GPPAC Southeast Asia Statement on the Maguindanao Massacre
We grieve together with the families of those brutally killed in the
23 November massacre in Ampatuan town in the province of Maguindanao.
We stand in solidarity with the Filipino people in voicing their
collective outrage over this brazen display of power and arrogance
that can only flourish in the continuing culture of impunity that
pervades the country.
We are appalled and angered at the manner by which this attack on more
than fifty-seven  innocent lives was carried out. Women,
journalists, lawyers, and defenseless civilians terrorized and
murdered by around 100 armed men. Bullet-ridden bodies dumped in mass
graves. Some with their faces and bodies crushed either with rifle
butts or by the backhoe that ran over them before they were buried
together with their vehicles. Forensic evidence indicates that some
may have even been buried alive. The women, victims twice over, had
their pants unzipped, showing signs of possible rape.
That the backhoe, undeniably a property of the local government, was
readily at hand to dig up the mass graves in order to hide this
gruesome crime leads us to ask – did the perpetrators actually believe
that they can hide a massacre of such a massive scale? For them to
even think that they can get away with their crime undetected and
unpunished speaks a lot about the sorry state of the system of justice
and governance in the Philippines today. Where extrajudicial killings
abound and perpetrators remain unpunished. Where journalists, lawyers
and human rights defenders are abducted and killed amidst the constant
denial of the present administration, which claims its adherence to
human rights law. Where warlords are assured of political power and a
legalized private army, with the benefit of government-issued
firearms. Where violators of human rights are rewarded with
appointments in government instead of a jail sentence.
We call for an end of this culture of impunity and the pervading
system of injustice in the country. Such can only breed more violence
and continually create conditions for unpeace.
We reaffirm our strong belief in human rights and on democratic
institutions. In the right of women to be free from all forms of
violence. In the freedom of expression and of the press, and in the
right of the people to be informed. In the legal system and on respect
for lawyers, not only as human rights defenders but also as officers
of the court. In the right of suffrage and on the electoral process.
In good governance and the right to choose our own leaders. In a
transparent and accountable government. In the right to equal
protection of the law and a government which upholds the rule of law
and where no one is above the law. In the right of the people to life
and to live a life free from fear.
Even with the eventual “surrender” and filing of charges against one
of the main perpetrators of this dastardly act, we remain vigilant in
our demand for justice and continue to hold the present Administration
accountable until justice is finally served.