DAVAO CITY – “Nakasabot ko unsa ilang gibati (I understand how they feel),” Cris Tony Monzon, 18-year-old son of murdered activist leader Ludenio Monzon said when he saw the families of the victims of the Ampatuan massacre.
Now a member of the group Hustisya (Justice), Cris Tony was among those who marched to the murderous ground of Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman in Ampatuan town two months after the massacre that killed 58 people, 32 of them journalists.
Hustisya, a group composed of families of victims of extrajudicial killings in Southern Mindanao, was among those who heeded the call to join the families of Ampatuan victims as they return to the site where they lost their loved ones on November 23 last year.
“Maybe when they looked around, they were also thinking ‘what if their father was able to run away?’” he said. “That was what I thought when I saw the spot where my father fell.”
The thought of how the victims were killed brought Cris Tony back to the sad images of his father’s death.
“Dili ko mosugot nga walay hustisya sa iyang kamatayon (I will not accept that justice will not be served)!” he said.
His father was killed in broad daylight at a junction of a highway in Boston town of Davao Oriental as he was on his way home in April last year. A bullet entered Monzon’s chest and exited through his shoulder. He fell from his motorcycle, face on the ground, literally eating the dust.
Days before his death, Monzon filed a police blotter reporting on the threats he received from men he believed were members of the intelligence of the Philippine Army.
On January 23 this year, exactly nine months after his father was killed, Cris Tony saw the families of Ampatuan victims.
“I can accept that my father is already gone,” Cris Tony said. “But I cannot accept that there’s no justice over his death.”
“They stripped my father of his clothes and left him there at the gym. He was exposed to the crowd like a hog, just like the victims at the massacre in Ampatuan,” Cris Tony said.
Cris Tony pointed to hit men in the employ of the military as responsible for his father’s death.
“A week before my father was killed he told me that I should study well because his days were already numbered. He said a bounty of P100,000 had already been put on his head,” Cris Tony recalled.
“The killers of the Ampatuan massacre and those of my father were no different,” Cris Tony pointed out. “They make a living by killing people. If they will not kill, they will end up getting killed.”
The suspected killers of Monzon were known to be hit men allegedly sent on a mission by the military against suspected insurgents. The alleged perpetrators of the Ampatuan massacre, by witnesses’ accounts, were members of the private army who acted at the behest of the powerful Ampatuan clan of Maguindanao.
These men were widely known to have operated gainfully in the government’s counter-insurgency drive.
President Arroyo issued in 2006 Executive Order 546, which mandated the creation of armed civilian volunteers in support of the Philippine military and police’s fight against rebels.
For Cris Tony, justice for his father may still be a long time coming but he would not give up hope. “We know for a fact that fighting for justice in this government is very frustrating but it gives us consolation just thinking that we are not alone, that many others are with us in the fight for justice.”
Two months after the massacre, the criminal justice system in the Philippines have so far brought to trial only one member of the Ampatuan clan: Andal Ampatuan Jr., the mayor of Unsay town of Maguindanao, who figured in the November 23 mass murder.
Hundreds of suspected members of the Ampatuan private army are still at large despite reports that many of them are still seen roaming at the vicinity of the scene of the crime.
This came even as the Philippine Army deployed five battalions of forces in Maguindanao.