Thursday, December 3, 2009

NOW, WHAT? (Despite the massacre, and with more than a week passing, why can’t a single Ampatuan even be suspended?)

By Siesta-friendly

Or maybe it is because of the massacre they seem to be capable of that the Ampatuans are being treated with relative kid gloves. The Ampatuans’ notoriety indicates that the executions of November 23, 2009 are not an isolated incident and might just be the most they’ve accomplished in 1 day.

To compare, Ted Failon was arrested within hours after his wife was shot. It took 3 days (of continuous news barrage) before Mayor Ampatuan was arrested. Without the media focus, it might have definitely taken far longer. What if no media member was a victim?

The evidence are incriminating as they are mounting: mobile phone accounts, eyewitness accounts, political rivalry, known militiamen, unbelievable lack of police presence, even the use of a provincial government’s backhoe.

For a closer understanding of the cruelty done to the 50 or so victims – including about 30 journalists – pictures taken by the Commission on Human Rights have been posted on PCIJ's Photo Gallery.

Of course the murder trial will take a while, especially with a powerful and apparently scary clan of suspects, but why aren’t preventive measures being made?

How does one relieve an area’s tension except to rid the area of the cause of the tension? Why haven’t the Ampatuans been relieved, if only temporarily, of their duties?

Local Government Code

Are our government lawyers so unimaginative as not to come up with a single cause to even suspend at least one Ampatuan?

“SEC. 60. Grounds for Disciplinary Actions. - An elective local official may be disciplined, suspended, or removed from office on any of the following grounds:

(a) Disloyalty to the Republic of the Philippines;

(b) Culpable violation of the Constitution;

(c) Dishonesty, oppression, misconduct in office, gross negligence, or dereliction of duty;

(d) Commission of any offense involving moral turpitude or an offense punishable by at least prision mayor;

(e) Abuse of authority;

(f) Unauthorized absence for fifteen (15) consecutive working days, except in the case of members of the sangguniang panlalawigan, sangguniang panlungsod, sangguniang bayan, and sangguniang barangay;

(g) Application for, or acquisition of, foreign citizenship or residence or the status of an immigrant of another country; and

(h) Such other grounds as may be provided in this Code and other laws. An elective local official may be removed from office on the grounds enumerated above by order of the proper court.”

“SEC. 63. Preventive Suspension. - (a) Preventive suspension may be imposed:

(1) By the President, if the respondent is an elective official of a province, a highly urbanized or an independent component city;

(2) By the governor, if the respondent is an elective official of a component city or municipality; or

(3) By the mayor, if the respondent is an elective official of the barangay.

(b) Preventive suspension may be imposed at any time after the issues are joined, when the evidence of guilt is strong, and given the gravity of the offense, there is great probability that the continuance in office of the respondent could influence the witnesses or pose a threat to the safety and integrity of the records and other evidence …” (emphasis supplied)

What are they waiting for? Members of the local police have been found to be complicit. The shooters have scattered; witnesses, victims’ families, even prosecutors and local judges, are scared. There is so much to prevent. Why isn’t it being done on the local government level?

We’ve had more than a country’s fair share of unbelievable government shams, scams and scandals. But this is far more than that. This is a massacre. With dozens of innocent people involved: journalists, cameramen, passing motorists at the wrong place and time.

The perpetrators’ brutality should force us not to let up in pursuing all the issues and personalities involved – directly or indirectly – to ensure we don’t lose what little humanity we have left.


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