We in the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao continue to grieve with the families of victims of the Ampatuan Massacre which has included our own colleagues Concepcion Brizuela and Cynthia Oquendo.
One year after, we find it ironic that President Benigno Aquino III has declared November 23 as A Day of Remembrance while he has done little to curb the still-dangerous political influence wielded by the Ampatuan warlords who are accused as triggermen-and-masterminds in this massacre of global infamy.
President Aquino has been swept into power by the people with the expectation that he be the “monster-slayer” of political warlordism. We have had high hopes in this new government to assume this role after previous ones have for decades employed paramilitaries and used the military and police as mercenaries in its failed anti-rebellion campaigns.
But far from it, our expectations of this government are crumbling. The wheels of justice are grinding slowly— assassins continue to rule over Maguindanao eliminating or intimidating witnesses, bribes are allegedly being flaunted in exchange for silence, and the alleged mastermind-patriarch and other suspects continue to evade the processes of justice.
One year after as well, we find it doubly ironic that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is sitting in Congress, evading prosecution for her accountability as the Ampatuans’ political godmother, patron, and beneficiary rolled into one.
Lest we forget, let us keep this lesson in mind: The Ampatuan Massacre is emblematic of the brutality of the state of impunity that has been sweeping and ravaging our people’s human rights. It is emblematic of the dysfunctionalism of a counter-insurgency program sponsored by US military aid and that has maimed and murdered thousands of our own people. It is emblematic of the evil dalliance between national and regional political dynasties and how they can entrench themselves in government through electoral fraud and violence.
Today, one year after, we continue to grieve. We continue to rage. But we find that the level of injustice suffered by the victims of the Ampatuan Massacre and all victims of human rights violations in the Philippines has gone worse.
We vow to seek justice more persistently and militantly. With the Filipino people, we will pursue justice in the streets where the courtroom of history is the true judge of truth and righteousness.
We will never forget, we will never rest.
Justice for Connie and Cynthia and all victims of the Ampatuan Massacre!
Justice for all victims of extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations!
Atty. Carlos Isagani Zarate
Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao
November 23, 2010