Friday, December 11, 2009

U.S. and Philippine Governments Declared Culpable for Maguindanao Massacre

U.S. and Philippine Governments Declared Culpable for Maguindanao Massacre

BAYAN-USA Honors Victims by Launching Week of Action for Human Rights and Mobilization for the International Observers Mission to the 2010 Philippine Elections

“Bystanders who witness a crime and do nothing are guilty of allowing the perpetrator to strike his next victim. BAYAN-USA is giving people in the U.S. the opportunity to take action to prevent the continued loss of life in the Philippines at the hands of the military, police and paramilitary thugs. The best way to honor and obtain justice for the victims is by taking action,” said Berna Ellorin, Chair of BAYAN-USA as the alliance of 14 Filipino organizations in the U.S. launched a week of action in response to the Maguindanao Massacre and announced plans to mobilize for the International Observers Mission to the 2010 Philippine Elections. Actions will commence today in New York and Los Angeles and continue through International Human Rights Day on December 10.

On November 23, 2009 at least 64 people were massacred in Ampatuan, Maguindanao in one of the most open and vicious election-related acts of violence in Philippine history. Among the victims were women, two human rights lawyers, and 31 journalists. It was the single deadliest attack on journalists on record.

"BAYAN-USA condemns this heinous, calculated crime which everyone knows was executed by the private army of the Ampatuan family, a ruling clan with close, long-standing ties to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, in conjunction with members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Army,” said Ellorin. “The perpetrators had no doubt that they would get away scott-free, just as the PNP, Armed Forces, and paramilitary outfits who have committed thousands of human rights violations against innocent civilians over the past 8-1/2 years under Arroyo have escaped conviction—or even been rewarded for their performance like General-cum-Congressman Jovito Palparan. It is because Macapagal-Arroyo has actually directed these human rights violations as standard procedure of her counter-insurgency Operation Plan Bantay Laya 2--with the funding provided by U.S. military aid, ‘advice’ provided by U.S. military advisors, and justification provided by the U.S. ‘war on terror.’”

“We are launching this week of action and announcing plans to mobilize for the International Observers Mission for the 2010 Elections not only because we know that Macapagal-Arroyo regime will never seriously investigate the Maguindanao Massacre or any of the human rights violations sure to come as the 2010 elections approach. We are taking action because we need to hold the U.S. government accountable for every single killing, abduction, torture, and that they have funded with the millions in U.S. tax dollars they have granted to Macapagal-Arroyo’s mercenaries, which have served the interests of U.S. imperialism. The ammunition used by the perpetrators of the Maguindanao Massacre came from the AFP, care of U.S. military aid,” stated Ellorin. BAYAN-USA pointed out that despite his rhetoric of “change,” the Obama administration has clung to a century-old policy toward the Philippines. “Since it first colonized the Philippines over 100 years ago, the U.S. has sought to control the country’s vast human and material resources through both political means and by brute force, and to use the Philippines as a geopolitical foothold to expand and maintain its economic, political and military interests in Southeast Asia. Under the leadership of Presidents Roosevelt, Johnson, Bush 1 or 2, or Clinton, the U.S. government’s guiding principles were always imperialist control of the Philippines and expansion throughout the Southeast Asian region,” said Ellorin

Within weeks of taking the oath of office, Obama began giving direct support to the Macapagal-Arroyo regime. In February, Obama called Arroyo to state his commitment to the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Balikatan exercises. In July, Obama again affirmed U.S. commitment to the VFA during Arroyo’s state visit to Washington DC. In August Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that the U.S. has been keeping a 600-strong Joint Special Operations Task Force in the Philippines since 1999 and that the U.S. intends to maintain the forces there indefinitely. And in November, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the Philippines and dodged questions about the VFA and the abduction and torture of American citizen Melissa Roxas.

Moreover, there are reports that the State Department may actually release the $2 Million in military aid to the Philippines that Congress ordered to be withheld from the total U.S. military aid package to the Philippines in 2010, pending improvements in the nation’s human rights record and the Arroyo government’s compliance with the human rights recommendations made by U.N. Special Rapporteur Philip Allston. “If the U.S. releases the $2 Million that is supposed to be restricted—not to mention provide possibly even more aid next year—it would be like lighting the fuse on a pile of dynamite,” stated Ellorin. “The Maguindanao Massacre is proof that human rights violations continue to rage throughout the Philippines. There is no justification for granting more aid to Macapagal-Arroyo’s murderous regime.”

To add insult to injury, Macapagal-Arroyo has declared her intent to run for a seat in Congress next year--the Representative of the second district of Pampanga, which could be a stepping stone for her to vie for Prime Minister in the future if Charter Change is enacted. “Declaring her candidacy in the midst of the Maguindanao Massacre insults the victims of this latest tragedy. While Macapagal-Arroyo likes to tout her public service record, the best way for her to serve the people would be to stay out of government altogether,” said Ellorin.

Starting today, BAYAN-USA member organizations are conducting actions across the country to mobilize the 4 million-strong Filipino community and all people in the U.S. who believe in human rights to condemn Macapagal-Arroyo’s role in instigating the Maguindanao Massacre, demand a swift and impartial investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators, and demand accountability from the Obama administration for perpetuating the human rights crisis. BAYAN-USA also launches a recruitment drive to bring journalists, lawyers, faith leaders, photographers, educators, artists, and other concerned Americans to serve as delegates on the International Observers Mission, an effort of the National Council of Churches of the Philippines, KARAPATAN and other organizations to promote fair, peaceful and democratic national elections in a country plagued by fraudulent and violent elections.

Justice for the victims of the Maguindanao Massacre! Justice for All Victims of State-Sponsored Repression in the Philippines!

Investigate, arrest, and prosecute the perpetrators of the Maguindanao Massacre!

No U.S. Tax Dollars for State-Sponsored Massacres, Abduction, Torture and Killings in the Philippines!

Disband all paramilitary units and the private armies of warlords and politicians! Stop the Operation Plan Bantay Laya 2!

End Arroyo’s Reign of Terror! Ban Arroyo from All Government Offices!

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