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November 28, 2009

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End Warlordism, Prevent Electoral Violence in the 2010 Elections

The Cordillera Peoples Alliance is one with the millions of people in the Philippines and internationally in condemning in the strongest terms the horrendous massacre in Maguindanao that claimed the lives of at least 64 people including two human rights lawyers, 29 journalists, civilians, and members and supporters of the Mangudadatu clan. The carnage has become a problem of the Filipino people and not just a contradiction between the Ampatuan warlords and Mangudadatu clan. It has become an urgent local and international concern, and a quest and struggle for justice by the whole of the Filipino society.

The massacre, a result of wanton violence among two warring political clans – the Ampatuan and Mangudadatu clans, took place on November 23 when a convoy led by the Mangudadatus on their way to file registration papers for the May 2010 elections were abducted and murdered by over 100 armed men led by Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr and assisted by senior police officials, local police and paramilitary forces who function as a private army of the Ampatuan clan.

Despite the enormity of the massacre which could only be executed by powerful people, and the public outrage and condemnation that this has created, it took four days before the prime suspect Mayor Andal Ampatuan was taken into custody while four senior police officers were held as suspects on the third day. The Ampatuan clan is a staunch ally of the Arroyo administration and known to have helped manipulate the election results in 2004 and 2007 in Maguindanao and the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao which kept Arroyo and her cohorts in power. There is no doubt the Arroyo regime will protect the Ampatuans, the mastermind of the massacre.

Equally alarming is the root cause of such violence. President Arroyo, through Executive Order 546, has allowed local officials and the Philippine National Police to convert and fund their private armies as legal entities or force multipliers in the government’s counter-insurgency program. This was followed by a memorandum issued by the Department of Interior and Local Government authorizing Civilian Volunteer Organizations to bear arms and attaching them to local government executives. The Ampatuans now have a 500-strong army which includes 200 special armed auxiliary forces. EO 546 is part of the government’s counter-insurgency program, Oplan Bantay Laya, which in turn is part of the United States’ global war on terror. Resulting from these, more than a thousand civilians and activists who were unjustly branded as ‘terrorists,’ ‘fronts of communist organizations’ and ‘enemies of the state’ have turned up dead and disappeared while thousands were tortured since Arroyo assumed the presidency in 2001. Not one has been punished for the heinous crimes.

Warlordism by polical dynasties and powerful traditional politicians is entrenched in the prevailing political system of bureaucrat capitalism and state fascism. It is basically a response of state terrorism unleashed on the people who challenge the power of rulers that is unacceptable and extremely isolated from the people. This is classic to the Arroyo regime and the Ampatuan warlords who have just unleashed the most barbaric terrorism, rape and carnage to the people.

The Cordillera region is not spared from state-perpetuated and state-supported political violence. Specifically, Abra, Apayao and Kalinga provinces have a history of elections-related and politically-motivated killings and other forms of violence which were allowed to happen through powerful politicians and warlords having goons and private armies.

Before the Maguindanao carnage happens in the Cordillera, warlordism in the Cordillera provinces and the rest of the country must be decisively dismantled. This is a challenge to the Arroyo government and the succeeding administration and to all politicians and political parties participating in the 2010 elections. The people are fed up with the empty rhetoric of traditional politicians. The guns, goons, and gold in the rotten Philippine electoral system must be replaced with a genuinely democratic, clean, honest and peaceful elections which embody the true aspirations of the people and one that is represented by the true power and interests of the people, not of the warlords and terrorist rulers.

We challenge the de facto President Gloria Arroyo to wield her political will to ensure that justice will be served to the victims of the Massacre the soonest time and that no cover-up or whitewash beset the massacre. We call on the government to punish the Ampatuan warlords responsible for the massacre and those accountable in the AFP and PNP, and to rescind immediately the Executive Order 546Otherwise.  Heads should roll in this case. Otherwise, Arroyo must step down and resign and let those capable in ensuring justice take the challenge.###

Published with financial contribution from the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation
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