In a statement condemning the Nov 23 massacre in Maguindanao of 64 people by “henchmen of a political warlord close to the Arroyo regime,” the National Democratic Front-Eastern Visayas expressed doubts that justice would be easily obtained for the Maguindanao massacre or that warlordism would be solved soon.
Father Santiago Salas, NDF-EV spokesperson, said the NDF-Eastern Visayas supports the calls for justice over the mass murder of defenceless civilians including women, lawyers and at least 29 journalists. But in the face of the Arroyo government’s obvious reluctance to touch the Ampatuans, the warlords whom evidences and testimonies point as masterminds behind the massacre, Father Salas said “The people’s vigilance and struggle are more important than the Arroyo regime’s tokenisms to justice.”
He urged the people to monitor the developments and press on with the demand for justice not only for the Maguindanao massacre but also for the Arroyo regime’s gross and widespread human rights violations under Oplan Bantay Laya.
Many Muslims and Christians in Eastern Visayas hail from Mindanao and “are aware, if not themselves victims of the ceaseless reactionary violence committed by the Arroyo regime and its local and foreign allies,” Father Salas said as he pointed to the rising atrocities of warlordism and the Arroyo regime’s impunity for human rights violations.
Eastern Visayas is as infested with warlords though not on the same monstrous level as in Maguindanao, the NDF-EV spokesperson said. All the big politicians in the region have their own private armed groups—they benefit from aligning themselves with the Arroyo regime to protect their political, economic and criminal interests.
“The military and police look the other way in exchange for the politicians’ support for their ‘counter-insurgency’ program Oplan Bantay Laya,” Father Salas explained. “Top civilian officials betray the people by ignoring complaints about the military’s human rights abuses, by actively establishing the paramilitary CAFGU in their bailiwicks and by joining the 8th Infantry Division in promoting Oplan Bantay Laya. In fact, many CAFGU paramilitaries also double as goons of certain politicians,” Father Salas said.
With the rising warlordism and impunity in the country, what happened in Maguindanao is therefore not an isolated tragedy. “The Arroyo regime and the warlords who are its allies have intertwined interests and band together in institutional violence against the people. The corrupt regime and the political warlords both want to stay on in power— both will use each other to get the votes, and both are willing to oppress the people to have their way. The warlords are also emboldened to butcher because they see and support the impunity enjoyed by Arroyo’s military and police in committing human rights violations under Oplan Bantay Laya.”
Under Oplan Bantay Laya there are now tens of thousands of victims of political killings, enforced disappearances, torture, bombardments of civilian communities, forced evacuations and other human rights abuses, said Father Salas. As such, Arroyo’s declaration of a “state of emergency” in Maguindanao will “only add fuel to the fire. There is danger in deploying troops whose human rights abuses have gone unchecked, and in giving Arroyo control of a situation that she could grab for her benefit in the 2010 election.”
The people can make use of the electoral struggle to campaign against election violence and cheating, and to hail candidates who are striving for fundamental changes, Father Salas suggested. Also, because of the Arroyo regime’s worsening oppression and exploitation of the people, Father Salas said an increasing number of people are joining the New People’s Army to escape persecution and engage in revolutionary armed struggle to entirely do away with the reactionary ruling system. (Bulatlat.com)