Peoples’ lawyers, strengthen our ranks against attacks!
Intensify the fight against impunity & make the Arroyo administration accountable!
Advance the human rights of our people!
We – 100 peoples’ lawyers, paralegals, law students, and legal workers from all over Mindanao – gather today without our two brave members who were supposed to be with us during our 3rd Mindanao Assembly of Peoples’ Lawyers.
Our dear colleagues, Concepcion “Connie” Brizuela and Cynthia Oquendo, were executed on November 23, 2009 along with 64-and-counting journalists, women, ordinary folks in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao Province in what is now infamously called as the “Ampatuan Massacre.”
In the twilight of its fascist and corrupt rule, the Arroyo government has shown that it is not merely capable of subverting the Constitution through Charter Change, or getting away with scandal-after-scandal of corrupt deals. It is capable of allowing the murder of the biggest number of journalists in a single sweep in the world, and the biggest number of civilian casualties not caused by natural calamities in the country.
Having attained power through electoral fraud, the Arroyo government had established and strengthened the pillars of its illegitimate rule, to wit: a militarized civilian bureaucracy, a clique of loyal and bribed generals lording over the state security apparatus, a horde of deadly but vote-ensuring ruthless political warlords, an elite-dominated and docile Congress, and a steady flow of military aid especially from the United States. All are responsible for the culture of impunity for killings, for corruption and plunder, and for the mockery of the rule of law.
By all indications, we will not see a definite exit of the Arroyo ruling family even as the May 2010 general election nears. We must therefore act more resolutely and with haste to frustrate the desperate schemes of the Arroyo government to stay in power.
We must exact justice not only for the victims of the Ampatuan Massacre but also for the more than 1,000 victims of other extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances all over the country. We must intensify our efforts to actively legally represent our people in the prosecution and penalization of criminals, death squads, and their military and civilian patrons. We must exhaust all fora for the campaign against impunity such as the United Nations human rights system, the Commission on Human Rights and other international human rights agencies. We must continue to work with our people in the grassroots and strengthen our pledge to pursue the ends of justice in their favor.
We must participate in the electoral exercise to advance the people’s interest for true social, economic, and political reforms. The 2010 elections pose a huge challenge as the Automated Election System may be used by the ruling party to perpetuate itself in power.
In view of the socio-political milieu of our 3rd Mindanao Assembly, we put forward the following demands and commitments:
1. We call for the establishment of an independent commission to thoroughly and impartially investigate the Ampatuan Massacre with the view of not only looking into the culpability of direct perpetrators but also the participation of the police and military establishment and institutions of government at all levels, and the accountability of President Arroyo as commander-in-chief and patron of the Ampatuan clan;
2. We call for international economic and political sanctions on the Arroyo administration and challenge foreign governments to give teeth to their statements against the culture of impunity in the country; we seek accountability particularly of the United States for Arroyo’s use of US military aid in the implementation of Oplan Bantay Laya, the arming of private armies of political warlords, and the sponsorship of death squads in the country;
3. We pledge our commitment to the Commission on Human Rights headed by the Honorable Leila De Lima to help in its parallel investigation of the executive branch of government in its handling of the Ampatuan Massacre and other extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances;
4. We shall initiate a persistent and systematic advocacy to expose and resist attacks on peoples’ lawyers and the legal profession;
5. We vow to support candidates, both local and national, and partylists that have consistently championed the rights of the people, even at the cost of their lives and liberties, and commit our legal services to protect the people’s will from the precinct to the canvassing levels;
6. We commit to support our fellow members who will seek elective positions in May 2010 in order to advance genuine politics of change and as another arena for our political advocacy apart from the courtrooms and the parliament of the streets.
Today, our Union is not two lawyers weaker. The blood of our two martyred women lawyers has nurtured our resolve to puncture and end the culture of impunity that has revived the nightmare of martial law in our country today.
Lest the Arroyo government think that killing lawyers, journalists, and human rights defenders will make us cower in fear, she is mistaken. We will work to stop this impunity. And work we will until we, together with the rest of the Filipino people, are able to uproot impunity from its source— Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Justice for attys. Connie Brizuela and Cynthia Oquendo!
Justice for all victims of human rights violations!
Peoples’ lawyers, relentlessly and militantly pursue the ends of justice!
Unity statement of the 3rd Mindanao Assembly of Peoples’ Lawyers
Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao/November 28, 2009/Cagayan de Oro City