Children of Ampatuan Massacre victims turn to art to demand justice

Virgilio Cuizon, a visual artist and one of the directors of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines shows one of the murals painted by the children of the Ampatuan Massacre victims. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea / Bulatlat)
Virgilio Cuizon, a visual artist and one of the directors of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines shows one of the murals painted by the children of the Ampatuan Massacre victims. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea / Bulatlat)

“Most of the children admitted they feel anger. Others said they want to take revenge. But all of them want justice and they want the rule of law to reign.”

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat

MANILA — At seven years old, Flora Mae lost her father Lindo Lupugan, one of the 58 individuals who were brutally killed in barangay Salman, Ampatuan town, Maguindanao on Nov. 23, 2009.

Flora Mae, the youngest of three siblings, was her father’s favorite, her mother Arlene told Bulatlat. Now a Grade 8 student, Arlene said that after Lindo was buried, Flora Mae never had another chance to pour her grief out.

When Flora Mae was invited to participate in an art workshop organized by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and Kapatiran at Ugnayan ng Natatanging Sining at Talento (KUNST) last Nov. 19, the pain buried deep within surfaced again.

Together with four other children of Ampatuan Massacre victims, Flora Mae painted a blindfolded woman. On top of her head is a backhoe, which symbolizes the infamous massacre that took place seven years ago.

Virgilio Cuizon, president of KUNST and one of the NUJP directors, said the art workshop became a psycho-social therapy for the children.

He asked the children what they feel whenever they hear the word “Ampatuan.”

“Most of the children admitted they feel anger. Others said they want to take revenge. But all of them want justice and they want the rule of law to reign,” Cuizon told Bulatlat in an interview.

The children ended up crying. “The parents said they never had the chance to talk about it at home,” Cuizon said. “At least they were able to unload some of the heaviness.”

Joining Cuizon were other KUNST members Emmanuel Nim, Vincent Gonzales and Ian Maigan.

Meanwhile, 15-year-old Ruschiel Faye Marie, daughter of Rosell Morales, another victim of the Ampatuan Massacre, composed a song and performed it during a gathering of the families of victims at the massacre site, Nov. 20.

Playing her acoustic guitar, Ruschiel Faye Marie sang:

Wasak na wasak man ang aming puso/ (Our hearts are broken)
di pa rin kami susuko/ (but we will not give up)
Ito’y pagsubok lang/ (this is just a test)
Hustisya! (Justice!)

No justice

Seven years after the Ampatuan Massacre, the defense has yet to begin the presentation of its evidence. The court handling the case had to resolve more than 300 motions filed by the defense panel. Petitions for bail remain pending.

At least four potential witnesses died since 2010, their deaths smelling of an attempt to conceal the truth.

The NUJP lamented that most of the families of the victims have been reduced to lives of misery and uncertainty, without getting any support from government and without seeing justice. ()

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