Moro groups fear whitewash in the Maguindanao probe

Nov. 28, 2009

Davao Today

DAVAO CITY– After the mass murder that killed 57 people, 21 of them women, Moro residents in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao have remained largely silent, perhaps dumbfounded, at the extent of the atrocities.

“But it does not mean that they wanted these things to happen,” said Bai Ali Indayla, secretary general of the Moro human rights group Kawagib.

Indayla said that the people in the area must have been “fed up,” too, by such naked display of impunity by powerful people in the area.

“Too much greed for power is un-Islamic,” Indayla said. “It was never tolerated in the Koran. Those who should be leaders are those favored by the people.”

Civilians not part of the convoy were among those killed in the bloodbath in Maguindanao.

In Davao City and elsewhere, the Maguindanao carnage earns worldwide condemnation. ( photo by Jomel Hernani)

In Davao City and elsewhere, the Maguindanao carnage earns worldwide condemnation. ( photo by Jomel Hernani)

The convoy, led by Buluan vice mayor Ismael Mangudadatu’s wife Genalyn, were on their way to file his certificate of candidacy in Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao, when they were blocked by 100 armed men and killed.

A Toyota Vios was among the last of the vehicles dug out by authorities near the vicinity of the crime on Wednesday. The vehicle was not part of the six-vehicle convoy of the Mangungudatus on the way to Shariff Aguak on Monday to file the certificate of candidacy of the Buluan town vice mayor. Aboard the Toyota Vios, were four passengers, one of them scheduled for medical treatment in Cotabato City. Among the passengers, were two employees of the Tacurong local government unit and a driver. The vehicle was one of those dumped onto the pit that also bore some of the dead inside.

As Datu Unsay town mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. surrendered to the authorities Thursday, Indayla said she does not expect much from the government investigation. She said she does not believe that the Arroyo administration, which has been “indebted” to the Ampatuans in the 2004 and 2007 elections, will have the political will to pave the way for a genuine investigation.

In 2007, Kawagib had documented Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) in Maguindanao’s Datu Montawal and Pagalungan towns pulled out of the polling precincts and made to write on the ballots the names of the 12 administration senatorial bets.

This report by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) also showed how—and with Malacañang’s blessings—the political clan ruled unopposed in Maguindanao.

Indayla said it is important that Moro constituents of Maguindanao must be heard right now.

“Look at what Dureza did,” Indayla said, referring to Jesus Dureza, President Arroyo’s adviser on Mindanao affairs recently appointed head of the crisis management team of the administration.

Indayla said that in the wake of the tragedy, Dureza visited the house of the Ampatuans to “cordially” talk to Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., “into submitting himself to investigation.”

“That is no way to treat someone already suspected of masterminding a crime as gruesome as what happened in Maguindanao,” Indayla said.

She said that Dureza should have immediately taken the Ampatuan mayor into custody. “Instead, he was treated with kid gloves, which only illustrates the kind of relationship the Arroyos have with the Ampatuans.”

Indayla also believes the issue should be seen beyond the traditional rido, a blood feud where one clan fights another for vendetta. “This (the Maguindanao carnage) is an issue of impunity bred by power that condones abusive governance,” Indayla said.

She also said that placing Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat provinces, including Cotabato City, under a state of emergency is not the solution to the problem. “There is a danger that it (the emergency power) will be used on the wrong targets and the real culprits will end up exonerated,” Indayla said.

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