DAVAO CITY – A human rights group believes that justice will not be served for the victims of the Ampatuan massacre under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III who they call as the “Impunity King”.
Karapatan Alliance for Human Rights said that while the President is still in power “there will be no room for justice especially with the release on bail of Sajid Ampatuan, one of the perpetrators in the Ampatuan massacre.”
“The rest of the perpetrators in the Ampatuan massacre may be released in no time,”said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general.
Palabay said “if one asks about impunity in the Philippines, the images of the incident called the Ampatuan massacre would come to mind: dead bodies cut in half, the infamous back hoe that hauled the dead bodies in dirt trying to bury them.”
The massacre took place on November 23, 2009 where 58 people including 32 journalists and media workers were killed after their election convoy was attacked by more than a hundred armed men. Members of the police and military were allegedly involved in the attack.
“Through the years of trial, key witnesses to this heinous crime were murdered,” Palabay said.
According to the Amnesty International “at least eight witnesses and their family members” have been killed since November 2009. “No one is known to have been held accountable for these killings,” said the Amnesty International.
Palabay said that “despite the people’s outrage and after more than five years since the massacre, Executive Order 546, one of the key government policies that spurred the use of paramilitary groups and private armies by political warlords such as the Ampatuans, has yet to be revoked by Pres. Noynoy Aquino.”
Former Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s Executive Order 546 allowed local officials to employ members of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Units (CAFGU) and Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVO) to purportedly address insurgency in the country.
“It is not just the manner of killing, but also the shameless coddling of these warlord allies of the Gloria Arroyo government that again put the Philippines on top of the impunity map. Then, under the (Aquino government), the Ampatuans are starting to be freed,” Palabay said.
Karapatan said that the Aquino administration did not heed the calls to revoke the said policy by international institutions, such as the United Nations Human Rights Council in its recommendations in the 2012 Universal Periodic Review on the Philippines and the European Parliament.
Meanwhile, Davao City Councilor Leah Librado said the release of Sajid Ampatuan “poses a threat and could be the precedent of a disaster.”
Librado, who is also a lawyer, said even if everyone has the right to post bail, the case of Sajid Ampatuan “ should have been considered in terms of the crime committed and how we are thriving on a culture of impunity.”
“This is blatantly unjust as thousands of poor offenders all over the country, including political prisoners who are victims of trumped-up charges could not even be allowed to post bail as the system has apparently criminalized rebellion. Here comes an Ampatuan, being granted bail, to the detriment of those seeking justice for the victims of the massacre many years ago,” Librado said in a statement.
“Clearly, Ampatuans are warlords who have ruled it over Maguindanao for the longest time and we have to be careful as they will again sow terror and ride on the susceptible situation we have in Maguindanao right now. The mere act of granting him liberty is a cause for alarm,” Librado said.
Librado said they are also questioning why the president allowed this.
Sajid Ampatuan, who was the acting governor at the time of the massacre, was released after he posted a surety bond of P11.6 million on Monday.(davaotoday.com)