Thursday, December 3, 2009

Vote for Peace 2010

Vote for Peace 2010
Statement on the Maguindanao Massacre

Vote for Peace 2010, a movement working for a political environment conducive to the conduct of a free, fair and peaceful elections, joins the Filipino people and the international community in condemning the senseless and gruesome mass killing of 57 innocent and defenseless civilians in the municipality of Ampatuan, Maguindanao province. Facts can be told about the incident but no words can exactly give description to the mass killings, what is clear is that the beastly carnage is a crime against humanity; an attack against press freedom and electoral democracy
Vote for Peace 2010 calls for the immediate arrests of all the principals and accessories to the crime, expedite the investigation and immediately prosecute the perpetrators so that justice to the victims be served:
 While Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. is already under the custody of police authority, we strongly criticized the government’s manner of negotiating with his family to turn him over instead of immediately arresting him. Thus, we strongly demand from the authorities that Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan should also be arrested immediately by being themselves suspects of the crime.
 Others involved in the carnage should be pursued to the hilt. The officers and men of the PNP and AFP directly accountable to the breakdown of peace and order in the province should be suspended, relieved from their posts and investigated.
 A Total Gun Ban should be implemented in the province. All civilian armed groups, whether private armed groups, civilian volunteer organizations and CAFGUS should be immediately dissolved and disarmed.
 The CVOs and CAFGUs directly identified and working with the Ampatuans should be confined and investigated.
 The State of Emergency declared for Maguindanao should be put under Comelec control and its assigned deputies for peace and order.
The 23rd of November 2009 will be long remembered not only as the worst outbreak of election violence in this country in memory but also the scale of the massacre and its sheer brutality. It is the most brutal manifestation of warlordism; a monstrous act against electoral democracy, and the worst loss of life in the history of journalism, ever. On this day, 57 people, mostly women of which two were pregnant were mercilessly killed. Thirty of the dead were journalists. The victims were bullet-riddled in the heads and private parts; a number of bodies were mutilated and a number of women-victims manifest signs of physical abuse. While a number of bodies were scattered that showed they were strafed to their sudden death, most were found piled one after another in hastily dug mass graves. There were also bodies inside the vehilces excavated from the mass grave. The fate of the victims this day was simply decided by the senseless scheme of the Ampatuans to thwart the victims’ convoy that passed Ampatuan town on their way to file the Certificate of Candidacy of Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu for the governorship of Maguindanao. This was taken as a viled threat by the Ampatuans that ruled the province like their personal fiefdom since 2001.
The Maguindanao Massacre sums up the spate of political killings across the country in recent years. These clearly show the government’s inutility in the securing, if not total disregard, to the rule of law and human rights. The Arroyo administration can’t keep away its hands bloodied from the Maguindanao Massacre. In the first place, warlordism in Maguindanao once more became strong due to the nepotistic coddling to the Ampatuans.
The Maguindanao Massacre, on the other hand, is a martyrdom of the victims in their pursuit of electoral democracy and press freedom. The victims knew the dangerous route they will go through, (though they never, nor anyone expected the barbaric act of such scale and horror) yet they pursued what they believe is the right thing to do. We are full of anger, shame and indignation for what befell the victims. But for their act, we should also act, so that their death will not be in vain.

We should be more steadfast and vigilant than ever as we draw close to the 2010 elections. We should work with all citizens and election stakeholders for the strict enforcement of election and peace and order laws. Let us educate ourselves with the election offenses defined by the Constitution and the Omnibus Election Code and be vigilant against the abuses and opportunism of the government and candidates. Let us be aware, and help our countrymen understand that election violence is a consequence of too much partisan divide among voters; vote-buying and selling; patronage politics; proliferation of loose firearms and private armed groups; and election campaign overspending. We should call the AFP, PNP and NBI to strictly enforce the Total Gun Ban; regulating the security escorts of candidates and disarm and dismantle all private armed groups and militias. We should call on the COMELEC to declare early the critical election hotspot areas so that preventive measures against incidents of election violence be done.

Vote for Peace 2010
1 December 2009
For more information, please call Patrick I. Patino at tel. nos. (02)926-8340 or (02)433-0764.

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