Canada Solidarity Groups Demand Justice for Maguindanao Massacre Victims
Never again to Martial Law! Justice for all victims of Ampatuan Massacre and extrajudicial killings!
The issuance of Proclamation 1959 imposing martial law in Maguindanao may seem pointless, if not downright ridiculous at first glance. If at all, it betrays the weakness and desperation by the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government at handling the situation in Maguindanao after the brutal and gruesome November 23 massacre. But as events unfold, the pieces fall into place and the smoke clears, what comes out is the image of a coverup for the criminal complicity of the ruling clique and its armed forces in the dastardly act.
The administration tries to explain the declaration by saying that “heavily armed groups in the province of Maguindanao have established positions to resist government troops” and “the condition of peace and order in the province of Maguindanao has deteriorated to the extent that local judicial system and other government mechanisms in the province are not functioning.” In trying to justify the imposition of martial law, Department of Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera said that “rebellion was in the offing” in the area.
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has become so obsessively delusional with power to the extent of twisting and violating the provisions of the Constitution. Under the 1987 Constitution, martial law can only be declared during an invasion or a rebellion. Either one of these two is not present in Maguindanao. Even if “rebellion was in the offing” declaring martial law is absurdly unjustified, as many legal experts assert that “imminent danger” of rebellion or “threatened rebellion” is not a basis for the declaration of marital law. Even worse, she tries to pass off this heinous crime as “rebellion” and its perpetrators as “rebels”.
While we cry for justice for all victims of the massacre, we cannot support this dangerous method of military rule imposed ostensibly to go after the perpetrators of the brutal crimes. We cannot trust the government in solving the monstrous offence purportedly committed by its own sponsored warlords. We cannot trust the police and the military running the business of dismantling private armies in Maguindanao as tons and tons of ammunition found in the Ampatuan properties bear their official stamp. The butcher of Mindoro, ex-general turned congressman Jovito Palparan himself said it was the government and its armed forces that provided arms and ammunition to the Ampatuans. This is certain proof of state-sponsored warlordism, of government’s of culpability in the crime.
We therefore hold the regime of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo accountable for what happened in Ampatuan, Maguindanao. It was Macapagal-Arroyo who issued Executive Order 546 in 2006 that legalized paramilitary groups in the country on the pretext of their being “force multipliers in the implementation of peace and order.” On the contrary, this same executive order became the license for powerful politicians and clans like the Ampatuans to commit wanton acts of violence - and in all arrogance - against people who stand up to their exploitative, corrupt and violent ways. At the same time, this executive order nurtures the culture of impunity in the entire country.
It is known to everyone that the Ampatuans were the alleged “political operators” of the Macapagal-Arroyo regime in the massive electoral fraud in Maguindanao during the 2004 and 2007 elections. It is not far-fetched therefore that the imposition of martial law was intended to cover up evidence of poll fraud, and to keep witnesses from speaking up against the regime.
We demand the immediate lifting of martial law in Maguindanao. We urge Congress to revoke it. We cannot allow military rule dominate us again. We have learned our lesson from the Marcos martial law regime. We do not need to experience it again.
We join today the Filipino nation and many peace-and-justice-loving people around the world in condemning in the strongest possible terms one of the most horrible politically-related mass killings in the Philippines. We demand justice for all the victims of the Ampatuan massacre, and all victims of political killings in the Philippines.
Stop the killings now! Never again to Martial Law! Justice for all victims of Ampatuan Massacre! End impunity now!
Philippine Solidarity Network-Canada and Stop the Killings in the Philippines Network condemn the Ampatuan Massacre in the Philippines and demand justice for all victims
The Philippine Solidarity Network - Canada and Stop the Killings in the Philippines Network vehemently condemn the barbaric massacre of at least 57 people, including many women and children, 29 journalists, and human rights lawyers on November 23, 2009 in the province of Maguindanao on the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines.
The victims were abducted and executed by approximately 100 gunmen while en route to file election papers for Ismael Mangudadatu as a candidate for governor of Maguindanao in the May 2010 elections. The candidate was not with the entourage as he had received death threats.
The 29 journalist victims constitute the largest group of media personnel killed in a single incident in the world. Twenty-four of the victims were women including the candidate’s wife and sisters and two lawyers, Concepcion Brizuela and Cynthia Oquendo. Many of the victims were beheaded and mutilated; some of the women were raped.
It signals the opening round of what we fear to be an extremely bloody lead up to the Presidential elections in May 2010 in which entrenched forces will use any means to maintain control behind a facade of democracy.
Police have named as the chief suspect, Andal Amputuan Jr., son of the three-term governor of Maguindanao province and a powerful supporter of the Lakas Kampi colation led by Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. As the Mayor of a nearby town, Andal Ampatuan Jr. was being groomed to take over his father’s position as Governor. He was assisted by senior police officials, local police and paramilitary forces who function as a private army of the Ampatuan clan. An earth digger registered to the provincial government was even on hand to bury the victims in common graves prepared in advance.
The Ampatuans are governors of both Maguindanao and the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the family includes a cabinet undersecretary, congressmen and several town mayors . These warlords delivered large numbers of questionable votes to the ruling coalition of President Arroyo in the 2004 and 2007 elections.
The Ampatuan warlords apparently consider themselves untouchable because of their loyal ties to the Arroyo government. A climate of impunity reigns for human rights violators and mass murderers in the Philippines.
Since 2001 over 800 people have been killed in the Philippines, all of them in some way seen as opponents or critics of the regime led by President Arroyo. The dead include peasants, lawyers (22), judges (15), opposition politicians, journalists and other members of civil society as well as 51 incidents of massacres victimizing 255 persons.
These extra-judicial killings are perceived to be a result of the U.S.- initiated counter-insurgency plan to eliminate the New People’s Army - Operation Plan Freedom Watch (Oplan Bantay Laya - OBL). The OBL was first ceated by the Arroyo regime in 2002 as a 5-year plan and extended in 2007 with the support and encouragement of the U.S. Government under its “global war on terror” policies. There have been no proper investigations of these extrajudicial killings and only one prosecution and conviction.
In the case of the Ampatuan massacre, it took four days before the principal suspect was taken into custody and only after intense public outcry for justice. The Arroyo government’s initial response was to declare a state of emergency in the province which would be enforced, of course, by the local state apparatus controlled by the Ampatuans.
Over the past few years, the Arroyo government has given the Ampatuan clan the authority to recruit and arm civilians to assist in fighting “insurgents” in the region. As a result, the Ampatuans now have a 500-strong army, which includes entire regular military and police units assigned to ensure the security of the clan members, as well as 200 special armed civilian auxiliary forces. These paramilitary forces of the Civilian Volunteer Organization (CVO) and Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) are officially designated and financed by Manila as auxiliaries of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in line with Oplan Bantay Laya.
Through its continuing support for OBL, Washington bears responsibility for this crime against humanity. The US military considers Mindanao strategic for its forces in this part of the world. It maintains military facilities on the island in direct violation of the Philippine Constitution. It has conducted at least seven military exercises in Mindanao since 2001, poured in millions of dollars of military aid and has trained local security forces to enhance “inter-operability” with US troops.
Ottawa also shares responsibility. Canadian mining companies are active in several islands of the Philippines including mineral-rich Mindanao and are known to use local private security forces as well as the AFP and PNP to protect their interests.
In a statement, the Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) and Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) pointed out that in 2007, Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur for extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions, made a number of recommendations to prevent further and punish past extrajudicial killings.
Their statement reads: (Alston's) recommendation that, “(C)onvictions in a significant number of extrajudicial executions must be achieved” has not been implemented. His recommendation that, “IALAG [Inter-active Legal Agency Group] should be abolished, and the criminal justice system should refocus on investigating and prosecuting those committing extrajudicial executions and other serious crimes” has not been implemented. His recommendation that “(H)uman rights should be safeguarded within the peace movement” has not been implemented.
The statement concludes: “The Philippine government failed to take effective steps to prevent or punish those extrajudicial killings, in spite of the careful recommendations of Professor Alston. That failure violated the Philippine government’s primary legal duty to protect the right to life and to ensure adequate criminal and civil remedies when that right is violated. It also created the climate of impunity that encouraged and allowed the November 23 2009 massacre. For a period of over eight years, the Philippine government has on the one hand refused, and on the other, demonstrated a lack of capacity, to carry out the investigations required by both international law (binding on the Philippines) and domestic law.”
The Stop the Killings in the Philippines Network and the Philippine Solidarity Network - Canada calls on all justice-loving people to denounce the Ampatuan Massacre and all other extra-judicial killings in the Philippines, demand an independent international probe of these killings, and condemn the Arroyo government for coddling mass murderers and human rights violators as well as its direct implication in the extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.
We demand the dismantling of the private armies of the warlords in MaguindanaoProvince as well as other parts of the Philippines and the immediate rescinding of Executive Order 546 created by the Philippine government in July, 2006 which allows local politicians to convert and fund their private armies as legal entities in the counter-insurgency program.
We demand that those responsible for this attack as well as those involved in the more than 1,000 extrajudicial killings perpetrated with impunity, be they hired thugs or ranking officials in the government and its police and armed forces, be immediately investigated and made to face prosecution and such further actions as required by local and international law.
Too many people have died. The bloodbath and the climate of impunity must stop now.
JUSTICE FOR THE VICTIMS OF AMPATUAN MASSACRE!
JUSTICE TO ALL VICTIMS OF EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLINGS!
STOP THE KILLINGS IN THE PHILIPPINES!
Philippine Solidarity Network - Canada:
Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (Vancouver, BC)
Centre d'appui aux Philippines / Centre for Philippine Concerns (Montréal, Qc)
Damayan (Manitoba, MAN)
Ontario Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (Ottawa, ON)
Philippine Solidarity Group (Toronto, ON) / Philippine Network for Justice and Peace (PNJP)
Victoria Solidarity Group (BC)