DAVAO CITY—“Malacañang could not wash its hands off the Ampatuan massacre because the state is obliged to prevent such things,” said Lawyer Harry Roque, who represented the 13 widows of journalist victims of the Ampatuan massacre in the filing of cases before the Ombudsman. “Pero ang balang tumama ay galing gobyerno, ang baril na ginamit, galing gobyerno; ang bumaril, taong gobyerno; ang mga taong dapat na pumigil pero walang ginawa, gobyerno pa rin (The bullets that hit the victims were from the government; the guns, from the government; the triggermen, from the government; even the people who could have prevented the massacre but did nothing, were from government.)”
Thirteen widows of the slain journalists filed criminal and administrative cases before the Ombudsman on Wednesday, January 18, against Major General Alfredo Cayton, the commanding officer of the 6th Infantry Division and Col. Medardo Geslani, the commander of the 601st Brigade based in Maguindanao for their failure to prevent the massacre through their refusal to provide security escorts.
The complainants charged Cayton and Geslani for violations of section 3(e) of the Anti Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which penalizes public officers “who caused any undue injury to any party through gross and inexcusable negligence” and 4(e) of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, which penalizes public officers who “fail to extend prompt, courteous and adequate service to the public.” The group also charged Cayton and Geslani with gross negligence and dereliction of duty.
But Roque said other people higher than Cayton could not escape culpability of the massacre. “Di pa kami tapos (We are not done, yet),” he said.
For a case as gruesome as the Ampatuan massacre, he said it’s not enough to punish only those who pulled the trigger.
Survivors of the slain journalists said in their complaint that the death of their loved ones would have been prevented if Cayton hadn’t given the “go signal” and the assurance that there was “no threat on the ground.”
Roque said that days before the incident, the Armed Forces of the Philippines had received intelligence report of the massing of troops and a threat of an ambush but still had turned down the request of the media for a security escort. He also said that the journalists wouldn’t have gone to cover the event if Cayton had not assured them that the area was safe.
“Alam na nilang me nangyayari pero wala silang ginawa (They knew what was about to happen but they did not do anything about it),” Roque said, “Di man sila ang bumaril, dapat pananagutan nila ang kanilang pagpapabaya (Even if they were not the ones who actually gunned down the victims, they had to answer for their negligence).”
“Hindi sapat na ang parusahan lang ay ang bumaril (It’s not enough to punish only the triggerman),” he added.
Roque said the AFP had prior knowledge of an actual threat but still they still allowed the media to go. “Without their go signal, the media wouldn’t have pushed through with the convoy,” he said.
He also refuted AFP’s contention that the security concern in the area was purely “police matter.”
“There is no such thing as a purely police matter in this country anymore,” said Roque. “They (the military) are in actual control of the area because Maguindanao is at war,” Roque said, referring to the government’s war against rebel forces. “If we strictly follow the AFP’s mandate, even their combat operations against the NPAs (New People’s Army) or the MILFs (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) should have been ‘police matters’ because these are not fighting foreign invading troops they are fighting but Filipinos like themselves.” (Germelina Lacorte/ davaotoday.com)