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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.

JUSTICE FOR THE VICTIMS OF THE MAGUINDANAO MASSACRE!

JUSTICE FOR ALL VICTIMS OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS UNDER THE ARROYO REGIME!

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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.

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