By LYN V. RAMO
MANILA — In the wake of protest actions being conducted by various sectors and groups a few days before the International Human Rights Day today, December 10, the political center of Cordillera Igorots challenged political parties and groups running in the 2010 polls to dismantle warlordism in the Cordilleras and the rest of the country as it called for immediate justice to the victims of the Ampatuan massacre.
“Before the Maguindanao carnage happens in the Cordillera, warlordism in the Cordillera provinces and the rest of the country must be decisively dismantled,” the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) said in a statement.
The Cordillera region is not spared from state-perpetuated and state-supported political violence, according to the CPA, citing the provinces of Abra, Apayao and Kalinga as having a history of election-related and politically motivated killings and other forms of violence allegedly allowed to happen through powerful politicians and warlords with goons and private armies.
“Warlordism by polical dynasties and powerful traditional politicians is entrenched in the prevailing political system of bureaucrat capitalism and state fascism. It is basically state terrorism unleashed on the people who challenge the power of rulers who are 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 on the people,” CPA emphasized._
As this developed, CPA called on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to wield her political will to ensure justice for the victims of the November 23 massacre in Maguindanao.
“Heads must roll in this case,” said the CPA. It added Arroyo must step down and resign and let those capable of ensuring justice take the challenge if she fails to punish the Ampatuan warlords who are responsible for the massacre, as well as those accountable in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.
The CPA, the largest progressive organization of the Cordillera people with chapters even in the remotest barrio in the Cordillera Administrative Region and elsewhere, also called on the Arroyo administration to rescind immediately Executive Order 546, which allowed the conversion of and financed private armies as legal entities or “force multipliers” in her government’s counter-insurgency program.
“EO 546 is part of the government’s counter-insurgency program, Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL), which in turn is part of the United States’ global war on terror,” the CPA statement read.
As a result of the implementation of OBL, the CPA said, 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, as a result of OBL.
As of latest count, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said 30 journalists are among the 57 bodies found in the infamous Maguindanao carnage on November 23. Lawyers and journalists accompanied supporters and members of the Mangundadatu clan who were about to file the certificate of candidacy for governor of Vice-mayor Eshmael Mangundadatu when an armed group allegedly led by the Ampatuans ambushed, kidnapped and later murdered the convoy.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) now holds Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. of Datu Unsay town in custody. The patriarch of the clan former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. was also arrested and is set to be transferred to the NBI detention center in Manila.
CPA is a member of the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP), whose members include indigenous peoples organizations in the whole country.
Meanwhile, the underground Cordillera Peoples Democratic Front (CPDF), in a separate statement, said “a virtual police state exists in the countryside as local political kingpins coddled by the Arroyo regime abound and rule through terror especially during election period. Abra’s ruling warlord clans reign over the province and remain untouchable despite pretensions of the Arroyo regime to end warlordism through Task Force Abra in 2007.”
For decades, the ruling warlord clans of Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, La Union, and some parts of the Cordillera took turns in ruling through murder, arson and other violent acts, according to CPDF Spokesperson Simon Naogsan.
“The Arroyo regime will expectedly go slow with the Ampatuan clan because Gloria owes them for her sham electoral victory in 2004 and the unbelievable 12-0 result favoring her administration’s senatorial slate in Maguindanao in 2007.
CPDF cited that just a few days before the massacre, Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan was standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Lakas-Kampi standard bearer Gilbert Teodoro. He even reportedly proclaimed the administration ticket’s sweeping electoral victory in the entire ARMM. (Bulatlat.com)