Karapatan on the 12th year after the Ampatuan massacre

Photo from the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines

Karapatan joins the families of the 58 victims in remembering their loved ones today, on the 12th year of the Ampatuan massacre wherein media practitioners and civilians were murdered in a single incident. We likewise join the family of Reynaldo Momay, the 58th victim whose body remains missing to this day, in their continued search for justice.

The killings, which happened just right before the national elections in 2010, should be a reminder to keep vigil against election-related violence and State-sponsored terror of those who want to perpetuate power beyond the 2022 elections. The election campaign season has not officially begun and yet, there have been reported cases of killings, attacks and other rights violations against political rivals, from the highest positions in power all the way to the lowest unit of government.

However, we know that the Ampatuan massacre is not merely a case of election-related violence. It has become a grim illustration of how justice remains so elusive to victims, and how perpetrators enjoy being favored by their allies and minions in power, with their private armies and paramilitary groups.

We welcomed the conviction of Datu Andal “Unsay” Ampatuan Jr. and Zaldy Ampatuan, identified masterminds of the massacre, in 2019. Yet, the victims have yet to attain full justice with the prosecution and conviction of all the others accused. The dismissal of the charges against 56 of them speaks volumes of how the justice system works in the country.

We support the call of families, journalists and human rights defenders for full justice. The victims deserve no piecemeal justice, falling like crumbs to those who have tirelessly fought for accountability even if it meant more threats against them. As long as this case remains to be fully resolved, the Philippines will remain a country where impunity reigns, and the rights of people are in danger with every single day of injustice.

The culture of impunity has claimed more and more victims in the last 12 years. Under the Duterte regime, with a president who orders, condones and encourages killings every single day, the killings have become worse and gruesome – a stark reminder that there can be no justice if killings are a policy and order of the day, and committed with gross impunity.

The Duterte regime has likewise no right to claim the Ampatuan massacre as proof that the domestic mechanism works for the victims, when it is largely due to the people’s struggle for justice that perpetrators are hailed to court and punished. The administration’s notoriety for State-sponsored killings through its sham war on drugs and counterinsurgency program remains as a significant indication of its bloody human rights record. Despite attempts to evade accountability, Duterte and his cohorts are being hounded by the relentless commitment of the people for justice.

Today, on the International Day to End Impunity, we join in remembering, at the same time we stand firm that the true quest for justice goes beyond punishing the perpetrators of the Ampatuan massacre. Non-repetition of these crimes remain among the most crucial indicators in determining the state of impunity in the country.

We also call on the Filipino people to cease support for human rights violators as they pursue their ambitions for public office – with them or behind them a trail of bloody violations of their families, allies and supporters. Let this serve as a warning to those who wrong the people and abuse their power: your days are numbered.

Cristina Palabay
Karapatan Secretary General