On the Anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre I Remember

As a boy there was this one painting I remembered from the book about the Reformation it depicted the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre or Massacre de la Saint-Barthélemy, a true event that happened in 1572 in Paris, France.

On that day the leaders of the French Calvinists or Huegenots were massacred. The gates of Paris were shut down and the Hugenots leaders were assassinated on the spot or thrown out on the street to meet a similar fate. the massacre because of its ferocity – its victims included women, children and its deadly embrace went beyond the gates of Paris – spreading other towns and cities in France. It was one of the darker parts of human history.

The painting itself , done years after the massacre by Huegenot Francois Dubois, depicted the chilling massacre that happened through out Paris on that day. The body of the Huguenot leader Admiral Coligny about to be thrown from the window of his home. The bodies of the dead piled up on the street. An old woman dressed in black, Catherine De Medici – Mother of the King, inspecting the dead. People being killed in the streets of Paris. Bodies being thrown in the river.

The massacre had its seeds in the politics and religion of its day. It was the time of the Religious Wars. And the Huguenots had come to the Catholic stronghold of Paris to witness the wedding the Henry of Navarre, a Huguenot, to the sister of the French King. But things happened outside of the wedding that led to the massacre.

Scholars still debate about it today. In one theory it is Catherine De Medici who forced the King to start the massacre. In another it is the King’s brother and a group of noblemen who were behind it. And still there were the preachers who incited the polarized Catholics into strengthening the flames of the massacre.

Whatever the reason or perhaps reasons why it happened. One thing is sure it did happen and the painting is a grim reminder to us that such crimes against humanity must not happen.

Unfortunately, it has and has been happening. The slaughter of the innocents by Herod. The massacre of the faithful in Jerusalem and the mass execution of prisoners by Richard the Lionheart. And the camps of the Nazis called Auschwitz and Dachau.

And here in the Philippines the massacre that came to bear the name of its authors – the Ampatuan Massacre. Over fifty persons were kidnapped and systematically killed while on their way to file the candidacy of the opponent of the ruling Ampatuan clan of Maguindanao.

Still the reason was politics.

Almost all sorts of guns were used to kill the victims. They were then buried using the backhoe and other equipment of the government.

Political assassination is nothing new but the ferocity and scope of the massacre was such that it repulsed even the most hardened political observers were shocked…. No they were more than shocked …. They were dumfounded even paralyzed with disgust.

Frankly, I do not know which was more disturbing the killing or the temerity it was done.
And today is the anniversary of that massacre.

Years from now or even several several years will there be a painting reminding us of the massacre?

Or will there be something else ?

Today, I was listening, reading and watching the news come in regarding the Ampatuan Massacre. It is not encouraging.

They say justice delayed is justice denied. In this case I hope it is not lost in the Labyrinth we call the Philippine Justice System.

There are of course things that bears watching in this Government, in any Government in any given time. This particular case needs to be watched with an eagle’s eyes with all means in our hands – onlne and offlne.

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