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Ampatuan Massacre Remembered: ‘Stop Killing Journalists’ Filipino-American Campaign Launched in So-Cal

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By Rico Dizon

The “Stop Killing Journalists” campaign by the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP-US Chapter) kicked off last Sat., Nov. 15, with the formal opening of an art exhibit “Peace on Earth: Visions of Love, Joy and Tranquility” at the La Habra Art Gallery in La Habra, California.

Journalists and artists in Southern California joined hands to enthusiastically support the global protests emanating from the brazen and unsolved killings of journalists in the Philippines.

“We’re saying no to violence and yes to justice, peace and love,” said Mat Relox, best known for capturing in canvass the exotic and distinct lifestyle of his people – the peace-loving Mangyan tribe in Mindoro.

He is joined by fellow artists Boi Sibug, Vics Magsaysay, Rafael Maniago and Therese Sabino among others. Special guests included first FilAm Emmy-awardee Jess Espanola for his animation work as assistant director for The Simpsons.

The art exhibit organized by La Habra artist Luz Spanks and FilAm writer Nimfa Rueda will continue until Jan. 3 next year. Part of the proceeds will go to the campaign that is also launching a memorial event and traveling photo exhibit scheduled this Saturday, Nov. 22, at the Filipino American Community in Los Angeles (FACLA).

Called a “Day of Remembrance,” the memorial event will mark the 5th anniversary of the infamous Ampatuan Massacre.

The Maguindanao massacre, also known as the Ampatuan massacre after the town where the mass graves were found, occurred on the morning of November 23, 2009, in the town of Ampatuan in Maguindanao province, on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines.

While the 58 victims were on their way to file a certificate of candidacy for Esmael Mangudadatu, vice mayor of Buluan town, they were kidnapped and brutally killed.

Mangudadatu was challenging Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr., son of the incumbent Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan, Sr. and member of one of Mindanao’s leading Muslim political clans, in the forthcoming Maguindanao gubernatorial election, part of the national elections in 2010.

The people killed included Mangudadatu’s wife, his two sisters, journalists, lawyers, aides, and motorists who were witnesses or were mistakenly identified as part of the convoy.