PRESS RELEASE: Bayan Muna Rep. Zarate: Aquino strikes 5 on 5th year of Ampatuan Massacre

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PRESS RELEASE: Bayan Muna Rep. Zarate: Aquino strikes 5 on 5th year of Ampatuan Massacre

November 22, 2014
Reference: BAYAN MUNA Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, 09177174014

As the killing of witnesses to the infamous Ampatuan Massacre continue, Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate said the Aquino administration must be held to account for at least five (5) issues that aggravated the sufferings of the relatives of the victims.

Justice delayed, justice denied, justice mocked.

“At least four witnesses have already been killed under questionable circumstances since 2010, the latest one just last November 19. Alleged bribery by members of the Ampatuan clan has been revealed repeatedly at the witness stand. And just recently, 41 suspects from the police ranks who were part of those who set up road checkpoints at opposite ends of the road where the massacre happened were granted bail. Worst still, army officials who were also complicit in this slaughter of civilians were even recently promoted. This is brazen mockery of our justice system,” Rep. Zarate said.

“The delayed massacre trials have multiplied the grief of the victims’ families and have made a mockery of our justice system over and over,” said the Davao-based Rep. Zarate, one of the private lawyers who assisted the relatives of the 58 victims massacred five (5) years ago in the hilly portion of Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman, Ampatuan town, Maguindanao.

Media killings on the rise: 25 since 2010

With 25 journalists murdered as of June, 2014, President Aquino already stands second to former president Arroyo in terms of the most number of media killings. Confronted with the issues, Pres. Aquino callously contends that these were not work-related killings. Yet, documentation made by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) shows that all 25 killings were work-related, and that almost all of them were on political beat when they were killed. “Again, the callous attitude by which the Aquino administration treats the issue of media killings speaks volumes of its low regard to the issue of continuing impunity in our country today” Rep. Zarate added.

Banned media coverage: what are they hiding?

Rep. Zarate also scored the ban imposed on media coverage of the massacre trial since August 14, 2014. While the police did not say who issued the ban, concerned journalists were even forced to file a complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman. The Freedom Fund for Journalists (FFFJ) has stated that this “provokes suspicion that vital information is being hidden from the public.” “This ban on media coverage certainly is anathema to the transparency required under the circumstances when issues of bribery continue to hang in the air,” Rep. Zarate added.

Peace is unachievable without justice in Mindanao

“The Aquino administration is supposedly addressing the issue of peace in Mindanao but it is doing this without truly addressing the root causes of the armed conflict,” Rep. Zarate said.

While it is offering a dangling its own peace formula in the Moro conflicted areas, it is at the same time unleashing its war machines in many parts of Mindanao, in blatant disregarded to the lives and livelihood of the people,” Rep. Zarate said citing for example the recent and ongoing series of extrajudicial killings of lumad leaders and massive evacuations in the Davao and Caraga Regions.

“Pres. Aquino it appears is going to bully its own brand of peace in Mindanao just to be able to call it peace. It is in reality as peace of the grave,” Rep. Zarate said. “With the expansion of large-scale mining, agri-plantations and power industries that will further delete Mindanao’s remaining resources, we can see only see the intensification of a vicious cycle of socio-economic violence begetting military violence.”

Traditional politics is bloody politics

“Not only is traditional politics self-serving to those in power, it is, more importantly, against the best interest of the people. Injustice has grown wider and deeper as we mark the fifth year of the Ampatuan Massacre. With no conviction or any real reparation yet in sight, justice for all the victims of impunity is still illusory . “
“As the Ampatuan massacre continues to be emblematic of the continuing state of impunity in our country, we will incessantly continue to demand justice, lest we forget what it truly is,” Rep. Zarate said. ###

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