Fear still grips
Ampatuan as hundreds of families remain in evacuation centers
January 26, 2010
DAVAO CITY – Kalinaw
Mindanao presented to the public today its report which revealed that
hundreds of evacuees are still unable to return to their homes due to
the climate of fear that persists in Ampatuan, Maguindanao, two months
after the massacre.
Kalinaw Mindanao, an
alliance composed of human rights groups, lawyers groups, and Moro and
church-based organizations, conducted a National Interfaith Mission
for Peace and Justice in Maguindanao from January 22 to 26.
According to the
findings of the Mission, around 500 families living near the massacre
site in Brgy. Salman are forced to live in deplorable conditions in
evacuation centers due to the continued presence of the Ampatuan
clan’s private armies and the government military forces in the area.
The evacuees live in cramped makeshift tents, rely on dole-outs, and
receive no medical attention even though children are getting sick
from the lack of food and sanitation.
“These evacuees are
the hidden victims of human rights violations caused by the warlordism
of the Ampatuans and heavy militarization in the province,” said Bai
Ali Indayla of Kalinaw Mindanao.
The evacuees, police
and military officials all confirmed the presence of unidentified
armed men roaming in the area. There are also threats of civilian
houses being burned. Last January 12, 8 houses in Sitio Agapok, Bgy.
Salman were burned down.
director Sr. Supt. Alex Lineses also told the
Mission members that several civilians were arrested while martial
law was imposed on the province, and that these civilians remain in
detention. It is not clear whether formal charges have been brought
The Mission also
reported that majority of the evacuees are eyewitnesses to the
massacre, but are too afraid to come forward. It was also established
that there was the presence of about 400 elements of the Philippine
National Police in the Ampatuan municipal hall, only about one
kilometer from the entrance to the massacre site from the national
highway. “The massacre could have been prevented had the authorities
only performed their duty,” the report stated.
convener and Karapatan secretary general Lovella de Castro said that
the plight of the civilians, who are also victims of the Ampatuan
massacre, should be addressed. “They will not live normal and peaceful
lives unless the Ampatuans are swiftly brought to justice, its private
armies completely dismantled, and all police and military authorities
made to answer for their complicity in the crime,” de Castro stated.
De Castro also added
that the Ampatuan massacre has brought the number of extrajudicial
killings under the Arroyo government to 1,188, of which none of the
perpetrators have been punished.
“We will continue to
demand the accountability of Gloria Arroyo for the Ampatuan massacre
and other human rights violations, even after the elections. We cannot
move forward as a nation, unless Arroyo and the Ampatuans are
punished. Unless this happens, expect that the climate of fear and
culture of impunity in Maguindanao and elsewhere in the country will
continue,” she concluded.