Bayan Joins Protest Marking First Anniversary of Maguindanao Massacre (PR)

News Release
November 23, 2010

Umbrella organization Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) will join different groups in a march to Mendiola today November 23 to commemorate the Maguindanao massacre and call for justice for the 58 victims of the “worst election-related violence in Philippine history”.

BAYAN reiterated its call for the investigation of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the Armed Forces of the Philippines for their role in supporting the Ampatuan family during the past decade. The militant group also demanded the dismantling of all paramilitary groups including the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) and various Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVO) becauase of their involvement in the massacre.

Arroyo and the AFP are believed to have supported the Ampatuan family politically and militarily and tolerated many of the alleged other crimes of the clan.

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“We have not forgotten. Today we march with the members of the media as we demand justice for the victims and the prosecution of all those who were directly and indirectly responsible for the massacre,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“The case of the Maguindanao massacre is a major test for the executive and the judiciary. Considering the gravity of the crime and the threat it posed to institutions like the media, not to mention the existence of overwhelming evidence that point to the involvement of the Ampatuans, a year has passed and victims continue to seek justice,” Reyes said.

Bayan lamented the fact that former president Arroyo has not been investigated for her possible culpability in the massacre. The Aquino regime has also rejected calls for the dismantling of paramilitary units that were involved in the massacre.

“The Arroyo government is no longer in power and the new regime is in a position to investigate her and her generals. However, no steps have been taken towards this despite public knowledge that the Arroyo regime supported the Ampatuans. When will GMA and her generals be investigated? When will the paramilitary groups be disbanded?” Reyes said.

BAYAN expressed concern that if the case drags on, evidence and witnesses will continue to disappear – either voluntarily or involuntarily. The group also supports the petition of various media groups for live coverage of the trial.

Dismantle private armies

BAYAN likewise hit the continuing existence of paramilitary groups despite calls for them to be dismantled and disarmed due to the human rights violations attributed to their presence. Human Rights Watch in its recent report pointed to the use of paramilitary groups as private armies of local politicians.

The Maguindanao massacre was one such instance where the Ampatuans used Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGUs) and Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVOs) to stop its rival clan – the Mangudadatus – from participating in the 2010 local elections.

“The Maguindanao massacre clearly shows paramilitary groups cannot be allowed to continue. It is ridiculous for the Aquino regime and the AFP to claim that they are taking steps to professionalize the CAFGU’s. How can they do this when they have problems professionalizing even the regular troops when it comes to human rights?” Reyes said.

“The insistence of the Aquino government in employing paramilitary groups in its counterinsurgency operations– despite the gross human rights record of these units– shows a low regard for human rights. It shows a lack of interest in pursuing complete justice for the victims and in preventing a repeat of the gruesome murders that took place one year ago, Reyes added.

The CAFGUs are considered as auxiliary units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and enjoy privileges such as access to military weapons and exemptions from the gun ban during elections.

The recently concluded barangay elections which left 33 people dead were characterized by violence caused by private armies. In fact, the election hotspots identified by the police were private army-infested areas.

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