Rights advocates launch fact-finding mission to Maguindanao

Human rights workers and advocates head to Cotabato City today for the National Interfaith Mission for Peace and Justice in Maguindanao, on the second month after the Ampatuan massacre.

“To pursue justice.” This was one of the objectives of the mission stated by Lovella de Castro, Secretary General of Karapatan and one of the head conveners of Kalinaw Mindanao, as she leads the contingents to Maguindanao.

Kalinaw Mindanao is a coalition of human rights and service-oriented institutions, organizations and concerned individuals led by Alliance Against Impunity in Mindanao, Pagbabago! Movement for Change, Karapatan, Kawagib Moro Human Rights Alliance and Barug Katungod Mindanao.

The Mission also aims to document incidents of human right violations in the aftermath of the massacre. According to the initial reports received by Karapatan through its local chapter in the ARMM region, more than a thousand families from several baranggays in Ampatuan, Rajah Buayan and Sharrif Aguak were forced to flee their homes due to fear of being caught in the crossfire between government troops and the Ampatuan’s private armies.

Together with relatives of the massacre victims, the Mission team shall also visit the massacre site in Ampatuan town tomorrow, January 23, to mark the second month of the incident.

De Castro also added that the people should not forget the killing of 57 individuals on November 23. “We wish to mark the 23rd day of every month a red-letter day in our calendar so that we may be reminded of the brutal massacre,” she said.

“Extrajudicial killings are being perpetrated with impunity under the Arroyo administration, and it is our responsibility as human rights workers to document and expose all these atrocities, so that the peace-loving Filipinos should remain vigilant and be able to take actions against repression,” de Castro concluded. ##