culture of impunity," the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said in a statement.
Protest marches were also held in other parts of the country, including in several cities in Mindanao where the November 2009 massacre happened.
Several members of the Ampatuan clan are awaiting trial for the killings, but of the 197 suspects identified, only 99 were arrested.
Nenen Momay Castillo, a native of the area whose father was one of those who died, said she would pray quietly to mark the anniversary.
It was time for the families of the victims to move on, she said, and to anticipate that their calls for justice would be met.
“I have forgiven them. But my forgiveness does not mean that they must not be brought to justice,” she said.
The United States and the United Kingdom also renewed calls for justice for the victims of the massacre today.
US ambassador to Manila Harry Thomas Jr. called on the Philippine government "to improve the investigation and prosecution" of cases of extrajudicial killings in the country.
"We shall never forget the victims of that merciless act committed in Maguindanao on November 23, 2009," Thomas said in a statement.
UK Ambassador Stephen Lillie expressed condolences to the families and friends of the victims. He said the UK hopes for swift justice to help the families of the victims cope with their loss.
The massacre, which occurred when Esmael Mangudadatu, a rival of the Amputuan clan, went to witness the filing of his election papers for the post of provincial governor.
Around 100 armed men intercepted a convoy including Mangudadatu on a highway and took them to a hill before killing them all in what he International Crisis Group called “one of the worst acts of political violence in modern Philippine history and the largest number of journalists slain on a single day ever, anywhere in the world.”