Sunday, December 27, 2009

Forgotten Maguindanao massacre victims--the Lechonsito couple

I'm posting below a letter to the editor from the Philippine broadsheet Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Preliminary hearings are now being done to the suspects (the Ampatuans of Maguindanao province and their private army) in the Maguindanao massacre or Ampatuan massacre, where 57 persons were brutally killed because of presumably a conflict between two powerful families.

Forgotten massacre victims
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:52:00 12/27/2009

I AM KATHRINA FLEUR LECHONSITO Serrano. I am a niece of two of the victims of the Maguindanao massacre—Eduardo “Nonie” Lechonsito and Cecil Lechonsito. My mom is the sister of Eduardo and we really appreciate Ceres Doyo’s Dec. 24 column. Our lives will never be the same again after they were killed. They left two daughters, aged 19 and 23.

We can’t describe the grief the girls are experiencing right now. Their parents were just innocent motorists who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Their mother was just here from Qatar for the graduation of the elder daughter in March and to spend Christmas with the family after two years of being away. Now, their parents won’t be spending any Christmas, graduation or special occasion with them.

We want justice for them and we want our voices heard. My cousins and mom were interviewed by Kiri Dalena for ANC, but aside from that documentary, nobody seems to be interested in my Tito and Tita’s story, or the stories of their companions in the red Vios. We would like to bring to the public consciousness that there were other innocent victims in that massacre who were not even part of the convoy. My Tito and Tita just wanted to go to the hospital for the CT scan of my Tito, who suffered a mild stroke two days before. His loyal staff, Mercy Palabrica and Darryl de los Reyes accompanied them. We can just imagine how they pleaded for their lives. They were not violent persons and for them to die the way they did is hard to accept.

We are a very close-knit family, and it is not only their daughters who are in anguish. All of us in the family can’t find an answer to why they were included in the massacre.

We don’t know how we could let the whole world know about their story. We want them also included in the search for justice for the Ampatuan massacre victims.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

merry Christmas 2009

Christmas Eve
here in the Philippines.
Probably the last of the Christmas-
caroling kids have passed by our house and
have gotten their share of the candies and coins
we've prepared for them. In the background, I hear some
fireworks exploding as some people start an early
celebration of
Christmas, usually after the Catholic Christmas
mass being held in
various churches. Mobile phones
have started to
get busy as people have
started to send out
Christmas greetings to family and friends.
In many homes,
families are putting finishing touches
to their meals prepared for the celebration
of Christmas Eve or noche buena.
For some families, welcoming Christmas on midnight

is a grand feast. For others, like for my family, it is a simple gathering, with a
prayer to the
Almighty who is the reason for the season.
Maligayang Pasko.
Merry Christmas.
Happy Birthday, Jesus!!!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pervert at Landmark Department Store Mass?

Yesterday, December 13, I was waiting for the start of the 6PM Catholic Mass at the Landmark Department Store inside the huge Trinoma Mall, Quezon City, when my attention was caught by the man sitting in front of me. The man, who was fiddling with his mobile phone earlier, was now taking video shots, using his phone, of the lady-usher who was standing near us. The usher was directing Mass goers to seats in front, near the altar. The usher was a salesperson of Landmark and she, like the other female and male ushers at that time, was in uniform. Her uniform, like the rest of the female ushers, was a rather tight light-brown dress with a hemline several inches above the knee. As she moved her arms up to direct the people to the seats, her hemline went up a bit more to reveal more of her legs. And there she was, her back to the man (and me).

The man was apparently delighted by what he saw and about seven minutes before the Mass officiated by Fr. Ramon Eloriaga was to begin, he was videotaping the lady on his mobile phone, from the waist down. It was hard for him to hide what he was doing, if he did try to hide it, because the angle he was shooting from required him to put his camera at his eye level, while sitting down. And since I was sitting a few inches from him (we were seated in row of chairs that was propped up against a wall), I could easily see what he was doing.

I was
alarmed and shocked at how this man could invade the lady’s privacy that way, and while at Mass yet! For a moment, I was thinking that maybe the man had a new mobile phone, and he was just checking out its features. But, no! He just went on with his videotaping, making sure that his phone’s camera was focused on the lady’s buttocks and legs. I wanted to either ask the man to stop what he was doing or else yank the lady away from where she was standing, away from this instant videographer. But, somehow, fear gripped me as I wondered how the man would react if his attention was called. He didn’t look harmless to me, if I would go by first impression of his looks and demeanor at that time. Anyway, I proceeded to observe the man while he was videotaping, and I decided that if he did any graver thing about the lady at that time, I would really do something to stop him. Mercifully, the Mass already started, and although the lady-usher continued to stand near us, the man behaved. Although he was checking his mobile phone from time-to-time, something that he shouldn’t have been doing too, in respect to the ongoing Mass.

Anyway, I resolved that if I see him again at the Landmark Mass soon and he again whips out his mobile phone to take a shot of the lady-ushers or even Mass goers at their unguarded moments, then I’ll really do something to stop him from doing so. I don’t think I could again just sit there and see how another woman’s privacy was being violated that way, and to think that that man was doing his thing at a Mass!

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Maguindanao Massacre--hell on earth

Tonight, I join other journalists in the Philippines in lighting a candle for the 57 Filipino women and men massacred on November 23, 2009 in Maguindanao Province, which is located in the Mindanao region of the Philippines. More than 20 of the victims were media people who joined a convoy that was going to a local office of the country’s Commission on Elections (COMELEC). The media people, from different organizations, were supposed to cover the filing of candidacy for governor by the leader of the convoy on behalf of her husband. The national elections in the country are to be held next year. The husband, a vice mayor of a Maguindanao town, sent his wife and relatives to the election office in his stead amid threats to his life supposedly from his bitterest political rival. The wife, relatives, and media people never reached their destination as their vehicles were held may armed people along their way. All 57 people in the convoy were mowed down by gunfire, some women even raped, and all were eventually hastily buried by their killers right after they were shot (maybe even buried barely alive) in diggings already prepared for them in a killing site. The mass graves waiting for them were earlier dug by a backhoe (with markings that it belonged to the government) that was still found on the site by the authorities hours after the carnage. Some of those killed and buried weren’t even part of the convoy, but their vehicles just happened to be traveling quite near it since they were going to the same place where the convoy was going or somewhere near that place.

The killing, at the onset, appears to be a politically motivated scheme, thought to be inspired by the bitter rivalry between influential and powerful families in Maguindanao province, especially with the coming elections. But in this battle for supremacy for power, so many lives were lost in a single swoop, including those of many media people who were just doing their job of bringing the news to the outside world, and whose presence in that convoy and in supposedly the election office they were going to was hoped to be an aid to the security or protection of the main personalities in that convoy. But hunger for power and lawlessness—barbarism, in fact—doesn’t respect anyone, be it political rivals, or members of the media armed only with their pens, papers, recorders, mobile phones, radios, cameras, and laptops, ready to bring the news to the people. Now, these media people and the others who died with them are the news.

The investigations are till now ongoing—amid public shock, grief and uproar, and the pleas for justice by the victims' families—with the results threatening to open up a Pandora’s Box of even more shocking revelations about the breadth and depth of the suspected killer(s)’ influence and connections that enabled the carnage to be carried out. As though it could have only happened in hell.