Justice for Victims of Maguindanao Massacre
No to U.S.-Sponsored State Terror in the Philippines!
Voice of Revolution condemns the U.S. arming and backing of the Philippine government and brutal paramilitary forces, responsible for the massacre of 64 civilians in Maguindanao province, Mindanao, Philippines on November 23. We demand that the U.S. government denounce this massacre and stop arming and funding these forces. Much as is occurring in Colombia and more recently in Honduras, the U.S. claims to be a defender of human rights and “free and fair” elections, yet is repeatedly exposed as the force arming and backing the most reactionary forces responsible for civilian massacres and fraudulent elections. And, once again, President Barack Obama is remaining silent about the massacre in the Philippines.
The Maguindanao Massacre where a large number of women and children, 29 journalists and two human rights lawyers were killed, is part of a campaign of state-terror and violence organized by the U.S. and the U.S-backed Philippine government of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Most recently, this included a 9-day period from December 4-12 where martial law and suspension of the writ of habeas corpus was imposed on Maguindanao province. This campaign is aimed at intimidating and disrupting the Philippine people’s revolutionary movement for the political renewal of their society so as to build a new and sovereign Philippines and end once and for all U.S. military occupation of their country and its subjugation through fascist governments.
The U.S. has a long history of brutalizing the Filipino people, beginning with outright colonizing the country in 1898, then installing one fascist government after the other, including the infamous Ferdinand Marcos government (1965-1986), notorious for its human rights abuses and open theft of the wealth of the people.
State-organized violence and terror against the Filipino people has escalated during Arroyo’s tenure, with conditions now considered even worse than those under Marcos. Close to 1000 people have been assassinated by the regime to crush all opposition – so as to enable the U.S. imperialists to continue to use the Philippines as a military staging ground for wars of aggression and occupation in Asia and the world as well as to facilitate the continued plunder of the natural and human resources of the Filipino people. Despite the firm resistance of the Filipino people, who successfully forced the U.S. to close its bases, with puppet governments like Arroyo’s, the U.S. has secured “visiting forces agreements.” These agreements allow the U.S. to have troops in the country while also providing immunity for them from crimes committed, such as rape and murder. The agreements are also against the Philippine constitution. Utilizing these agreements, the U.S. has been training and arming not only the Philippine Army but the paramilitary forces responsible for the recent massacre.
In the Philippines, the Armed Forces, police and private armies composed of armed goons in the pay of the warlords and the most powerful landowners and industrialists act above the law, as do U.S. troops and the multinationals operating in the Philippines that they protect. All of them commit crimes and atrocities including extra-judicial killings, imprisonment and torture of members of opposition groups and human rights activists, lawyers, union members and progressive youth. These extra-judicial killings and assassinations must be ended!
U.S. Out of the Philippines!
On International Human Rights Day, December 10, and the whole week before that the Filipino American community was in protest mode. The Alliance Philippines strongly expressed its militant support for the people’s movement in the Philippines opposing the declaration of martial law and demanded justice for Maguindanao massacre victims by holding protests in key cities all over the United States from December 5 to 10, 2009.
On December 5, Ugnayan ng mga Anak ng Bayan New York/New Jersey Chapter held their 5th anniversary celebrations by honoring the victims of the Maguindanao Massacre. The event was held at the Renaissance Charter School in Jackson Heights, New York City. On December 8, a Community Forum led by the AJLPP, ANSWER-LA and AFFIRM was held at the FACLA Social Hall, in Los Angeles. A panel of speakers from different organizations condemned the massacre. A candlelight vigil capped the tribute and paid honor to the 64 victims of untold cruelties. On December 10, International Human Rights Day, scores of activists held a vigils and rallies.
At the Los Angeles rally, protesters stood their ground despite repeated harassment from the L.A. police (LAPD) acting at the behest of the US-Arroyo regime and the US State Department. The LAPD sent five patrol cars to shadow the protestors who kept on chanting: “Marcos, Gloria U.S. puppets, Marcos Gloria, Terrorist puppets!”
The half-hour rally was capped with speeches, songs and solidarity statements. The candlelight vigil went on despite the threat of rain and LAPD presence.
Martial Law for the Whole Nation?
The AJLPP believes the U.S.-Arroyo regime is flexing its muscles, is testing the waters and laying the ground work for declaration of martial law for the whole country, Filipinos should be wary because the Arrayo government absolutely controls the military, the courts and the lower house of Congress.
AJLPP will not be surprised if the Ampatuans will be pardoned or given amnesty like all the criminals pardoned by the Arroyo regime.
The supposed “discovery” of thousands of heavy arms, the existence of the private armies of the Ampatuans in Maguindanao and the use of US AID for building 16 luxurious mansions of the Ampatuans while the people of Maguindanao live in squalor is a proof that the US-Arroyo regime and US imperialism is a party to the dastardly massacre that killed 59 people including 31 journalist on November 23.
The AJLPP calls on the Filipino-American community to be on alert against new schemes of the ruling class that have piled up bloody crimes against the people.
Justice for the Victims of the Ampatuan Massacre!
The International Coordinating Committee and all member-organizations of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle condemn with all their moral conviction and strength the monstrous massacre of at least 57 people, including many women and children, 29 journalists and two human rights lawyers, in Ampatuan, Maguindanao on November 23, 2009.
The abominable crime against humanity was perpetrated by the private army of the Ampatuan ruling clan in collaboration with units of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Army (PA). The private army consists of armed units designated as Civilian Armed Force Geographical Units (CAFGU) and Civilian Volunteers Organization (CVO), subsidized by public funds and operating as auxiliary paramilitary units of the PNP and PA.
The Ampatuans are governors of both Maguindanao and the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and include a cabinet undersecretary, congressmen and several town mayors. They have maintained their dominant warlord status because they are aligned with the Arroyo regime and have delivered to it large numbers of fraudulent votes in the 2004 and 2007 reactionary elections. Thus, they are allowed to oppress and exploit the people and crush with armed force any opposition.
But it is not enough to see only the relationship of the Arroyo ruling clique and the Ampatuan ruling clan in Maguindanao or even the rotten and violent character of the entire oppressive ruling system in the Philippines. The official designation and government financing of the Ampatuan private army as CVO and CAFGU paramilitary auxiliaries of the PNP and PA are in line with the national internal security plan called Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL, Operation Plan Freedom Watch). This has been designed and directed by the U.S. under its global war of terror policy.
The structure of reactionary violence and human rights violations in the Philippines has several levels, including those of the U.S., the puppet Manila-based government and the local tyrants like the Ampatuans. The U.S. has been the most culpable for whipping up state terrorism and vigilantism by local tyrants and by army and police commanders under the pretext of combating communists and Muslims who are unjustly labeled as terrorists.
The U.S. is the imperialist master that has dictated that the Arroyo regime adopt and implement Oplan Bantay Laya and use the regular armed forces, the police and the paramilitary forces of the Ampatuan type to suppress the national and democratic rights of the people. Along the way, the puppets use their armed power to intimidate and kill their intrasystemic political rivals.
The U.S. has provided the doctrine of warfare against the people and supplied the military equipment and training and other wherewithal of the reign of terror. It has embedded advisors, trainers and operatives within the reactionary armed forces, and has deployed its own units in Mindanao and elsewhere to ensure puppet obedience to its imperialist dictates.
Together with the Manila-based puppet government, local tyrants like the Ampatuans and all their military, police and paramilitary minions, the U.S. is culpable and condemnable for pushing state terrorism and the gross and systematic human rights violations and emboldening the human rights violators to commit their crimes with impunity under the pretext of combating terrorism.
In a land that is familiar with violence by foreign aggressors and local tyrants, the recent massacre of at least 57 people in Ampatuan municipality, Maguindanao Province, Philippines still managed to shock and outrage the Filipino people as well as the rest of the world.
A convoy of journalists, lawyers and women relatives of Ismael Mangudadatu, a local politician contesting the governorship of Maguindanao Province, were en route to file registration papers for the May 2010 elections on the morning of 23 November 2009 when they were abducted and executed by over 100 gunmen. Twenty-four of the victims were women, some of whose bodies were later found mutilated. At least 28 journalists were also killed in the attack, which the Reporters without Borders described as the worst loss of life in the history of journalism.
The perpetrators were allegedly led by Andal Ampatuan Jr., the Mayor of a nearby town and son of the incumbent Governor of Maguindanao, who was being groomed to take over his father’s position. He was assisted by senior police officials, local police and paramilitary forces that function as a private army of the Ampatuan clan. A backhoe registered to the provincial government was even on hand to bury the victims in pre-dug common graves.
Clearly, the Ampatuans consider themselves untouchable because of their loyal ties to the incumbent President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who has deliberately created a climate of impunity for human rights violators and mass murderers in the Philippines. Since her ascent to power in 2001, over 800 extra-judicial killings have been committed in the country, including 51 incidents of massacres victimizing a total of 255 persons. Not one has been punished for these vilest of crimes.
In the case of the Ampatuan massacre, it took four days before the principal suspect was taken into custody and only after intense public outcry for justice. The Arroyo government’s initial response was to declare a state of emergency in the province, which would be enforced, of course, by the local state apparatus controlled by the Ampatuans.
The Ampatuan clan is a prime example of feudal-fascist warlords who are coddled and nurtured by the national ruling clique in order to secure their hold over local populations and resources. The Ampatuans are among the most loyal vassals of the Arroyo ruling clique and responsible for orchestrating the electoral fraud in the region through which Arroyo has kept herself in power.
It was Arroyo who gave the Ampatuan clan the authority to recruit and arm civilians to assist in fighting “insurgents” in the region. As a result, the Ampatuans now have a 500-strong army, which includes 200 special armed civilian auxiliary forces, as well as entire regular military and police units assigned to ensure the security of the clan members.
These local warlords and their “armies,” particularly in Mindanao, are not only interwoven with the national security apparatus of the ruling classes, they are also backed by the U.S. imperialist state, which has a special interest in Mindanao. The U.S. military considers Mindanao strategic for its force projection in this part of the world. It maintains military facilities in the island in direct violation of the Philippine Constitution. It has conducted at least seven military exercises in Mindanao since 2001, poured millions of military aid and has trained local security forces to enhance “inter-operability” with U.S. troops.
The USAID has funded tens of millions of dollars worth of infrastructure projects throughout the region to support U.S. military operations and U.S. investors in the region. To accomplish their objective of securing strategic resources and facilities, and suppressing revolutionary and democratic challenges to U.S. interests in the region, the U.S. necessarily works with the local state apparatus and allies with feudal-fascist rulers such as the Ampatuans.
Given the intimate ties of the Ampatuans and other fascist criminals with the U.S.-Arroyo regime, there is no reason to expect that any fact-finding body or investigation initiated by the corrupt, oppressive and brutal government will be credible or will bring justice to the victims of massacres and other human rights violations in the Philippines.
The ILPS calls on all freedom-loving peoples of the world to denounce the Maguindanao Massacre and all other extra-judicial killings in the Philippines; to demand an independent probe of these killings; and to condemn the Arroyo government for coddling mass murderers and human rights violators.
Stop the Killings!
The massacre of 57 people in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao goes beyond a rido or clan war. The sheer scope of barbarity, the brazenness of the murders betrays the perpetrators’ belief in being beyond the reach of the law.
Women, lawyers and journalists – no one escaped the butchers’ wrath. Fifty-seven people killed in broad daylight. The murderers had planned the deed, down to the mass burial of victims. That is the mark of the untouchable.
The Ampatuan massacre not only highlights the capacity for abuse by a political clan that has acted as ruler, judge, jury and executioner in its feudal turf; it is the graphic proof that State forces actually abet crime and protect criminals who provide favors for government officials.
Amid the outrage, even as President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo placed Maguindanao in a state of emergency, the government tried to downplay the role of the Ampatuan clan in the massacre.
Filipinos have been jailed, tortured and killed for petty crimes and for exercising their right to peaceful dissent. Yet Philippine National Police officials displayed an abject reluctance to even name the Ampatuans as suspects. President Arroyo even issued a public reaffirmation of her friendship with the Ampatuans. And for good reason.
The Ampatuans, feudal rulers of Maguindanao, gifted President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo with unbelievable margins of victory in the 2004 polls. They delivered the same service for her allies in 2007 election. They provide food and money for the military and para-military forces. They command a proxy army in the fight against secessionist rebels.
The Ampatuans and other warlords across the country have been doing these for a succession of administrations. Philippine leaders like to boast of our democracy. What confronts us are images of a failed State, where institutions are unable to exercise mandated functions, and the central government cedes substantial power to warlords who maintain private armies, which include “civilian volunteers.”
The cozy ties between central government and local warlords blanket the Philippine countryside with a climate of fear born of a culture of impunity. While this is a long-standing problem, it has reached monstrous proportions under the Arroyo administration, which has spent the nine years devouring the very bases of public power in its relentless effort to privatize that power as the public monies. We have had enough.
We demand the arrest and prosecution of all persons involved in the Ampatuan massacre, especially the masterminds. We demand the immediate suspension from office of all persons linked to the crime.
We demand the immediate arrest of all police and military officials who, by commission or omission, allowed the massacre to happen. We demand full punishment for all officers that tried to coddle the perpetrators of this massacre.
We demand the creation of an independent commission, to include media representatives, to probe the massacre and the events that led to it.
We demand that a special court with a presiding judge of impeccable credentials undertake the trial of the suspects in the Ampatuan massacre. We demand that media access be guaranteed in all stages and processes of the investigation and prosecution.
We demand full and immediate coverage of victims’ families and witnesses in the witness protection program.
We demand the immediate dismantling and disarmament of para-military forces nationwide as they have long been used as private armies of local warlords.
We demand the creation of an independent body composed of impartial persons of the highest integrity to oversee the disarming of para-military forces and the disposition of their arms.
We also demand an overhaul of a justice system that rewards criminals and tramples on the innocent.
We, the undersigned concerned Filipino individuals and organizations vow to hold a national protest to demand meaningful action from this administration. If Government is Unwilling to Govern, It Must Step Down. Only when the culture of impunity has been defeated can this nation proceed with the task of building peace and democracy in the Philippines.
Pesante News today learned that the Armed Forces of the Philippines’s (AFP) posturing as hero in the aftermath of the Ampatuan massacre is being deceitful in the face of hidden arms caches found in the Ampatuan warlord’s mansions and vast properties. These military-owned high-powered rifles, ammunition, and war materiel expose the collusion between the Ampatuan warlord clan, their mercenaries in the AFP top brass, and the [governing Gloria] Arroyo family. Faced with mounting nationwide anger that could lead to an Oust Gloria reprisal, the Arroyo regime imposed Martial Law in Maguindanao in a desperate attempt to exonerate itself from culpability in arming, backing, and using political warlords and their private armies for its counter-revolutionary schemes. It is ironic for 601st Infantry Brigade-AFP commander Colonel Leo Ferrer, in the midst of the martial law hullabaloo, to warn Ampatuan supporters and CVOs (Civilian Volunteer Organizations, government-funded paramilitary groups) of the military’s capability to launch tactical offensives if the latter remains unwilling to be disarmed.
Ferrer conveniently forgot that it was the military and the police who armed these civilians through the reactionary government’s issuance of various executive orders that established these private armies.
Even the butcher, retired general Jovito Palparan affirmed that the AFP has been supplying guns to the Ampatuans for its “counter-insurgency” campaign particularly against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Truly representative of the AFP, Palparan, however, did not express any remorse about the massacre despite glaring evidence that it was the AFP’s sophisticated weaponry that murdered 64 civilian victims of the Ampatuan monstrosity. In fact, Palparan and the AFP are so thankful to the Ampatuan warlords for helping them in their fight against “insurgents” that the Eastern Mindanao Command sees it a small token to keep and secure Andal Ampatuan Sr. in Camp Panacan instead of committing him to jail as the heinous criminal deserves.
AFP’s Mercenary Tradition
The AFP has been used by U.S. -imperialism and the local ruling class to serve as mercenaries. It uses the vilest forms of deception to crush the people’s resistance against the existing semi-feudal and semi-colonial system and to stop the advance of the People’s war.
The Ampatuan warlords’ private armies are only an example of the monsters being held under the leash of the AFP. Not stung by public backlash on the Ampatuan Massacre, the Arroyo regime has now unleashed Palparan to sow terror in Davao City, after having murdered leaders and members of legal democratic organizations and committing various political killings, abductions, and torture in many parts of the country. Similarly, the AFP has unleashed General Eduardo del Rosario. Del Rosario has coddled criminals like Toto Palma who figured in a number of crimes including the April 2002 Pangyan massacre.
The AFP also uses the likes of Major General Reynaldo Mapagu who, during his short assignment (from February 10 to November 16, 2009) as commander of the 10th Infantry Division under the Eastern Mindanao Command, is guilty in the brutal rape and slaying of Rebelyn Pitao, daughter of New Peoples Army commander Ka Parago, perpetrated by his military intelligence death squads. It was also during his term that the AFP dossier against so-called Enemies of the State was exposed.
Based on this gruesome record, the U.S.-Arroyo regime has lauded and promoted these hound dogs to higher military or civilian positions in government. Palparan had the temerity of bidding for a congressional seat using fraud and terrorism after having received accolades from President Arroyo. Meanwhile, Del Rosario has been promoted from lieutenant colonel to general, while Mapagu has been deployed as commanding general of the National Capital Region Command, the AFP’s anti-coup force in Manila.
Finally, it is despicable that Lieutenant General Raymundo Ferrer, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command, had been designated as martial law administrator. Ferrer is guilty of thousands of human rights violations perpetrated under his command and worked closely with the Ampatuan warlords in the ruthless counter-revolutionary warfare against the MILF.
U.S. Imperialist State’s Responsibility
U.S. imperialism continuously pours in military aid to Mindanao – considered its second front in the war on terror. The U.S. is the fountainhead for the atrocities committed by the Arroyo regime’s warlord allies and mercenary armed forces.
The United States has connived with the local puppet ruling class to advance the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group’s (JUSMAG) counter-revolutionary campaign, the latest of which is Oplan Bantay Laya. The U.S. has been laying the ground for Mindanao to be its permanent base via the onerous U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement. It has installed intelligence-gathering equipment and conducted actual combat operations as part of its bogus anti-terror campaign.
The U.S. government’s hands are bloodied for backing the killing machines of the Arroyo regime, now ably represented by local fascist rulers like the Ampatuan warlords and the AFP/PNP (Philippine National Police) mercenaries.
(Report based on a statement by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, Southern Mindanao)
AJLPP Condemns the U.S.-Arroyo’s Handling Of Ampatuans
The Alliance –Philippines or the AJLPP condemns in the strongest possible terms the barbaric massacre perpetrated by the Ampatuan warlord dynasty in Maguindanao November 22, 2009. The massacre victimized 62 people (at present count) including 27 members of the Philippine press, 22 women who were all raped and mutilated and 15 bystanders who happened to be passing the scene. Arturo P. Garcia, West Coast coordinator of the Alliance said, “The AJLPP is one with the National Press Club (NPC) and other democratic forces in the Philippines in condemning this political violence. “The massacre proved again the naked truth. That warlords and their dynasties led by the Arroyo dynasty in Pampanga is very much alive in the Philippines. President Arroyo also heads the biggest private army composed of the AFP and the PNP in the Philippines” Garcia said The Alliance squarely blamed the U.S.-Arroyo regime for the massacre and said that this massacre is typical of the human rights violations under the U.S.-Arroyo regime.
Culture of Impunity Under U.S.-Arroyo
The AJLPP also chided the U.S.-Arroyo regime for the kid glove handling of the prime suspect Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. who was “ taken into custody” five days after the massacre, given VIP treatment but has not been charged with any crime. “The US-Arroyo regime has been notorious in handling such cases, including the Garcellano affair, freeing the Teehankees and Jalosjos and now the Ampatuans. We just marvel at how slow Arroyo’s justice system works while how fast and terrible she is when it comes to attacking the democratic opposition,” the AJLPP statement said.
“We will not be surprised that, after going through the motions, the AFP and the U.S.-Arroyo regime will clear the Ampatuans and blame the massacre on other groups like the MILF, like what they are doing now. The US-Arroyo regime is just utterly shameless!” the AJLPP concluded.
Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo tends to overreact to events. Her Presidential Proclamation #1959 imposing martial law on Maguindanao echoes the hysteria of her Proclamation #1017 which imposed a state of national emergency on the country in 2006.
PP 1959 nullifies the lesson of the Maguindanao massacre, which killed not only 57 people locally but also seriously crippled civil liberties nationally.
A wise government would move heaven and earth to revitalize the processes and observation of civil liberties – not impose a higher dimension of armed might and capability for violence on the people of Maguindanao.
The Philippine military is no respecter of the Philippine Constitution. It owes its allegiance to whoever funds its various departments and divisions and personnel – from warlords to the U.S. government.
The Philippine military does not see the Filipino people as its ultimate commander-in-chief. Military rule over Maguindanao will bring no relief against warlordism – just as military presence in the rest of the country brings no respite from warlord clans.
That said, the lessons of the Maguindanao massacre appear to have been thoroughly lost on the political system itself. The senatorial slates of mainstream political parties are so heavily peppered with “names” – daughters of, sons of, cousins of…
Arroyo herself, not content with heading the government since 2001, is running for Congress and doing so virtually unopposed. Shameless. And, in the aftermath of the Maguindanao Massacre, intolerable. Hoy, ale, tama na; mayaman ka na; mayaman na kayo. Ano ba? Will someone please run against this woman?
We must see this burgeoning of political dynasties as part of the re-feudalization of the political system that imperialist globalization has wrought in the country. The latter destroys not only national economic borders but also the national sense of identity.
One can only hope that the Filipino voter will respond in a tremendous backlash of disgust and vote for the unknown, unfamiliar and for programs rather than names. One can only hope, likely in vain, that such votes will be counted accurately – or just counted.
(Reprinted from Lily Pad, “an Unconventional U.S. Filipina blogger,” ninotchkarosca.blogspot.com)