DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/22 Nov) – A year after the Ampatuan massacre that killed 58 people, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) hit President Aquino for failing to dismantle private armies which continue to perpetuate the state of impunity in the country.
“Five months into his presidency, we have him refusing to dismantle the private armies, legitimized as government militias, that the warlord clans have long used with impunity to enforce and protect their rule in their fiefdoms, and to do away with those who would dare challenge them, as happened in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman, Ampatuan,” NUJP chair Nestor Burgos said in a statement.
“We can barely keep track of the times he has flip-flopped on human rights and taken media to task for painting a less than rosy image of the country,” Burgos said, pointing out that it is an “all too familiar pattern.”
“Already, human rights groups count 22 extrajudicial killings, a journalist has been murdered, there has been a spike in recorded threats against media persons, and the warlords still rule with their private armies intact.”
In Davao City, the group Alliance against Impunity (AIM) – composed of lawyers, journalists and other sectors – organized a vigil for justice for two consecutive nights to continue to call for justice.
“We call on President Benigno Aquino III to take bold steps to stop the state of impunity that continues until now,” said lawyer Carlos Zarate, AIM convenor.
“We call on the President to ensure the fast resolution of the case and to punish the perpetrators.”
The group also demands for the dismantling of private armies and Civilian Auxiliary Force Geographical Units (Cafgus), to prosecute former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for the crime and other cases of extrajudicial killings during her term, and to end the military’s counterinsurgency strategy Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL), which they said perpetrate the state of impunity.
The group is also organizing a caravan for solidarity, justice and peace to sitio Masalay in Ampatuan, Maguindanao where Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu will join interfaith groups for solidarity and consecration at the massacre site.
AIM said a contingent of about 500 from Davao City, Cotabato, General Santos, Marbel, and Cagayan de Oro will leave Davao City at 5 a.m. on November 23 to go to the site.
“We say, your promise of good governance can never happen without justice,” Burgos’ statement said, addressing the President. “Let there be an accounting. Let it be now. For you, too, shall be taken to account.” (Germelina Lacorte / MindaNews)