Editorial

Don’t forget the Ampatuan Massacre

ALTHOUGH the November 23, 2009 massacre in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao, happened about seven months before President B. S. Aquino 3rd assumed power, we cannot but—to a great extent—agree with the Human Rights civil society organization Karapatan’s secretry-general when she angrily denounces him because “his government is shameless. He is impunity personified. His name is Noynoy ‘Impunity’ Aquino.”

Those are the words of Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary-general. She will say these words today, the eve of the International Day to End Impunity, which is on November 23. That is a dark day in the history of humanity. It is also the anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre.

On that day 58 Filipinos, of which 32 were journalists and media workers, were mercilessly killed by heavily armed men, warriors of the powerful and dynastic Ampatuan clan after which the town in Maguindanao province is named.

Every year since that tragic day five years ago, the relatives of the victims return to that place of infamy. The victims were not only gunned down. Almost half of the murdered were buried in pits, together with their vehicles. The pits were dug with a backhoe, which was also used to crush and flatten the vehicles, so that these could easily be entombed with the victims’ remains.

During the five years that have passed nothing has progressed in the prosecution of the Ampatuans and their retainers who committed the mass murder.

“There is madness going on right before our eyes with witnesses and potential witnesses being killed one by one. The Ampatuans may be in jail but their power has not diminished. They are still able to silence witnesses,” Karapatan’s Palabay says. And asks, “But what is the BS Aquino government doing?”
Nothing to make a difference.

Its attention is focused on covering up for the crimes its officials have committed and are still committing. They are consumed by their plans and strategies to secure the victory of their candidates in the 2016 election.

Karapatan narrates that on November 19, the former driver of Ampatuan Sr., Dennis Sakal, was killed. And Butch Saudagal, known as Ampatuan Jr’s bagman, was wounded. Both were shot while riding a motorcycle to Sharrif Aguak. They were being turned, they were getting ready to testify against their former bosses. Now their testimonies have disappeared–like the flesh and blood of the massacre victims.

“The BS Aquino government coddles the Ampatuans in the same way that it coddles and protects the notorious general Jovito Palparan who is housed at the Philippine Army camp,” Palabay says.

Five years ago, the whole world was stunned by the massacre of 58 persons. Five years have passed and [there is] still no sign that the murderers will be convicted, Palabay laments.

Instead of admitting that President Aquino should do much more work, should use his ppower and influence to stop human rights abuses and help convict abusers, like the perpetrators of the Ampatuan Massacre, Malacañang keeps insisting that the President’s hands are clean and he must not be accused of committing human rights abuse.

Yes, he may not be personally killing people. But he is not moving to stop those who are, who do extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances. And he allows the armed forces and police brass to hide the abusers’ crimes.