By ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
Muslims, Imam join condemnation as they observe Haj season
BAGUIO CITY – Initiated by local media practitioners with a prayer and a candle lighting ceremony at the Baguio Cathedral here on Thursday, the condemnation of the massacre of 57 civilians in Maguindanao gained support from various sectors as they too blamed the national leadership for its kid’s-glove treatment of the perpetrators led by their allies – reportedly the Ampatuans.
Outraged and indignant, they demand from government authorities the immediate delivery of justice, including the urgent disarming of the Ampatuans and their armed group.
Imam Bedejim Abdullah, a Muslim religious leader here, condemned the massacre of civilians and urged that justice be served to the victims of the atrocity.
“Though the Muslims worldwide are celebrating now the Haj season, that event (Maguindanao massacre) is a very sad note,” Imam Abdullah said in an interview.
He explained that they are celebrating the Haj month where Muslims are fasting in commemoration of the triumph of the Prophet Abraham from the test of Allah.
Friday would be the culmination of the Haj month with the Eidul Adha or Feast of Sacrifice.
He said that the perpetrators deserve the worst punishment adding: “May Allah hurl the criminals into the deepest pit of hell and may Allah reward well in paradise those who have fallen victims of the atrocity”.
As perpetrators and alleged masterminds of the dastardly act were identified, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines of the Baguio-Benguet chapter urged the authorities to immediately arrest the perpetrators.
“By all means, the perpetrators should be arrested and answer for their dastardly act regardless of who and what they are and what positions they occupy in the government,” pointed lawyer Daniel Mangallay, president of the IBP-BB, in an interview.
“The government should act swiftly for the sake of justice. Unless, the government has something to do with this?” he asked. Since there is strong evidence and witnesses, the government must do everything that is proper and not just engage in “papogi” or politics.
City councilor and lawyer Rocky Thomas Balisong joined Mangallay in condemning the act.
“The government should act swiftly, investigate and arrest the culprits whoever they are. No one should be above the law,” he said.
Two human rights lawyers, Cynthia Oquendo-Ayon and Ma. Conception Brizuela are members of the National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL) who were identified as among the victims who accompanied the wife and sisters of Ismael Mangundadatu to file the latter’s candidacy for governor against one of the Ampatuans.
Here, on Thursday, despite the rain, some 30 journalists said prayers and lit candles at the Baguio Cathedral as part of the nationwide coordinated move by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in condemnation of the massacre. Joining them in the Cathedral activity were Mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr. and some members of the city hall staff.
Why no arrests yet?
While town mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. of the Datu Unsay town, turned himself in to the authorities only on Thursday, the public here wonder why no arrests yet has been made against the other Ampatuans, police, paramilitary, and their armed bodyguards who were allegedly involved in the horrible carnage.
“Is this (no arrest) just another way of how Malacanang pays its “utang na loob” (debt of gratitude) to those who rampantly cheated in the past elections in favor of the present leadership?” asked lawyer Kissack Mujahid Gabaen, secretary-general of the Cordillera Muslim Regional Organization.
Gabaen, like Mangallay, said that the government should have suspended all the government officials whose involvement in the massacre has been alleged.
“With their power as warlords in Mindanao, they can terrorize people including witnesses, destroy evidence and influence the outcome of the investigation,” he pointed out.
Would Andal Jr. be the sacrificial lamb for the other Ampatuans and the real culprits go scot-free? Gabaen further asked.
GMA accountable, too
The women’s group in the region, Innabuyog a chapter of Gabriela, said the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo should also be held accountable and responsible for the massacre. She pointed out that the Ampatuans are close allies of GMA.
Vernie Diano, Innabuyog chairperson, said of this attack against innocent civilians, that include members of the media, women and lawyers; “The women showed their desire for good governance by being part of the delegation which ended brutally with them being killed”.
Also, city councilor Isabelo Cosalan pointed out that the victims were Filipinos who cry for justice. “It (the carnage) is a shameful act of cowards, blinded by power, who may have not realized that everything is temporary in this world. They shall reap what they sow,” he said. # nordis.net