Lawmaker: Declare Nov 23 nat’l commemoration day for EJK victims

MANILA, Philippines – As the nation commemorates the 7th year since the bloody Maguindanao massacre, a lawmaker filed a bill seeking to declare every November 23 the "National Day of Commemoration for All Victims of Extralegal Killings." 

Kabayan Representative Harry Roque filed House Bill (HB) 4502 on Wednesday, November 23, exactly 7 years since 58 people – including 32 journalists – were killed in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman, Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

Then Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu had challenged Andal Ampatuan Jr for governor in 2009. 

Mangudadatu’s family, supporters, and members of the media were on their way to the provincial capitol to file his certificate of candidacy when the convoy was ambushed – described by the Committee to Protect Journalists as the single deadliest attack against the media.

Seven years later, no one has been convicted over the massacre, even while 197 have been accused and 106 remain on trial before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221. (READ: Maguindanao massacre trial now in the homestretch – Chief Justice)

One of the primary suspects, Ampatuan clan patriarch Andal Ampatuan Sr, already died in July 2015.

"The Maguindanao massacre, as an egregious incident of extralegal killings, highlights state responsbility over human rights violations committed by its agents. It is a class of gross human rights violations for which the State must answer, on top of the individual criminal liability of the perpetrator themselves," said Roque in his explanatory note. 

The lawmaker, who announced the filing of his resolution in a press conference attended by widows of some Maguindanao massacre victims, added that international law mandates that the Philippines has a duty to compensate and provide satisfaction for the victims and their families.

"Thus satisfaction includes commemorations, as memorials that signify the state's resolve not to allow such a carnage to happen again," said Roque.

"Hence, there is a need for the State, through Congress, to pass a law setting aside a day to commemorate victims of extralegal killings, including the victims of the Ampatuan massacre, to stress its resolve to fight impunity and to honor the memory of those who perished by rejecting impunity as a state policy," he added.

Should HB 4502 be passed into law, every November 23 will be declared a special working holiday. 

The Department of Education (DepEd) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), in coordination with the Presidential Communications Operations Office and media organizations, will be tasked to organize "consciousness-raising" activities on the importance of the press, their rights, and the elimination of all forms of violence or impunity.

The DepEd, CHED, the Commission on Human Rights, and the Office of the Ombudsman will also be directed to create a teaching module on state responsibility for human rights violations and humanitarian law to be taught or discussed every November 23. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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