By David Dizon, abs-cbnNEWS.com
BANGKOK, Thailand — Rowena Paraan is a veteran reporter of many of the country’s upheavals in recent history.
But even she breaks down in tears when she recounts how she first gathered 140 relatives of the 32 journalists who were killed in the infamous November 23, 2009 massacre in Ampatuan, Maguindanao.
The gathering on January 2009 in Palawan was the first time that relatives of the 32 massacre victims were assembled in one room. Paraan, secretary general of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, called for the meeting to sort out misunderstandings between the relatives regarding the multiple murder cases filed against the Ampatuan clan and their supporters.
“At first, I thought I would just referee the group. But because it was their first time together, I asked them how they were doing and it came pouring out. By the time the sixth wife started talking about her husband, I couldn’t stop crying,” she recounted.
Less than 2 years later, the gruesome incident continues to shock. On Nov. 23, 2009, armed men kidnapped and brutally killed 58 people in a hilly portion of Ampatuan town in Maguindanao province and buried the bodies in shallow graves.
One veteran reporter who witnessed the investigation said the graves looked like a layer cake “with cars, bodies and dirt piled one on top of the other.”
At least 32 of the 58 victims were journalists sent to cover the filing of the certificate of candidacy of gubernatorial candidate Esmael Mangudadatu. Others were supporters of the Mangudadatus or were just motorists mistakenly identified as part of the Mangudadatu convoy.
Most of those killed were based in General Santos City, and majority worked for Mindanao-based publications.
Paraan said she joined 4 separate fact-finding missions to the massacre site from November to December of 2009. She said one of the most arduous tasks in the early part of the mission was identifying the bodies, meeting the families and establishing a body count in the massacre.
As a result, she witnessed firsthand the shock and trauma of relatives of the massacre victims.
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