Maguindanao massacre orphan pursues cop dream job to honor journalist father

Joel Guinto, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 18 2019 04:01 PM | Updated as of Dec 18 2019 04:31 PM

Photo courtesy of Ian Perante

MANILA—Aspiring policeman Ian Perante stops by church after a long day delivering packages around General Santos City, hoping that after 10 years, his journalist father and 57 others who perished in the Maguindanao massacre will finally get justice.

Barely 15 at the time of the carnage on Nov. 23, 2009, Perante worked odd jobs, including cashier work at a cockpit arena, to help his mother, Merly, fend for his two other brothers.

Perante turned 25 a few days before the court that tried some 100 people for murder releases its verdict. The accused include members of the Ampatuan clan, who ruled Maguindanao province in the southern Philippines as warlords.

"Magkahalong takot at excitement ang nararamdaman ko. Sampung taon namin itong hinintay," Perante told ABS-CBN News by phone during a break from his work as a delivery staff for courier service LBC.

(I'm feeling a mix of fear and excitement. We waited for this for 10 years.)

"Gusto ng papa ko, bata pa lang ako, maging pulis ako para makatulong ako sa bayan at pamilya," said Ian, referring to his late newspaper reporter father, Ronie Perante.

(Ever since I was a kid, my father wanted me to be a policeman, so I could help the country and my family.)

The young Perante said he was initially discouraged from pursuing his dream to become a policeman when some law enforcers were implicated in the massacre. He is due to take the criminology board exams.

"Naisip ko din, paraan yun para at least, yung unit ko malinis ko man lang kung may sangkot sa ganyan," he said.

(I thought, at least, with me there, I could clean up my unit of anyone who is involved in things like that.)

DEADLIEST FOR JOURNALISTS

Fifty-eight people, including 32 journalists, were killed when a convoy that was on its way to file the certificate of candidacy of an Ampatuan rival, Esmael Mangudadatu, was stopped and strafed. Andal Ampatuan Jr., also known as Datu Unsay, allegedly led the attackers.

Some of the victims were reportedly shot at their genitals, and the bodies were buried in a hilltop grave using an excavator, shocking the world and giving the Philippines the dubious distinction at that time as one of the world's most dangerous places for journalists.

Then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo also placed the province under martial law to disarm the Ampatuans' private army.

Perante said his family refused to believe that their father was part of the carnage, until the patriarch's name was flashed in evening newscasts.

"Sobrang galit ko noon. Hindi ko inaasahan na mangyayari yun. Ako na din tumayo na haligi ng tahanan namin," he said.

(I was so angry. I never thought it could happen to us. I was thrust into the role of breadwinner.)

Photo courtesy of Merly Perante

His mother, Merly, was expected in Manila on Wednesday, the eve of the promulgation of the case at Camp Bagong Diwa, a maximum security police camp in the capital's southern fringes that houses terrorism and kidnapping suspects.

"Positive ako na mananalo kami. Ito na siguro ang pinakamasayang Pasko namin," she told ABS-CBN News. "Pinaglaban talaga namin to."

(I'm positive that we will win. This will be our happiest Christmas. We fought hard for this.)

"Hindi lang ito panalo para sa aming pamilya, kasama na din ang local at international media na nakikisimpatiya," she said.

(This will be a victory, not just for us, but for local and international media who sympathize with us.)

"Victory siya kasi hindi basta-bastang tao ang nahatulan," she said.

(It will be a victory because we went up against powerful people.)

When the young Perante goes to church on Thursday evening, when the verdict was expected to have been handed down, he hopes to offer a prayer of thanks.

"Hindi man natin madinig yung mga biktima ng massacre, matagal din nila ito hinintay. Ito din ang gusto nila," he said.

(We may not hear the voices of the massacre victims now but they too waited long for this. This is what they would have wanted.)