By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – “There are no Ampatuans if Arroyo did not coddle warlords and private armies.”
This was the statement of Hustisya!, an organization of families of victims of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and other human rights violations during the International Day to End Impunity, Nov. 23.
Human rights groups welcomed the recent filing of a P15-million-damage suit against Arroyo in connection with the massacre that claimed the lives of 58 individuals, including 32 journalists two years ago.
In the complaint, relatives of the Ampatuan massacre said Arroyo, as the former chief executive, is also civilly liable for the massacre under the doctrine of command responsibility. They said as commander-in-chief, she had the supervision, control and command responsibility over officers and members of the Philippine National Police (PNP), who were among the perpetrators of the massacre.?
“We welcome the civil case filed by the relatives of victims of the Ampatuan massacre…Arroyo must be held accountable for the Ampatuan Massacre,” said Roneo Clamor, deputy secretary general of Karapatan.
In his speech during the rally marking the second anniversary of the Ampatuan massacre, Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), said the commemoration is made more important with the recent arrest of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on charges of electoral sabotage.
Reyes said there are clear links between the crime of electoral sabotage and the Ampatuan massacre. “It was Arroyo’s connivance with the Ampatuan family which made possible the highly improbable 12-0 win for the administration’s senatorial slate in Maguindanao. It was Arroyo’s continued support for the Ampatuans, despite their abuses, which gave rise to impunity. It was the Arroyo government’s issuances
which strengthened paramilitary groups that eventually became private armies,” Reyes said.
In the same vein, the Alliance Against Impunity in Mindanao said, “We hope the prosecution of Gloria Arroyo would point to her accountability in the Ampatuan massacre, as part of a trade-off for her rigged presidential victory in 2004 through the Ampatuan machinery.”
Members of Hustisya!, including Evangeline Hernandez, mother of slain human rights worker Benjaline Hernandez and Glenda Co, wife of slain botanist Leonard Co, joined the protest action in Manila.
Human rights violations
Cristina Guevarra, Hustisya! secretary general, said the Aquino government should now deal with the cases of human rights violations committed when Arroyo was commander-in-chief of the state forces.
According to Karapatan, there were 206 victims of enforced disappearances and 1, 206 victims of extrajudicial killings under the Arroyo administration. No one has been prosecuted. “They are all proof that such impunity continues to this day,” Guevara said.
Bayan’s Reyes said the Aquino administration has not shown resolve in addressing human rights violations, adding that the killings and abductions continue.
“More than a year in office, Aquino has not made ending impunity his priority. It has not filed a single human rights case against the perpetrators of abuses, past and present. The Aquino government has even justified the continued existence of paramilitary groups even if they are the cause of many abuses,” Reyes said.