Forget justice. Forget law. Forget democracy.
Acting justice secretary Alberto Agra’s order to drop multiple murder charges against Zaldy and Akmad Ampatuan is proof that these principles do not, nay, have never existed under the Arroyo government, that this is governance not through the rule of law but through political expediency.
It is proof of what we have suspected almost as soon as it became apparent that a clan known to be one of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s closest allies might be linked to the worst election-related violence in our country’s recent history AND the worst single attack on the media ever – that this administration would do everything within its power to assure they would not be held accountable.
It is not for us to proclaim the innocence or guilt of either Ampatuan for the November 23 massacre of 58 persons, 32 of them media workers. But neither is it for Agra to do so. Not after the charges have been formally filed in court. Not after the judge has issued a commitment order against them, for which the two, along with other members of their clan and several of the 197 accused have been transferred to the Camp Bagong Diwa detention center.
It should now be for the court to judge the innocence or guilt of the 197 persons accused of planning or carrying out the massacre.
By issuing the order, which incidentally Agra had already announced earlier he was inclined to do, the man supposedly sworn to uphold justice in this country has preempted that prerogative of the court. Agra has hijacked the judicial process and subverted the very justice he should be upholding.
It does not take legal expertise to know the alibi is the flimsiest defense in a criminal case. And yet Agra has practically pounced on this straw and
used it to buttress his assertion that neither Zaldy nor Akmad Ampatuan should be charged because they were not there when the massacre took place.
But surely, this travesty is not Agra’s doing alone, for he could not have done this without the full knowledge and approval of his principal, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.We hold Agra and Arroyo, personally, and this administration accountable for this massacre of the principles that define us as a country and as a people – justice, the rule of law, our basic rights, democracy.
We call on the Filipino people to protest this outrage. More important, we call on the people to demand an accounting. We cannot let this pass. Or we might as well totally forget that we are one country, one people.
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines