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Philippines: Social Media puts spotlight on the Maguindanao Massacre

It's been almost two weeks since the world awakened to the tragic and brutal killings that took the lives of more than 60 women, lawyers and journalists in Maguindanao province, on the island of Mindanao, Philippines.

Dubbed now as the Maguindanao or Ampatuan Massacre, (after the town where the mass graves were found), it has gained so much international attention, it now has its own page on Wikipedia:

It occurred on the morning of November 23, 2009, in the town of Ampatuan in Maguindanao province, on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines. The victims were about to file a certificate of candidacy for Esmael Mangudadatu, vice mayor of Buluan town. Mangudadatu was challenging Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr., son of the incumbent Maguindanao governor Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr., in the forthcoming Maguindanao gubernatorial election,[1] part of the national elections in 2010. Those killed included Mangudadatu's wife, his two sisters, lawyers, aides, and motorists who were witnesses or were mistakenly identified as part of the convoy.

Bloggers and netizens, primarily from the Philippines were quick to express their reactions, most of which are condemnations and protests, through the various social networking sites. Here's a quick sampling first from bloggers;

Ms Noemi writes at BlogWatch, condemns the brutal massacre but remains hopeful that justice will be served:

It is my hope that our government has the political will to arrest and punish the perpetuators of this massacre. This should not happen again. The people responsible for the massacre must be held accountable. The Arroyo administration must not protect nor tolerate this even if they are allies. All presidential candidates should make it their platform to implement the justice system in these areas of Mindanao so rido is not resorted to anymore.

Dine Racoma laments that Christmas this year will be unlike the other ones, thanks to this tragedy:

It was only last Thursday that the main perpetrator was arrested (and he continues to claim that he turned himself in—not arrested), without handcuffs as what policemen do to an ordinary citizen who is accused of robbery. What is robbery compared to a carnage of innocent men and women.

And now, look at the effect of this to my family. Everyday since that day, when we watch the news, read the papers, and get updates from the Internet or from text messages, we all feel the heaviness of heart, the sadness and cry in between.

Now, my children don’t look forward to celebrating Christmas the happy way. Yes, we will celebrate Christmas, going to Church, thanking the good Lord for the blessings that have come our way, the challenges, too, and those that will come our way.

This year is different—there have been calamities the past years in the country and many parts of the world, which have claimed lives and properties, but not this way.

Once more, Twitter has played host to a whole new body of reactions to the Maguindanao massacre:

rvmitra The #Maguindanaomassacre showed us that the election, which we have fought to restore, has now become a game that cn b won by power & money.

yolynne The gov't. shld be given an ultimatum, what kind of fact finding body do they have? The week should not end like this! #maguindanaomassacre

acquaeouslove I hope all the murderers burn not just in hell but also literally! The magnitude of their sins has ensured them hell~! #maguindanaomassacre
5 days ago from web

acquaeouslove #maguindanaomassacre just shows the filth in politics and the greed of the human psyche~ it's always money that gets them..

Aside from grabbing the local news headlines, the Maguindanao Massacre has picked up the attention of the international media, various foreign governments and international groups representing human rights, lawyers and journalists. Tonyo Cruz has a comprehensive list of their reactions and statements with more to come.

Jovir recounts that this act of barbarism is proof that indeed, the Philippines has become the most dangerous place for journalists:

This blow to Press Freedom in the country brings the tally to 134 deaths of media men murdered since the tug of war for democracy in 1986 with a lot of cases still unsolved with deaths blamed on political warlords who control the police and the justice arm within their realms- all hell bent to preserve their seats and are useful for political patrons as they bring in “the votes” for political parties. In the Arroyo administration alone, the number is already 74 and rising…?

When news broke out of the massacre- the whole world was virtually shocked and a lot of protests and condemnations issued, candles lit and protest rallies staged in honor of the lives lost in what's been dubbed as the worst attack in the world against media practitioners.

Unprecedented as it may seem, this reputation is a stern reflection that needs immediate action not only for the ones in power but for everyone… unless of course everyone is contented to live with shame…

Lastly, here's an interesting analogy put forward by Ryan Ericson Canlas which he opines that the Maguindanao Massacre is a repeat of the Escalante Massacre which took place on September 20, 1985 in Escalante City, Negros Occidental, Philippines where para-military forces of the government gunned down civilians engaged in a protest-rally in commemoration of the 13th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law.

Whether history repeats itself or we repeat history is a matter for a different debate. For now, the talk is about getting justice for the victims and peace for Mindanao. A debate in which once more, social media is helping to facilitate.

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