JORGE MADLOS “Ka Oris”
NDFP – Mindanao
Now on its third year, justice still remains elusive for the families and friends of the victims of the Ampatuan massacre, the most brutal carnage in recent history. Under the Aquino government, the court case against the Ampatuan clan has become even more tortuous and is turning into a farce. Since the case opened, the legal procedure, swamped with motions filed by the litigators for and in behalf of the Ampatuan accused, is almost at a standstill. Justice delayed is justice denied.
This casts much doubt on the sincerity of the Aquino government to genuinely try the case and convict the sociopathic murderers. It dismays the people that nearly 100 of the suspects remain at large and, thus far, only two of the principal suspects have been arraigned. The trial is inundated with legal roadblocks that by now the cries of the families of the victims are drowned out; justice continues to be a blur.
Is the Aquino government serious in dealing with the case against the Ampatuans? The National Democratic Front of the Philippines – Mindanao firmly believes it is not. At the very least, it is interested in all the hype it could get from the trial by feigning the image of a “human rights champion,” while boosting the chances of its minions in the coming mid-term elections. At most, Aquino is still playing his cards at coopting with the still-powerful Ampatuan clan in Maguindanao for his own power consolidation. Thus, it would be foolhardy to expect the Aquino government to deliver swift justice for the families of the victims because it is primarily caught up in the quagmire of its own political interest and ambition.
At present, at least three of the stronger witnesses have already been murdered; and their perpetual silence, which in larger context is due to the reactionary state’s inability to protect them, lends more credence to the claim of “innocence” of the Ampatuan warlords. This also sends a message of terror to other witnesses, who now choose to voluntarily muzzle themselves rather than end up dead. Witnesses who are still alive are being enticed to slink back to silence with bribes, and those who are still dogged with their conviction to punish the Ampatuans are being threatened. The Aquino government, much to their disappointment, cannot provide the witnesses and their families with the necessary protection. Under the context of this impunity, Noynoy Aquino has become an accomplice to the injustice bestowed on the victims of the Ampatuan massacre, as well as their families and friends and other victims of state-sponsored extra-judicial killings.
Moreover, since the Ampatuan massacre is virtually a slaughter of the freedom of expression of the Filipino people, the recent policy foisted by the reactionary courts to limit media coverage of the trial only manifests Aquino’s contempt at attaining true justice for members of the mass media.
While the case is apparently in shambles, extra-judicial killings continue to rage on with impunity, and it has gone far worse. In Mindanao alone, the list of victims of extra-judicial killings is getting longer under Noynoy Aquino’s watch, which recently included Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio, Jimmy Liguyon, Margarito Cabal, the Cafeon family, and numerous others who have been murdered either by riding-in-tandem death squads or state security forces. None of these cases have so far been resolved; the killers remain at large, with umpunity. Even up to this point, the Aquino government is wont to dilly-dally with the immediate capture of the perpetrators of such dastardly crimes, including that of notorious masterminds of the country’s own holocaust such as Palparan, Ecleo and the Reyes brothers.
In spite of its ‘matuwid na daan’ (righteous path) posturing, the Aquino government continues to sorely fail at dismantling private armies in Mindanao. It is this very situation where big landlord and comprador politicians are emboldened to build their own private armies for their local interests that have spawned bloodbaths such as the 11/23/09 massacre in Maguindanao. Apart from the Ampatuans, none among the large and more powerful private armies in Mindanao, such as Dimaporo in Lanao, Mangudadatu in Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao, Cagas and Caminero in Davao del Sur, Parojinog in Misamis Occidental, Jalosjos in Zamboanga, Romarate in Surigao del Norte, and a host of others, have ever been torn down. Without doubt, these private armies, which spread across Mindanao, continue to wreak havoc and perpetrate human rights violations in numerous communities. Aquino is complicit to these on-going carnage, until and unless he effectively tears down these warlords’ private armies.
Like his predecessor Gloria Arroyo, Noynoy Aquino is maintaining warlordism and the set-up of impunity in Mindanao in order to win support for the upcoming elections, and to appease warlord-politicians for a “share” in the different kinds of illegal activities in their local territories, especially in the illicit drugs business. In cahoots with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, these warlords and their armies also serve as mercenaries for the regime’s counter-insurgency campaigns.
Thus, the people must not allow the “trial of the century” to tragically turn into “the farce of the century,” which, if left unguarded, will bring great injustice not only to the victims, their families and the mass media community but to the nation as well. It is only through the collective will and mobilization of the mass media community with the broad masses of the people that justice for the victims and families of the Ampatuan massacre can ultimately be realized. Arm in arm with the families of the victims, we must challenge the Aquino government to prove, once and for all, that it can convict the Ampatuan warlords, and arrest and punish those who still remain at large.