Rights groups renew call for justice for Ampatuan massacre victims, dismantle all private armies and paramilitary under Duterte

On the 8th year after the Ampatuan massacre, rights groups expressed continuous support to the kin of Ampatuan massacre victims, as they reiterated calls to dismantle all private armies and paramilitary groups under the Duterte regime. 

“We share the plight of the families of the Ampatuan massacre victims for justice, and demand for speedy trial and ultimately, conviction of those involved in one of the worst attacks against journalists and civilians in recent history,” said Evangeline Hernandez, chairperson of Hustisya. 

End Impunity 

For her part, Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan, said they are also hopeful that the more than 100 individuals charged with 58 counts of murder in the said incident will be convicted soon, but said those that allowed the widespread presence and proliferation of “private armies” should also be prosecuted and made accountable. 

“Now back in the spotlight and in the inner circles of Pres. Duterte, the likes of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Gen. Hermogenes, mighty implementors of tools of repression in previous regimes, should be made accountable for legitimizing private armies and making more civilians and communities in peril,” explained Palabay. 

Palabay noted Macapagal-Arroyo’s issuance of EO 546 in 2006, where under Section 2, authorized the PNP to “deputize barangay tanods as force multipliers in the implementation of the peace and order plan in the area.” 

“These so-called force multipliers were formed primarily in the context of counter-insurgency, but as with any other tools for repression, these were not just used to attack civilians and people’s resistance, they were also used by local landlords and politicians as their own private goons and armies. As what we have seen with the Ampatuans in Maguindanao, in warlords and traditional politicians elsewhere, warlordism is very much alive and were further legitimized by these force multipliers,” Palabay said. 

The concept of state forces and force multipliers as private armies traces way back to the time of the Marcos regime’s Civilian Home Defense Force (CHDF) and Corazon Aquino’s Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU). 

“Under Noynoy Aquino, there were special militias called the Special Civilian Active Auxiliaries (SCAA), which exists to this day. These became private goons of mining companies and confronted protests and opposition of communities and people’s organizations against large-scale destructive mining,” said Palabay. 

Warlordism, according to Palabay, is very much alive under Duterte. 

“Notwithstanding alleged armed groups formed as death squads and ‘gun-for-hire’ for the regime’s ‘wars’ against the people, the Duterte regime formed Kilusang Pagbabago-Masa Masid from public funds, as a machinery for propaganda and surveillance, and a not-so different and new tool for stifling basic freedoms of people and communities, fascist-style,” explained Palabay. 

Hernandez urged fellow kin of victims to come out once more, and join the ranks of victims of killings and other forms of rights violations under the Duterte regime who are likewise calling for justice and an end to impunity. 

“We tirelessly call for justice, because we never wanted these killings to happen again to other families. However, we are urged once more to testify and say no to impunity amid these times that killings continue,” Hernandez concluded. 

Reference: Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, 0917-3162831

Karapatan Public Information Desk, 0918-9790580

 

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