Families still live in fear
Cebu Daily News columnist Radel Paredes remembers Cynthia Oquendo-Ayon, one of the victims of the Maguindanao massacre, playing the piano in the dark halls of the University of San Carlos auditorium where she was a political science student in the mid-1990s.
Oquendo-Ayon was one of the two lawyers killed in the infamous incident on Nov. 23, 2009 which was dubbed as the most gruesome attack on journalists. Despite the arrests and trial of the suspects – principally from the powerful Ampatuan clan – five years later, no justice has been served to the 58 victims, 32 of them journalists, in this politically-motivated massacre.
Paredes, a family friend of the Oquendos said that until now, the families of the victims still live in fear.
Oquendo-Ayon, 35, finished her law degree at the Southwestern University. She and lawyer-victim Concepcion Jayme-Brizuela were accompanying members of the Mangudadatu family in filing the certificate of candidacy of Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, then vice mayor of Buluan, Maguindanao.
Mangudadatu was challenging then incumbent governor, Andal Ampatuan, Sr. who has been arrested as one of the principal suspects in the gruesome massacre.
Cynthia’s father, Catalino, who accompanied her in that trip was also killed in the attack. Oquendo-Ayon was with the Public Attorneys Office in Bukidnon before setting up her own law office in Polomolok, South Cotabato.
Aside from the former Maguindanao governor, former Ampatuan town mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., and former Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao governor Zaldy Ampatuan are also in prison with over a hundred suspects of the massacre
Among the victims were Gov. Mangudadatu’s wife Genalyn, sister Eden Mangudadatu, a cousin and an aunt.
The 32 journalists and media workers accompanied them to cover what would have been a historic challenge to the political clout of the Ampatuans who have been ruling the province with iron fist.
Five other persons on board two cars who were at the tail of the six-car Mangudadatu convoy were also killed in the massacre.
From the highway in barangay Salman, Ampatuan town where the convoy was stopped, they were brought to a hill some two kilometers off-road, where the killing started. Workers then tried to bury them and their cars in a hastily digged hole using a back hoe.
Last week, a witness in the massacre and a former aide of Andal Ampatuan Jr., Dennis Sakal was killed in Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao. Another witness was wounded in the incident. Sakal was the ninth witness killed.
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