PHOTOS AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS ARTICLE ARE NOTHING SHORT OF SHOCKING SO BE WARNED AND AWARE AS THEY DO HAVE DISTURBING SCENES. (Supplied by unknown source).
2009 DECEMBER 3
Unanimous Call for Immediate Justice over “this heinous crime”
By ELGA D. REYES
In the ongoing saga of the Ampatuan town massacre, with the arrest of alleged suspect Andal Ampatuan, Jr. over the brutal killings of 57 people in Maguindanao last November 23, different embassies in the country as well as global organizations have reacted in contempt for this grave tragedy.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement deploring the violence, “this heinous crime”, occurring in the midst of electoral preparations. According to his spokesperson, he anticipates “that no effort will be spared to bring justice and to hold the perpetrators accountable.”
US Ambassador Kristie Kenney, who is set to leave soon, leads the US Embassy in Manila in condemning the mass murders “in the strongest possible terms.” The stance is likewise shared by the French and British embassies.
Kenney asserts, “Such barbaric acts violate the most fundamental principles of human rights and democracy.”
Continuing, “We strongly believe that a thorough, rapid and transparent investigation must be conducted, and those responsible must be brought to swift justice.”
Similarly, Australian Ambassador Rod Smith says, “We welcome the Philippine Government’s commitment to take swift action to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
“Politically-motivated killings and other forms of intimidation have no place in society.” Smith relates that his country “urges all political aspirants to participate in the political process in a lawful and peaceful way.”
Essentially for British Ambassador Stephen Lillie, “Effective action will be crucial in maintaining confidence in the Philippines’ commitment to protect human rights.”
The Journalist Factor
Amidst such clamor however, there is a surfacing opinion that the occurrence would not have received its present clout had there not been journalists among the victims. One blog concerning all issues Mindanao, posts, “There is worldwide outrage against the massacre in Maguindanao. This is mainly because at least a dozen journalists, most of them non-Moro Filipinos, were included in the carnage.”
Rido, bloody clan feuds, have become common practice within Muslim communities in Mindanao. But it is said that such instances have not as been reported until now.
Media personnel like Manila Bulletin’s Alejandro Reblando and lawyers joined the six-vehicle convoy of Bai Farina Mangudadatu and incumbent Mangudadatu town vice mayor Bai Eden Mangadadatu, sisters of Buluan vice mayor Datu Esmail Mangadadatu who had his relatives and wife Genalyn file his certificate of candidacy for post of governor of Maguindanao. The Mangudadatus are the political rivals of the Ampatuans.
The ridos, says Bai (princess in Muslim royalty) Sirykate Balabaran, cousin of the Mangudadatus and Ampatuans in her mother and father’s side respectively, are a result of politics and a proliferation of arms in the region. In a telephone interview with Expat Newspaper, she resolutely opines, “Politics is the main reason this happened.” She shares that this is non-existent during the time of their ancestors, even going to relate that the two families have not been in conflict before.
Hence, she appeals to the government, military and the courts that action must be done to minimize arms.
But rido or not though, with journalists in the fray, the New York-based nonprofit organization Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) mentioned in their site that this is the “single deadliest event for the press since 1992, when CPJ began keeping detailed records on journalist deaths.”
According to executive director Joel Simon, “While the scale is unprecedented, the backdrop is all too familiar. President Arroyo must commit the full resources of her government to confronting once and for all the culture of impunity which perpetuates this kind of terrible violence.”
Another group, the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) reportedly indicated that the country is now the most dangerous place for journalists, ahead of war-torn Iraq.
Other Killing Effects
Mindanao regular and Italian expatriate Andy de Rossi divulges to Expat, that he has received worried phone calls from investors for a hydro-power plant in Cagayan de Oro and Lanao del Sur. They are concerned to participate financially. It has become clear that yet again, this negative news have spurred feelings of insecurity and general feeling that this is a culture of violence is norm throughout Mindanao.
Bai Balabaran notes that in addition to security, especially also for ordinary citizens, the economy would be affected, when developments are needed badly to create jobs and opportunities in the neglected region. The last effect she says is misunderstanding, that though Ampatuans are the pin-pointed masterminds, there are decent Ampatuans.
More importantly, she goes on, “A true and fully realized Muslim would not kill or hurt another person.” This she explains is haram, or a prohibition in the Koran. Asked on the possibility of more killings or revenge from the afflicted family, she hopes this will not happen and be repeated, that Allah will guide