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Monthly Archives: December 2009

Written by Butch Fernandez and Fernan Marasigan / Reporters
Sunday, 06 December 2009 22:21
OPPOSITION leaders in the Senate voiced fears that Malacañang imposed martial law in Maguindanao partly to conceal proof of massive electoral fraud in the province where President Arroyo and her administration bets won big in the 2004 and 2007 elections with the help of members of the beleaguered Ampatuan clan.

On the eve of a Senate caucus to scrutinize Presidential Proclamation 1959 placing Maguindanao under martial law, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. prodded the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to take custody of the ballot boxes and other election paraphernalia reportedly confiscated along with a cache of firearms and ammunition by military units that raided the Ampatuan mansions recently.

“One possible reason for the martial-law declaration might be to cover up the massive fraud that marred the 2004 presidential and 2007 senatorial elections in the province,” he said, suggesting that “President Arroyo and her cohorts are afraid the Ampatuans may expose the rigging of election results in Maguindanao that enabled her to win over opposition challenger Fernando Poe Jr. in the 2004 elections, and administration candidates to sweep the senatorial polls in the province in 2007.”

According to Pimentel, he received reports that the Ampatuans have threatened that if the government would pin them down, they would reveal what really happened in the past two elections. He was informed that during the raids conducted by the military and police forces, the raiders discovered and confiscated ballot boxes containing election documents.

In separate statements, former President Joseph Estrada and his runningmate, Makati Mayor Jojo Binay, also opposed the Arroyo government’s declaration of martial law in Maguindanao.

“A martial-law declaration is not necessary to bring peace and order and achieve justice for the victims of the Maguindanao massacre,” Estrada said.

Binay, for his part, noted that legitimate questions arose as to the “real motive” behind the declaration of martial law in Maguindanao.

“There have been reports that the Ampatuans have threatened to make the Arroyo administration pay by telling all they know about the massive cheating in the province during the 2004 presidential elections.”

If such reports are true, Binay added, “then this reduces the martial-law proclamation into a hunt for evidence of election fraud [and] it would now appear that the Arroyo administration is using the full might of the state—the Armed Forces, the police and all agencies of government—to recover original election returns or certificates of canvas reportedly in the possession of the Ampatuans as a state of martial law will allow the administration to conduct raids and searches without going through the courts.”

Binay bemoaned that the Arroyo administration is not just committing another injustice to the victims of the Maguindanao massacre.

“They are exploiting the nation’s outrage to cover up another serious crime, that of stealing the 2004 elections.”

Tuesday Senate caucus; debates in Congress

AT the same time, Pimentel confirmed that Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile is set to call an all-Senators’ caucus at 9 a.m. on Monday to discuss the martial law declaration.

Fiery debates on President Arroyo’s declaration of martial law in Maguindanao are expected in Congress when it resumes its sessions on Monday even as militant legislators are filing a resolution seeking to revoke its imposition.

Loyal congressional allies of Mrs. Arroyo are expected to defend Proclamation 1959 when the Senate and the House of Representatives hold a joint session whether   to revoke Mrs. Arroyo’s declaration.

The Makabayan coalition in the House—Party-list Reps. Satur Ocampo, Teodoro Casiño and Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna; Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan of Gabriela; Rafael Mariano and Joel Maglunsod of Anakpawis; and Raymond Palatino of Kabataan said they would do everything humanly possible to oppose what they called “an emerging Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo dictatorship.”

All, except the young Palatino, were active in the anti-Marcos dictatorship struggle.

They reiterated their stand that Proclamation 1959 was unconstitutional as there is no rebellion or invasion in Maguindanao. They also said it was unnecessary since a state of emergency had already been declared in the area, and the Armed Forces, National Police and other government agencies had enough powers to deal with the aftermath of the Maguindanao massacre.

“We believe Proclamation 1959 is meant to be a precedent. It is an attempt to impose martial law even without the requirements specified in the Constitution. If GMA [Mrs. Arroyo] gets away with this one in Maguindanao, she can get away with it in any other province or the whole country,” they said in a statement.

“We demand that Congress act immediately to revoke Proclamation 1959 and protect our people from similar threats to their democratic rights and freedoms,” they added.

‘Declaration overdue’

Lakas-Kampi-CMD Rep. Antonio Alvarez of Palawan, meanwhile, said the declaration of martial law in Maguindanao was long overdue.

“She [President Arroyo] should have declared it a long time ago as signs point to lawlessness in the area,” said Alvarez.

But the delay proves that it was a well-thought-of move, not precipitate, and carefully calculated, he added.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Arroyo’s allies in the House dismissed as ridiculous and unfounded the critics’ claim that the martial-law declaration in Maguindanao was a ploy scenario for charter change (Cha-cha) and a no-elections (no-el). They expressed confidence that President Arroyo and her administration can adequately justify before Congress and even the Supreme Court the necessity of issuing Proclamation 1959.

Lakas-Kampi-CMD Rep. Rodito Albano of Isabela said critics, especially opposition candidates, are exaggerating the martial-law proclamation in Maguindanao for media mileage and to attract voters.

“It’s absurd for them to think that the martial-law declaration is in pursuit of Cha-cha and no-el. They’ve always been propagating lies about Cha-cha and no-el but none of these ever materialized during the term of President Arroyo. Their main concern should be the pursuit of justice, peace and normalcy in Maguindanao, not their own vested interests,” said Albano.

Alvarez said he doesn’t think the Joint Congress will revoke the declaration once it reviews the report of the President “because the situation in Maguindanao warrants a martial law imposition.”

NPC: watch situation closely

“WE hope the move to declare martial law in Maguindanao would not lead to the wholesale curtailment of the people’s constitutional rights, especially press freedom,” Benny Antiporda, NPC president said.

He noted that the declaration was presaged by President  Arroyo’s order for police and military authorities to neutralize all the so-called private armies in various parts of the country.

“While it is about time that these private armed thugs—many of them trained by our national-security forces—are dismantled, we hope that the martial-law declaration in Maguindanao would not spill to other provinces branded as ‘potential trouble spots’ by the authorities and, eventually, Metro Manila,” Antiporda added.

He also warned the public to be wary of the possibility that certain quarters are out to take advantage of the situation in Maguindanao to further “create an environment of fear that would justify the imposition of martial law on a grander scale.”

CHR chief: Nullify 1959

NEVER again to martial law.

This was the strongly worded statement of Leila de Lima, chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights, who also called for a nationwide pressure on Congress to nullify the declaration of martial law, warning that it was “ominous.”

“It might spread [all over the country],” de Lima said in Pilipino at the forum with human-rights advocates gathered in Davao City on Saturday on the second Mindanao Human Rights Summit. “There are already two provinces under martial law, the other one in Sulu.”

De Lima said the CHR would like Malacañang to explain “its basis for the declaration,” noting the Palace’s claim that martial law was declared due to the presence of armed men and that there was a clamor to serve justice to the victims. If this was so, “then why not declare the entire country under martial law because there are a lot of armed groups in the country, and a lot of people who are seeking justice.”

She said Maguindanao was already teeming with military personnel that their number would be adequate enough to contain any threat to deliver justice.

“Why the need to declare martial law to make the perpetrators answer to their crimes? Is martial law really needed to arrest the murderers?

“Never again to martial law. That should be our response,” she said partly in Pilipino.

De Lima said martial law was declared due to reports that armed men were massing up near the massacre site and guerrilla forces were also seen converging.

“I think this was a preemptive move. But I don’t think these are justified reasons to declare martial law.”

Meanwhile, de Lima said the team of CHR investigators, Department of Justice prosecutors and the two Peruvian forensic experts were stranded in Cotabato City awaiting the official statement of the military clearing the way for their exhumation of the grave sites for more suspected bodies.

“With martial law, we are now getting conflicting advice from the military. Some said that we should not go because of the armed men. The others say that it’s now safe,” she said.

She confirmed reports that government agencies and even private companies in Maguindanao have refused to lend their backhoe equipment to exhume the grave sites in Ampatuan town.

“The only agency that eventually allowed us to borrow their backhoe was the provincial government of Sultan Kudarat,” she said.

“But we cannot proceed because we are awaiting the clearance from the military,” she added.

A European Union executive who also spoke before the summit declined to comment on Malacañang’s declaration. But Nick Taylor, development counselor of the EU Delegation to the Philippines, said he would expect the international community “to say something about this.”

CBCP: Support, and alarm

MEMBERS of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) have expressed differing views over the martial-law declaration in Maguindanao, although most expressed alarm that human rights may be violated.

Cotabato Auxiliary Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo agreed with Mrs. Arroyo’s declaration of martial law in the province “as long as its scope, terms and limits are within the Philippine Constitution of 1987.”

In an SMS to CBCPNews, the 55-year-old prelate said, “The elements of widescale violence are there” which “might be uncontrollable.”

He added, “The elements of general public safety and imminent danger to lives are there along with the elements of terrorism.”

Catarman Bishop Emmanuel Trance said he would trust Mrs. Arroyo’s declaration if it is only for Maguindanao and if it would be lifted as soon as possible and with no ulterior motive within constitutional limits.

“For us who have experienced martial law under Marcos, we become very wary and alarmed when such a decision is made because it should only be an instrument of last resort when other legal means does not work as may be deemed in the case of Maguindanao.”

(With M. Cayon, R. Acosta and S. Fabunan)

Posted date: December 04, 2009
GENEVA — Investigations into the deaths of 57 people in an election-related massacre in southern Philippines must be the start of a major reform process in the country, two United Nations human rights experts said on Wednesday.
The two experts called for the “effective” prosecution of those behind the killings and an end to manipulation by the elite of the country’s election process.
The authorities must also put in place immediate measures to prevent similar murders in the run-up to elections next May, said the experts, who report to the UN Human Rights Council on extrajudicial killings and on freedom of expression.
“The premeditated killing of political opponents, combined with a massive assault on the media, must be tackled at various levels that go well beyond standard murder investigations,” declared the two experts, Philip Alston and Frank La Rue.
The massacre took place in Maguindanao province on Nov. 23 in the Philippines’ deadliest ever election-related crime. The killings were blamed on members of the Ampatuan family, whom President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has in the past called valuable political allies.
Threat to democracy
Alston and La Rue said the inquiry “must be followed by effective prosecutions of all those responsible for the killings.”
But the massacre should also spark extensive reflection “on the elite family-dominated manipulation of the political processes and the need to eliminate such practices in order to assure the future of democracy in the Philippines,” they said.
The two UN experts—Alston from the United States and La Rue from Guatemala—said any broad inquiry into the country’s political system would have to focus on how to improve protection for journalists, 30 of whom died in the massacre.
Even more urgent was the creation of a task force to prevent more election-related killings.
“There is every indication that the run-up to the May elections will sound the death knell for many political activists,” the two added.
UN intervention
In Manila, journalists said Philippine media groups might ask the United Nations to intervene in the probe of the massacre.
“We’re considering all options, including asking the UN rights body to step into the massacre,” Melinda Quintos de Jesus, executive director of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, told reporters, adding the local press must “not drop the ball to allow the suspects to get away with the murders.”
Int’l press group’s mission
International press groups were also sending a mission to the Philippines to look into the massacre.
Around 15 delegates from groups like the International Federation of Journalists, the Southeast Asian Press Alliance, and the Committee to Protect Journalists were expected to arrive in Manila this weekend, according to National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) board member Rowena Paraan.
“This shows that there is international attention on the incident, as it should be. The trip will also be an expression of solidarity with local journalists,” Paraan said.
Paraan said members of the media would march on the Don China Roces Bridge (formerly Mendiola) on Dec. 9 as part of the Global Day of Action for the slain journalists.
In a report released Thursday, a fact-finding team that went to Maguindanao observed that police had handled evidence poorly, leading to its possible contamination.
“There was little or no consideration given to preserving the evidence. There was little or no consideration given to avoid the contamination of the crime scene,” the report said.
The group said the vehicles used by the suspects in stopping a convoy carrying journalists and relatives of a clan opposed to the Ampatuans were still unaccounted for.
“Investigators said the suspects also used a Nissan Frontier pickup with police markings. One such police vehicle issued to the Maguindanao police is still unaccounted for. This jibes with claims by (witnesses) that police vehicles were involved in the blockade,” the team said.
‘Culture of fear and silence’
The killings have stoked fear among students in some areas of Mindanao.
Fr. Edgardo Tanudtanud, OMI, director of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) for Central Mindanao, cited a recent incident in which several students, out of fear, canceled their participation in a march for peace in Cotabato.
“It has created a culture of fear and silence among the people, including the students, Christians and Muslims alike. But that fear did not stem from that massacre incident alone, but because of the history of violence in the area,” Tanudtanud said.
In a statement, the association of 1,272 member schools, colleges and universities said: “This mass murder … has showcased the extent corrupt individuals are willing to go in order to arrogate the power to themselves.”
Msgr. Gerry Santos, president of the CEAP, said the group was demanding long-term solutions to the decades-old conflict that had forced Maguindanaoans to live in fear and subhuman conditions.
“We ask the government to dismantle private armies and put an end to the anarchy of clans in the region,” Santos said. Reports from Reuters, Alcuin Papa and Tina G. Santos

(The Philippine Star) Updated December 07, 2009 12:00 AM

ANGELES CITY, Philippines – President Arroyo can reassume the presidency after she is elected a member of the House of Representatives through a 1947 law on presidential succession, according to a lawyer.

Lawyer Ernesto Franciso said under Republic Act No. 181, when neither the president-elect nor the vice president-elect shall have qualified, and the Senate president and the speaker have not yet been elected, Congress shall elect an acting president from among the senators and members of the House.

That acting president shall remain in office until the president-elect or the vice president-elect shall have been qualified, he added.

Francisco said Mrs. Arroyo’s allies in Congress can elect her as acting president after she wins a seat in the House when the people fail to elect a president or vice president because of some events like the breakdown of poll automation, vacancy in the post of Senate president and the speaker on June 30 next year.

“RA 181 was not expressly repealed by the 1973 Constitution, and its provisions are not inconsistent with the provisions of the 1987 Constitution on presidential succession,” he said.

Francisco said that since the Constitution provides that Congress can choose who can act as president in case of permanent incapacity of the president until a new president is elected, any doubt on the validity of RA 181 may be remedied through a new law with exactly the same provisions.

Mrs. Arroyo’s election as acting president would be easy because under RA 181, the election shall be done by Congress in joint session, not necessarily with the Senate and the House of Representatives voting separately, he added.

Francisco said Mrs. Arroyo could remain president while the president-elect and the vice president-elect have not qualified.

“Also, it must be considered that any legal question on the matter of presidential succession that may arise on June 30, 2010 will be resolved by a Supreme Court filled with GMA appointees,” he said.

‘GMA can do an Adams’

Mrs. Arroyo can do what US President John Quincy Adams had done in the 19th century when he ran for Congress and won after completing his term as president, a lawmaker said yesterday.

Cebu Rep. Eduardo Gullas said the sixth US president was elected representative from Massachusetts after leaving the White House.

Adams served as a member of Congress for the last 17 years of his life, he added.

Gullas said Andrew Johnson, the 17th US president, was elected senator six years after his presidency.

“If Mrs. Arroyo does not wish to retire from active public service, that is her prerogative,” he said.

Gullas said suggestions that as a lawmaker Mrs. Arroyo could work on Charter change to shift to a parliamentary system of government so she could become prime minister are “overly speculative.”

“Once the people elect a new president next year, there will be a totally new order,” he said.

“Everyone will revolve around the new president. Mrs. Arroyo will just be one of 282 members of the House. Her vote will be as good as mine.”

Mrs. Arroyo has filed her certificate of candidacy for representative of Pampanga’s second district.

She joined three other Arroyos aspiring for congressional seats: her younger son Diosdado of Camarines Sur’s second district, brother-in-law Jose Ignacio of Negros Occidental’s fifth district, and sister-in-law Ma. Lourdes of the party-list group Ang Kasangga. – Ding Cervantes, Jess Diaz

–Atty. Theodore Te, UP College of Law

Which part of “Never Again” did you fail to understand?

The decretal portion of Proc 1959, as read by the Executive Secretary:





What is immediately apparent is that there is no period specified and none of the grounds in the Constitution would fit–unless these grounds are yet to happen according to good old military inteligence.

Meantime, it is left to both Houses of Congress–this time clearly voting jointly (ehem ehem ehem, can you say “cha cha” as well as “choo choo”?)–and the 93% Gloria-appointed Court to decide on this issue.

The relevant portion of the 1987 Constitution (which, if you put side by side with the proclamation, will clearly show the infirmity of the declaration) —

“ART. VI, SECTION 18. The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion. In case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he may, for a period not exceeding sixty days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law. Within forty-eight hours from the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, the President shall submit a report in person or in writing to the Congress. The Congress, voting jointly, by a vote of at least a majority of all its Members in regular or special session, may revoke such proclamation or suspension, which revocation shall not be set aside by the President. Upon the initiative of the President, the Congress may, in the same manner, extend such proclamation or suspension for a period to be determined by the Congress, if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it.

The Congress, if not in session, shall, within twenty-four hours following such proclamation or suspension, convene in accordance with its rules without any need of a call.

The Supreme Court may review, in an appropriate proceeding filed by any citizen, the sufficiency of the factual basis of the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ or the extension thereof, and must promulgate its decision thereon within thirty days from its filing.

A state of martial law does not suspend the operation of the Constitution, nor supplant the functioning of the civil courts or legislative assemblies, nor authorize the conferment of jurisdiction on military courts and agencies over civilians where civil courts are able to function, nor automatically suspend the privilege of the writ.

The suspension of the privilege of the writ shall apply only to persons judicially charged for rebellion or offenses inherent in or directly connected with the invasion.

During the suspension of the privilege of the writ, any person thus arrested or detained shall be judicially charged within three days, otherwise he shall be released.”

Press Statement

December 5, 2009

Statement on the declaration of Martial Law in Maguindanao

The declaration of a state of Martial Law in Maguindanao sets a most dangerous precedent for the nation. Not since September 21, 1972 has there been any declaration of Martial Law, not even during the years of tumult under the Aquino, Estrada and, prior to this, the Arroyo regime. For the first time since 1972, the writ of habeas corpus has been suspended in an area in the Philippines.

We reiterate our call for justice for the victims of the Ampatuan Massacre but we cannot support measures that are both dangerous and questionable.

The alleged purpose of Proclamation 1959 is the arrest of the Ampatuan family members who are implicated in the November 23 Ampatuan, Maguindanao massacre. The regime justifies the declaration in saying that civilian institutions, especially the courts, are no longer functioning and that the dispensation of justice would not be possible.

The Constitution says Martial Law can only be declared during an invasion or during a rebellion. The failure of civilian government institutions, as in the case of the local government offices and courts in Maguindanao, cannot be used as a pretext for declaring Martial Law. The difficulty of gathering evidence, securing warrants and enforcing arrests also cannot be used as a basis for the declaration.

We demand the lifting of Martial Law in Maguindanao and the restoration of the civilian government institutions. Martial Law cannot solve the problem of state-sponsored warlordism and violence in the province. Martial Law will always lead to abuses because those implementing it, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, have very poor human rights records.

The national government must endeavor to restore the civilian administrative and judicial institutions in the province.

If Mrs. Arroyo refuses to lift the declaration, we call on Congress to exercise its powers to revoke Martial Law. Mrs. Arroyo is required by the Constitution to report to Congress within 48 hours. It falls on Congress, though dominated by Arroyo loyalists, to revoke this dangerous declaration. We must not wait for the maximum 60-day period allowed by the Constitution for the enforcement of martial rule. The leaders of the Lower House and Senate must convene within 24 hours to address this issue.

That Martial Law has been declared in a province less than six months before the national elections raises fresh fears that similar scenarios can also follow, thus severely undermining the conduct of the 2010 polls to benefit the incumbent president. We must not allow this scenario to be replicated in other regions for whatever pretexts. If Arroyo can declare martial law for reasons not defined in the constitution, imagine what she can do before the 2010 elections.

The Arroyo regime and its police and military have to be made accountable for its role in arming the Ampatuan family. The recently discovered arms cache in the Ampatuan residence shows the complicity of the AFP, PNP and the regime in supplying weapons to the local warlords. With this kind of track record, how do you trust the AFP and PNP with the vast powers of Martial rule? This kind of corruption and complicity cannot be solved by the declaration of Martial rule. l

We have learned the bitter lessons of Martial Law even as we are acutely aware of the propensity for abuse by the current regime. As we continue to demand justice for the victims of the Ampatuan massacre, we call on the public to remain vigilant at this time against possible abuses on civilians that may stem from this declaration. ###

PRESS STATEMENT Reference:  Marie Hilao-Enriquez

November 26, 2009                                            Chairperson, Mobile No. 09175616800

Inaction on and tolerating human rights violations abet crimes such as the Maguindanao massacre

KARAPATAN condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the massacre of 57 civilians which included media persons and two women lawyers in Maguindanao, on November 23, 2009.

Early this year, the human rights alliance has warned of escalating violence as extrajudicial killings have continued despite declarations from the Arroyo government that it is adhering to the recommendations of the UNSR on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Prof. Philip Alston; and as the government-pronounced deadline of ending the insurgency comes to a close in 2010, which is also an election year..

The Maguindanao massacre was an event waiting to happen with the continued implementation of this criminal government’s anti-insurgency program, Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL).  Under OBL, the recruitment of para-military groups such as the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU), CAFGU Active Auxiliary (CAA) and Civilian Volunteer Organization (CVO’s) as well as the arming of these individuals have persisted and in fact have been resorted to by the government in its mad design of purportedly “ending the insurgency by 2010.”  Such groups, which have been placed under the supervision and effective control of the military, have been tagged, together with the latter and the police, as responsible for various human rights violations happening around the country.

With this counter-insurgency program, so many victims, easily labeled as “fronts”  of “communist organizations”  and “enemies of the state”  have turned up dead, killed in a brutal manner and some disappeared; with the Arroyo government doing nothing to stop the killings, disappearances and other human rights violations.  In fact, it even heaped praises for known perpetrators identified with these crimes.  Under this counter-insurgency scheme, the Arroyo government has become the biggest warlord in the land.

Now the country is jolted by a brutal crime ostensibly committed by a private army of a warlord in one of the so-called election hotspots in the country.  The public is now witness to the barbaric impunity by which the perpetrators can kill and even try to hide the crime as if no law can be applied to prevent them from committing such a brutal act in broad daylight, hiding even such evidences as vehicles with the use of government properties!

For far too long has this regime considered itself a law above the citizens, contravening the laws laid out in the legal instruments of the land so much so that its coddled political allies have imbibed the mindset that they, too, can commit such transgressions with impunity.  Thus, on Monday, these perpetrators have been emboldened to commit the carnage that shocked the world. Such is the result of condoning and tolerating human rights violations.

The public must not allow this government to just relegate such a heinous crime as this massacre of civilians into a mere election-related offense. We must not allow a whitewash of the investigation on this dastardly act especially in the face of the declarations of this regime to get the perpetrators of the crime. We demand for a thorough, diligent investigation, arresting and initiating prosecution proceedings against the known perpetrators of this crime.

We call on the Arroyo government to immediately disband the paramilitary units of the AFP and private armies of warlords and politicians and stop the Oplan Bantay Laya counter-insurgency program as its method to eradicate the festering insurgency in the land.  This strategy is only engendering crimes against humanity.



KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties.  It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.  It was established in 1995.

Philippine Official Says Victims Were Sexually Mutilated

The New York Times
Published: November 27, 2009

DAVAO CITY, the Philippines — Most or all of the 22 women among the 57 people massacred Monday in the southern Philippines were sexually mutilated, the authorities said Friday, adding grim details to the catalog of horrors that has already emerged.

“Even the private parts of the women were shot at,” the justice secretary, Agnes Devanadera, said on national television. “It was horrible. It was not done to just one. It was done practically to all the women.”

While work continued to identify all the dead, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said that it appeared that 30 journalists and their assistants had been killed. About a dozen of the victims were the relatives, lawyers or supporters of Esmael Mangudadatu, a local politician whose determination to challenge the entrenched Ampatuan clan in a gubernatorial election apparently touched off the violence.

Investigators said that the rest of the victims, perhaps as many as 15, happened to be stopped at a checkpoint along the highway in Ampatuan, a town in Maguindanao Province, when the convoy of Mangudadatu supporters and journalists was stopped by police officers and militiamen loyal to the Ampatuans. They were killed to eliminate witnesses, investigators said.

Ms. Devanadera said that several of the men accused of taking part in the slaughter had surrendered and offered to testify. Though the killings violated a traditional custom against harming women, the men seemed to be troubled more by the deaths of the journalists and the bystanders.

“They are bothered by their conscience because they thought that only the Mangudadatus would be shot,” Ms. Devanadera said.

Andal Ampatuan Jr., a local mayor who is suspected of having ordered the killings, turned himself in Thursday, protesting his innocence. He is expected to be charged with murder next week. Ms. Devanadera told The Philippine Daily Inquirer that Mr. Ampatuan’s brother Zaldy and his father, Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr., the clan patriarch, were also under investigation.

Mr. Mangudadatu’s wife, Genalyn, his two sisters and two lawyers working for him were among the women who were mutilated and murdered. He said on Thursday that his wife had been shot “in her private parts.”

Ms. Devanadera said that the zippers of the women’s pants had been undone and that some of the women had had their pants pulled down. She said the authorities were still trying to determine whether the women had been raped, but “it is certain that something bad was done to them.”

Felicisimo Khu, a police superintendent, said Wednesday that the women’s bodies had been found separate from the men’s.

At least one witness, according to Ms. Devanadera, told investigators that Andal Ampatuan Jr. was on the scene giving commands but that it was not clear whether he fired a gun.

On Friday, Mr. Mangudadatu, leading a 50-vehicle convoy guarded by soldiers and heavily armed police officers, finally filed his certificate of candidacy to run for governor of Maguindanao — precisely what the others were on their way to do when they were murdered. “I had to do it,” he said in a telephone interview on Friday. “I owe it to my dear wife, to my family, to my supporters and to all those journalists who died while doing their job.”

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has been under intense pressure to pursue and prosecute the killers. The Ampatuan family is her closest political ally in the southern Philippines and played a critical role in her 2004 election victory. Her government has assisted the Ampatuans and other area clans in building potent militias to combat the secessionist and Islamist insurgencies that have plagued the region.

On Friday, she ordered Interior Secretary Reynaldo Puno to take direct control of the autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao, a collection of provinces on and near the island of Mindanao, and to suspend local, police and military officials if necessary to proceed with the investigation.

A military spokesman said Friday that two ground commanders of the armed forces in Maguindanao had been relieved of their commands. The military on Thursday took control of the provincial capital, Shariff Aguak, and other towns, a day after disarming dozens of militiamen employed by the Ampatuans.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, the largest media group in the country, urged the government on Friday to form a special court to try the suspects. “This is to help ensure that no whitewash will happen and to identify the roots and those responsible for this unimaginable crime,” said Nestor Burgos Jr., the group’s chairman.


Reference: Raquel Redondiez, Chair, GABRIELA USA,


The election-related carnage on the eve of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (IDEVAW) took the lives of 57 people, 14 women including
2 women lawyers and 17 journalists

San Francisco, CA–10 years ago, a United Nations Assembly resolved to recognize November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (IDEVAW) to work towards the end of violence affecting women all over the world. GABRIELA USA members from San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles and New York are taking this day to remember the significance of this international effort to raise awareness about women’s issues in the light of the horrific massacre which took place in Ampatuan, Maguindanao, in the island of Mindanao.

The death toll is rising in the massacre of unarmed civilians included lawyers, journalists, and at least 14 women who were not only murdered but also raped, mutilated and beheaded. The bodies were found buried on shallow ground on the side of the road where the 6 vehicle convoy carrying the victims were stopped in broad daylight on November 23rd. The victims where on their way to file election paperwork with the Commission on Elections to challenge the ruling political clan in the upcoming elections.

This incident cannot be separated from the thousands of other human rights violations committed under the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) regime, wherein hundreds of women activists, leaders and community members have been killed, abducted, tortured and disappeared with impunity.

Arroyo’s share of responsibility for this massacre is certain as she has repeatedly facilitated and funded armed clan-based militias, utilizing US military aid, and has created the state of impunity in the Philippines where her close political allies could conceive of
carrying out such a heinous crime in broad daylight.  In fact, until today, no arrests has been made in the horrific crime, despite the
fact, or because of the fact, that the tractor used to hide the bodies belongs to the local government, controlled by the Ampatuans, GMA’s close allies.

The UN Declaration for the Elimination of Violence Against Women calls for all forms violence, including those condoned by the State. GMA must be held accountable, and we must be vigilant in continuing to demand the arrest, thorough investigation, and prosecution of the perpetrators of the Maguindanao massacre. Many believe that the massacre was perpetrated by 100 men led by Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., of the Ampatuan clan, which delivered what has been dubbed as the “Maguindanao Miracle” a 100% of the votes for GMA’s slate in the 2007 elections.

Moreover, we must continue to struggle against GMA’s anti-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya II, which provides license for state-sponsored violence against anyone who asserts their democratic rights.  This U.S.-sponsored plan, which calls for the extermination of the “communist insurgency” by 2010, is a formula for continuing impunity for the military and military-sponsored civilian militias to commit human rights violations, especially against those they label as “community-fronts”.

On this 10th anniversary of IDEVAW, GABRIELA- USA recommits to demand an end to U.S. military and financial aid to the GMA regime, who we hold accountable for the illegal abduction and torture of Filipino American woman Melissa Roxas in May of this year, and hundreds of other human rights violations against women and children.

The women of GABRIELA-USA believe that the Ampatuan Massacre is a foreshadow of an escalation in the violence and human rights violations to be expected this election season, and should be a reminder for all, including the international community, to
participate in ensuring clean and honest elections.

This IDEVAW, GABRIELA USA condemns the relentless violence of the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime against the Filipino people, especially women and children.  We stand in solidarity with women worldwide who are facing violence and will continue fighting for the day in which aggression towards women will no longer be tolerated.  And we will work pro-actively to support the election of genuine women’s representatives who will be our partners in this effort.