Ampatuan massacre a multiple murder case, not rebellion

>> Tuesday, March 30, 2010

If you are following up the Ampatuan massacre, you’ll know that a Quezon City judge has dismissed the rebellion case against the suspects and apparently, this should be a good thing because now they can concentrate more on the charge of multiple murder of innocent people. Ellen Tordesillas has the details that’s not to be missed.

The dismissal by a Quezon City judge of the rebellion case against Maguindanao governor Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr, his son, ARMM governor Zaldy Ampatuan and 22 others should strengthen the case filed by relatives of journalists who were among those killed in the November 23 massacre before the ASEAN Intergovernmental Human Rights Commission (AICHR).
The journalists’ relatives are holding the Arroyo government responsible for the Nov. 23 carnage. In their suit filed last February, the relatives said “Clearly, all of those responsible for the carnage are agents of the Philippine State. Their acts in connection with the 23 November 2009 Maguindanao massacre are attributable under international law to the Republic of the Philippines.”

This week, three of the petitioners, Glen Salaysay, son of Cotabato City journalist Napoleon Salaysay, Noemi Parcon, wife of Koronadal City journalist Joel Parcon, and Feulen Sumagang, cousin of UNTV reporter Julito Evardo, were in Jakarta, where the AICHR is based, to follow up on their suit accompanied by their lawyer, Harry Roque of the CenterLaw Philippines.
They were most disgusted to find out that the Arroyo government has taken the stand that the Maguindanao massacre that has shocked the world and earned for the Philippines the distinction of being the most dangerous place for members of media is “a domestic legal issue” and international human rights bodies have no business meddling in.
Roque disagrees.“It cannot be a domestic issue,” he said, “since the Philippine government has violated its obligations under international law to protect the fundamental rights of its citizens, including the right to life. Such rights are embodied in human treaties to which the government is a party.”
In their petition, the victims’ families said the state also violated its “duty not to provide impunity, considering that its very own agents were behind the slaughter and it failed to prevent them from carrying it out.”
Roque cited the request of the Vice Mayor Esmail “Toto” Mangudadatu, the political rival of Ampatuans for protection, not only from the military but from no less than the defense secretary, but didn’t get any.
“It cannot be a domestic issue,” Roque said,since the Philippine government has violated its obligations under international law to protect the fundamental rights of its citizens, including the right to life. Such rights are embodied in human treaties to which the government is a party.
It is common knowledge that Gloria Arroyo has coddled the Ampatuans despite their corruption and shocking human rights records because the warlords manipulated the results of the 2004 elections in her favor which overturned the lead of her rival Fernando Poe, Jr.
In the 2007 elections, it was 12-0 in favor of the administration senatorial candidates.
Roque also cited the interview of one of the gunmen in the massacre who is now willing to testify which described the closeness of Arroyo and the Ampatuans. The prospective witness who is only known as “Jesse” said when Arroyo visit Maguindanao, he called Andal Sr, “Ama” (father) while Andal Jr, who led the killing of at least 53 people on that terrible day of Nov 23, called Arroyo, “Ina” (mother).
Roque’s connection of Arroyo with the Ampatuans is corroborated by Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, Jr who issued a statement saying it was not surprising that the rebellion charges against the Ampatuans were dismissed by a Quezon City judge.
Pimentel said “rebellion” was the wrong charge.” The massacre was pure and simple multiple murders of innocent people” he said.
Pimentel said rebellion charges were intentionally filed first even if any lawyer would have told the government prosecutors there was no evidence that backed them up just so the Arroyo administration would not be suspected of not doing anything to apply the law against “the family who is one of the most useful tools of manipulating the will of the people in their turf in Maguindanao.”
“It was a non-case, filed with deceptive motives, and pursued with hypocritical zeal that the Arroyo government chose to do in order to mislead the people that it was upholding the law even against the warlords it was coddling in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao,” Pimentel said.
Roque said since the government enjoys immunity from suit it cannot be sued in Philippine courts without its consent. As such, only an international organization such as the AICHR can assume jurisdiction over the Philippines on matters involving violations of certain fundamental freedoms.


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