Thursday, December 03, 2009

Filipino lawyers walk against impunity in Southern Philippines

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Eleven days after the "Maguindanao Massacre," some 100 Filipino lawyers, law students and other members of civil society organizations joined the walk against impunity in Davao City in Mindanao.

The walk was led by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines – Davao and the Union of Peoples lawyers in Mindanao.

“The people's demand for justice over the worst massacre in the country's history must hold strong. We must not let our guard down as threats to thwart the broad movement calling for justice for the victims of the Ampatuan massacre remains,” warned Atty. Eduardo Estores, chairperson of the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao-Davao City.

"The government must speed up the investigation and spare no friend or allies from the full measure of the law. President Arroyo's lack of political will in the handling of the investigation manifests in the late apprehension of suspects, of the token-and delayed- arrest of a single member of the Ampatuan clan while we know for a fact that command responsibility does not end on Mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr. alone,” he said.

UPLM also slams the special treatment of the Mayor Ampatuan, the prime suspect in the massacre.

In response to the statement made by Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera on December 2 regarding the threats received by the government prosecutors and judges who are handling the Maguindanao massacre case, Estores urged the members of the justice department to remain undaunted.

“We should expect that all forms of threat and harassment against all those seeking for justice for the massacre victims will intensify. But these threats should not hamper the investigation. There is no compromising the truth and justice that we want to achieve for the violent death of our colleague, Atty. Brizuela and Atty. Oquendo, and the rest of the victims,” Estores said.

Estores urged his colleagues in the law profession to intensify efforts in the active legal representation of the oppressed in the prosecution and penalization of criminals, death squads, and their military and civilian patrons. During the UPLM assembly held last week in Cagayan de Oro, hundreds of lawyers pledged to help in handling the individual cases to be filed by the families of the victims of the Ampatuan massacre.

“We must continue to work with our people in the grassroots and strengthen our pledge to pursue justice for the people,” Estores said.

He added that the UPLM and IBP - Davao will support an independent commission that will thoroughly and impartially investigate the massacre.

“The goal of an independent investigating body is in the framework of not only looking into the culpability of direct perpetrators but also the participation of the police and military establishment and institutions of government at all levels, and the accountability of President Arroyo as Commander-in-Chief and patron of the Ampatuan clan,” Estores said.

Stressing the Arroyo government's accountability to the massacre, Estores condemned the Arroyo's “pampering of warlords as it pursues its own political and economic interests, particularly the Maguindanao votes which have created 'miracles' for President Arroyo in the last two elections.”

UPLM underscored that the lawyers' walk against impunity calls for justice not only for the victims of the massacre but also for the more than 1,000 victims of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances of the Arroyo regime.

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