Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Arroyo Blamed on Maguindanao Massacre

By Abigail Kwok, PDI
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines on Wednesday condemned the Maguindanao carnage as it blamed the Arroyo administration for "cultivating the culture of impunity for its cohorts."

In a statement, NDFP National Executive Committee member Luis Jalandoni called on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to give justice to the 46 victims, including women and journalists, of political violence in the province.

"The NDFP holds Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her regime accountable for this massacre that deserves the outrage of the Filipino people. This massacre is the latest atrocious act, further aggravating the regime's accountability for extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, frustrated killings, torture, and the uprooting of millions of people since 2001," Jalandoni said.

The Netherlands-based communist leader also criticized Arroyo for "favoring" the Ampatuan clan in Maguindanao, who was linked in the killings that sent shock waves across the country.

"The ruling Ampatuan warlord clan in Maguindanao has long enjoyed the favor and protection of Arroyo and the police, military and paramilitary forces," Jalandoni said, adding that it was "highly irregular and scandalous" that during the incident, the Ampatuans were in MalacaƱang for a meeting.

Maguindano Massacre Beyond Human Comprehension

Describing the mass slaying of 36 people, nine of them journalists, in Maguindanao province as "horrific and beyond human comprehension," Speaker Prospero Nograles on Tuesday said the national government should set aside all political considerations and arrest the people behind the killings particularly the masterminds at all cost, "even if it takes the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to do it."

"This is already beyond political alliances. This horrific mass murder is just beyond human comprehension and the government should use everything in its power to apprehend and prosecute those responsible for this most atrocious incident in Maguindanao," said Nograles, as he urged the AFP and the PNP to beef up its security forces in Maguindanao to avert further escalation of violence in the area.

"I share the grief of the victims' families and I pray to God that those who are responsible for this atrocity will give up voluntarily to our government security forces," he said.

"I still cannot imagine how a man can be so brutal and cold-blooded in employing violence just to achieve one's political end. It is really unbelievable," he added.

The Speaker said both the AFP and the PNP should now step up efforts to disarm private armed groups (PAGs) in Mindanao as he noted that the incident in Maguindanao can erupt into a full-blown clan war, also known as "rido".

Nograles, who also hails from Mindanao (Davao), said that the effort to identify the culprits, particularly the masterminds, "should be done swiftly but with cold objectivity and all partisan considerations, including their political alliances should be set aside."

He also urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to assess the situation in the area and determine if it is still viable to hold an election there even if it is still near six months away.

"The Comelec can already suspend the election in the area until things cool down. Right now, the situation can be really volatile and we don't want more killings in the area," he said.

Nograles, however, noted that the investigation should not be based on speculations but on solid evidences and testimonies.

On the other hand, the Speaker also urged the Senate to give priority to the approved measure of the House of Representatives, which provides for stiffer penalties for firearms-related crimes.

"Experience will tell that Philippine politics is not without the taints of violence and bloodshed (citing the recent killings in Maguindanao)," said Nograles, noting that gun owners, including those who have expired licenses, should no longer have any excuse in failing to license their firearms because of the government's amnesty program.

Maguindanao Massacre News Update

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Jesus Verzosa sacked five ranking police officials in Maguindanao province following the massacre of more than 20 civilians, including media practitioners, in Ampatuan town on Monday.

PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Leonardo Espina said Verzosa immediately ordered on Monday night the relief of Chief Insp. Sukarno Dichay, detailed at the Maguindanao Provincial Police Office (PPO), who was reportedly sighted in the scene of the incident along with members of the civilian armed auxiliary (CAAs).

Aside from Dichay, Espina said the PNP chief Tuesday morning ordered the sacking of Maguindanao PPO officer-in-charge Supt. Abusana Maguid and three other Maguindanao police officers.

Espina said the sacked police officers were placed under the custody of the PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in Cotabato City pending ongoing investigation.

Verzosa this morning flew to Maguindanao to personally oversee ongoing investigation and pursuit operations against the armed men who abducted more or less 40 individuals, more than 20 of whom were recovered dead, in a remote area in Ampatuan town.

"Investigation and hot pursuit operations are going on now for Maguindanao massacre. In fact, PNP chief Verzosa has flown to Maguindanao to oversee the investigation," Espina said.

On Monday morning, more or less 40 people, led by Genalyn Mangudadatu, wife of Buluan town Mayor Ebrahim Mangudadatu, and his younger sister and incumbent Vice Mayor Eden Mangudadatu of Mangudadatu town, and some media practitioners, were held by more or less 100 armed men manning a checkpoint along Sitio Crossing in Barangay Saniag in Ampatuan town.

Mangudadatu's group was on their way to file the certificate of candidacy of Ismael Mangudadatu for the governorship of Maguindanao when stop by the armed men, some of whom were identified as personnel of the Philippine National Police (PNP), and then led to remote village of Salman where they were massacred.

Victims of Maguindanao Massacre

Commission on Human Rights (CHR) clamors for decisive government action that'll bring to justice as soon as possible the perpetrators of the Nov. 23 massacre in Maguindanao province.

"Philippine National Police and the executive department must be put to task, not only to respond to the killings, but to deliver expeditious justice," CHR Chairperson Leila de Lima said.

"Several underpinning of power and influence in Maguinanao politics" must be overcome "without any delay," she said.

Police were looking at politics motivated the massacre as its perpetrators belonged to the ruling Ampatuan clan's private army while the victims were relatives and supporters of Buluan town Vice-Mayor Ismael Mangudadatu, who already confirmed plans of running next year as governor of the province.

Members of this ill-fated group were travelling with Mangudadatu's wife Genalyn last Monday to accompany her in filing the vice-mayor's certificate of candidacy (COC) for governor when some 100 armed men reportedly abducted them at gunpoint in broad daylight.

Several local journalists, including DZRH's Henry Araneta and Manila Bulletin's Bong Reblando, also travelled with this group to cover the COC filing.

Later that day, authorities discovered corpses belonging to 21 of the group's members.

The dead were either shot, beheaded or mutilated.

Some of the women casualties were reportedly raped also.

Mangudadatu confirmed his wife and several family members were among those whom the bandits slaughtered.

"This is an outrage – what kind of animals are those killers?" a stunned de Lima charged.

Authorities continue searching for other members of the group which Mangudadatu described as having been composed of some 50 people including the journalists.

Fearing the Mangudadatu clan's possible vendetta on the Ampatuans, de Lima called for immediate government action on the matter.

Ampatuans Creation of Gloria Arroyo

Former senatorial candidate Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III yesterday said the Ampatuans were a "creation" of Ms Arroyo.

"This is really an acid test for her," Pimentel told the Inquirer. "What's more important? The debt of gratitude because you are President because of their support, or the lives of the Filipino people and justice for those who lost their lives senselessly?"

Pimentel said Ms Arroyo owed a lot to the Ampatuans, particularly in the 2004 presidential election when they delivered the votes for her in the province over opposition standard-bearer Fernando Poe Jr.

Three years later in the senatorial race, Maguindanao delivered a controversial 12-0 sweep for the administration's Team Unity ticket.

Pimentel said that with such incidents, the Ampatuans could always tell Ms Arroyo: "You owe us big time." - Phil Daily Inquirer

Will Gloria Arroyo Arrest the Ampatuans?

Shocked and outraged by the Monday massacre in Maguindanao province, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's allies Tuesday called on her to swiftly go after a scion of the clan that helped her clinch victory in the 2004 presidential election.

Gilbert "Gibo" Teodoro Jr., standard-bearer of the ruling Lakas-Kampi-CMD, said authorities should immediately arrest Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. on the strength of the evidence supposedly pointing to him and his men.

"The government should [take] unequivocal and strong [steps] against the perpetrators. [Ampatuan] must be arrested because he has something to do with this. He must also face an impartial investigation," the resigned defense secretary said at a press conference.

Ampatuan should surrender to the police if he wants to clear his name, Teodoro said. He also said a delay in the government's response to the "indescribable" killings would be a cause of "national embarrassment."

Palawan Rep. Antonio Alvarez, the spokesperson of the ruling party, said any of its members found liable for the killings should be expelled at once.

The Ampatuans are party members. Only in June, Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), a son of Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan, was appointed interim regional chair of the party.

"If the party leadership, despite overwhelming evidence, will continue to keep them in the ranks for political expediency, then it will be wracked with resignations as it will become untenable for many members, like me, to stay in a party that coddles mass murderers," Alvarez warned. - Phil Daily Iquirer