Initiatives for Peace (InPeace) Mindanao denounces the declaration of martial law in Maguindanao as a ploy of the Arroyo administration to strengthen its hold to power.
Official pronouncements proposing an extension of martial law up to the May 2010 polls and expanding it to other areas, lend credence to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s toying with dictatorship as a means to stay in power.
The people have not demanded the imposition of martial law in order to attain justice for the victims of this gruesome massacre. We have demanded that government take extraordinary political will, not extraordinary military power, to go after the perpetrators of this crime.
The people have demanded that all levels of government, including President Arroyo as commander-in-chief, be made accountable for being accomplice, tolerant, or neglectful.
The Ampatuan Massacre has shown to the whole world that there is a culture of killings in the Philippines because the military and police establishment, including hawkish leaders of the civilian bureaucracy, are providing arms to political warlords and feeding their private armies. It has shown the broader picture that state security forces are maintaining death squads that victimize activists, ordinary civilians, and petty criminals. It is showing that US military aid and a big chunk of our national budget goes to a failed counterinsurgency program that produces militia monsters controlled by the military, police, and political allies.
At the very least, Congress should summon the military and Philippine National Police (PNP) top brass, including National Defense secretary and National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, as well as former National Defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro, to explain the DND markings on seized firearms and ammunition from the Ampatuan militia.
The Arroyo government should likewise explain why it has failed to decisively dismantle the Ampatuan political machinery and militia base by arresting the suspected masterminds immediately after the crime. It had given the Ampatuans lead time to hide evidence and consolidate their moves.
Perhaps the hesitation was for a deal to allow their escape from criminal culpability. Legal experts have pointed out that once the case of rebellion against the Ampatuans is dismissed, so goes the subsumed murder case against them as well. The rebellion charges filed against the Ampatuans diminishes the barbarity of the massacre to a bailable political offense. The point is that the Arroyo government is doing a legal hocus-pocus that we see will eventually disentangle the Ampatuan warlords from this grievous crime.
We are outraged that another injustice is done by Arroyo to the victims’ families. We are outraged by her failure to give what is due and what is right. We are angered that justice is made more unattainable with Arroyo’s use of the Ampatuan Massacre as a launching pad for her selfish desire to stay in power. We are also aghast on how insensitive Arroyo is by using the gory images of the Ampatuan massacre to justify the imposition of Martial Law. It is an affront to the memory of the victims and their cry for true justice. (Mrs. Arroyo had no qualms showing those photos when, in fact, they show the ineptness of police forensic evidence gathering).
As in the past, martial law will only spawn more human rights violations especially in the Bangsamoro areas and will not guarantee a decisive crackdown and eventual conviction of the masterminds of this grotesque and hideous mass murder.
No to martial law!
Justice for all victims of the Ampatuan Massacre!
Atty. Beverly Selim-Musni, convenor
Mobile phone number: 0920-989-9023