DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The conviction of members of the Ampatuan clan on their role in the Ampatuan Massacre was hailed as a “momentary respite from reigning injustice” by an interfaith human rights group.
Barug Katungod (Stand for Human Rights) Mindanao, in a statement released after the court decision Friday, said the decision “gives precedent for all victims of human rights abuses to never waver in seeking accountability and justice in a country where impunity and corruption is deeply embedded in the justice system.”
The group’s spokesperson, Bishop Redeemer Yañez, credit the social movement that campaigned through nearly ten years to ensure the “trial of the century” reached its conclusion.
“The people’s movement has led to today’s victory. Our vigilance was expressed through an unwavering campaign for justice and accountability against the perpetrators of the massacre, mobilization of volunteers and networks in the conduct of fact finding missions, assistance to the families of victims, forums, lobbying to policy makers, and protests in the streets,” Yañez said.
‘The quest for justice is not over’
But Yañez said that the Ampatuan clan remains in power, with 36 of its members elected into local government positions in the 2016 elections.
The groups cited the PCIJ report that the Ampatuans still wield economic power with “597 bank accounts, 500 hectares of real property assets, 130 motor vehicles, 420 firearms, and a private army of many hundreds.”
“The Ampatuans continue to be of value to the system of patronage politics in the country where politicians eyeing national posts have kept communities under the control of warlords to deliver electoral votes. We must remember that the Maguindanao massacre had been enabled by this symbiotic relationship between national politicians and local warlords,” Yañez said.
The acquittal of other members of the Ampatuan clan also means the threats continue. “The acquittal does not curb the Ampatuan machinery from perpetrating more criminal acts and threatening families of victims and the courageous witnesses in the trial, an ordeal we have seen in the last 10 years,” Yañez said.
Impunity still reigns
Barug Katungod also said certain presidential orders continue to perpetrate the climate of impunity among the people.
They noted that former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Executive Order 546 in 2006 that allowed the build-up of paramilitary still remain.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s EO 70 or the Whole of Nation Approach counter-insurgency program has sparked vilification, illegal arrests and other forms of “state repression” against journalists, lawyers, community leaders, and even church people.(davaotoday.com)