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Aug 20th
Home Columns Op-Ed Page Maguindanao Massacre Victims: AGRAbiyado
Maguindanao Massacre Victims: AGRAbiyado PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - Op-Ed Page
Written by Benjamin G. Maynigo   
Thursday, 22 April 2010 15:26




By Benjamin G. Maynigo


Maguindanao Massacre Victims: AGRAbiyado


T he Maguindanao Massacre is back in the headlines and in barber shop talks. Acting Justice Secretary Alberto Agra decided to clear two powerful members of the Ampatuan clan in the massacre of 57 people, including 32 media workers, several women and children. This is in reckless disregard of the position of the lawyers directly prosecuting the case and of the presence of a witness positively identifying suspended Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan and Vice Gov. Akmad Ampatuan, Sr. as co-conspirators of the massacre.


Agra, who was the election lawyer of President Arroyo and of the Ampatuans, accepted and cited the alibi defense of the two Ampatuans as his reason for their clearance in this most-brutal election-related killing in history. Instead of using the resources of the government to help the victims procure and consolidate all proofs showing an Ampatuan clan conspiracy, he chose to use the powers of his office to allow his former clients to escape with the weakest of defenses in conspiracy cases. An offender does not have to be at the scene of the crime to have participated in planning and conspiring to commit the crime. The claim that they were with President Arroyo and other Muslims when the massacre was being committed would only give credence to additional suspicions.


Instead of letting justice take its course and letting the judge who had already assumed jurisdiction over the case, try and decide, he chose to override the opinions of the prosecutors directly involved in procuring, preparing and organizing voluminous evidences and records. He did it after reading and studying such records within 24 hours. The fact that the judge already determined probable cause by issuing warrants of arrest was of no consequence to him.


For his action, the Acting Justice Secretary aggravated the suffering of the massacre victims who got reassurance from him that he would study it thoroughly a day earlier. There are now doubts on whether the victims would be able to obtain justice under the present dispensation.


In order to emphasize a point, my law professor used to tell our class, “let me repeat it again once more for the second time twice.” In a similar vain, let me also say, “I have said it, and wrote about it. Now, let me say and write it again, the Maguindanao Massacre is a Crime against Humanity and it must be treated as such.”


The Ampatuans and their co-conspirators are charged with killing children, women, and journalists who are protected parties under International Law. They offended not just Filipino citizens in particular, but all of humanity in general. They can therefore be tried outside of the Philippines. Some international and/or foreign courts can acquire jurisdiction and try them under a different set of rules without the aggravation of dealing with a questionable judicial system subjected to potential terror, intimidation, and corruption. Yes, let me repeat, in Crimes against Humanity, there is Universal Jurisdiction.


The case can be tried either later this year, next year or anytime in the future. The Statute of Limitations does not apply in cases of this nature. It would be good to have a government that is supportive of the case but it should not be a deterrent if the Philippine Government opposes it. Currently, we just let the prosecutors procure, gather and prepare the evidences and records for the domestic trial. We also have to make sure that such evidences are kept and protected safely. There are new methods of preserving records in this age of information technology and cloud computing.


The ex post facto law doctrine in Crimes against Humanity also may not apply. So, if a law is passed to make sure that a fair trial is conducted but detrimental to the interests of the accused compared to the previous one prior to passage, it could still be applied retroactively. The fact that an action is violative of a Philippine law or domestic law is no defense in international proceedings of this nature.


Double jeopardy is not necessarily a safe defense for all the accused if they get exonerated or if charges are dropped/dismissed in the Philippine trial. It just has to be proven that the trial was a sham.


In Crimes against Humanity, punishable are those who committed the crime/s and also those who failed or omitted to stop the commission of such crime/s. That’s why as enunciated in several cases, the principle of Command Responsibility is an accepted doctrine in International Law. Some Heads of States, senior officials of the government and military commanders have been charged and/or convicted under this principle. Full knowledge of the criminal acts by the superior is not even necessary.


The inclusion of President Arroyo and some of her senior officials together with the Ampatuan conspirators in such charges therefore, could be a distinct possibility.


The fact that Arroyo and many of her people are running for Congress could be to obtain the immunity privileges accorded their respective positions. It is even better for them if the next elected Chief Executive would be somebody on their side. This way, when traveling abroad, they could be provided with diplomatic cover.


Electing the right President therefore is critical but should not be a major deterrent. There are other remedies provided by International Criminal Law.


When asked about his view, my barber said, “you? AGREE; AGRA? No; Massacre Victims? AGRAbiyado!” # # #


Editor’s Note: The author is an International and Cyber Lawyer with an LL.B and LL.M; An Educator with an M.A. in Human Resource Development; An IT Chief Executive Officer with M.B.A.; Community and Trade Association Leader; Lecturer/Speaker/Writer; Political Strategist; Technology Pioneer. He is based in Washington, DC.

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Comments (3)
1 Thursday, 22 April 2010 16:13
Villar to Agra: Display ‘Delicadeza’

Nacionalista Party (NP) standard-bearer Manny Villar yesterday demanded that Justice Secretary Alberto Agra show delicadeza in deference to the families and relatives of the 57 people massacred in Maguindanao last November.

“The fact that Secretary Agra’s own prosecutors came out in public to denounce his move says a lot about how the government is handling the case. Absolving the two Ampatuans is rubbing salt on the painful wounds left by the massacre on the victims’ relatives,” Villar said.

“This case is too heinous and too painful to swallow as a people and as a nation. Its memory will not fade away as the perpetrators are hoping,” he emphasized.

Agra was severely criticized for absolving Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan and his uncle, Maguindanao Vice Gov. Akmad Ampatuan, of involvement in the Maguindanao massacre.

Those murdered in the heinous incident included journalists and lawyers.

DOJ prosecutors on Tuesday called for a review of Agra’s order, saying it convinces “a long skeptical public that our criminal justice system is impotent when the accused are politically influential.”

The NP standard-bearer warned the government against seeking a political solution to the case, saying the entire nation will never forgive President Gloria Arroyo and her government for a whitewash of the case.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) had earlier condemned Agra’s decision to absolve the two Ampatuans as it welcomed the walkout staged by DOJ prosecutors to protest the decision.

The NUJP also urged Chief State Prosecutor Claro Arellano to “exercise as much zeal in pursuing justice” for the victims of the massacre. #
2 Friday, 23 April 2010 06:14
All the Supreme Court Justices are accountable for the impunity of MALACANANG on recent appointments.

Retribution must be exacted from the Supreme Court Justices for their failure to perform their constitutional duties and obligations to the Filipino People.

This is on top of the outstanding issue regarding the blatant obstruction of justice committed by ALBERTO AGRA in setting aside deliberately and transgressing against the constitutional rights of MUSLIM Filipino Citizens who are involved in the proper dispensation of True Justice for both Christian and MUSLIM victims in the AMPATUAN MASSACRE.

MUSLIM Filipino Citizens are patiently waiting for the Christianity-based Judicial System to resolve the AMPATUAN MASSACRE with True Justice for the VICTIMS, both Christians and MUSLIMS.

3 Friday, 23 April 2010 07:55
Cory Aquino gave Ampatuan patriarch his break

Thursday, 26 November 2009

After Edsa 1, Andal was appointed OIC mayor

It’s interesting how the Ampatuan clan’s political fortunes seem to be turning full circle—and how political camps that now call them “monsters” seem to have conveniently forgotten that they had something to do with how these “monsters” were bred to begin with.

Liberal Party presidential bet Aquino, sure that violence in Maguindanao would escalate due to “this administration’s inaction,” is demanding the suspension of Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. and other local officials found involved in the November 23 massacre of civilians.

We don’t know if the senator realizes that he is in effect calling on the Arroyo government to undo an action by his mother’s administration.

President Corazon Aquino, right after the Edsa Revolution in 1986, removed all the duly elected local officials and appointed OICs in their stead.

In the town of Maganoy (now Shariff Aguak) in Maguindanao, the mayor then was Pinagayaw Ampatuan, who was supposedly inclined to resign anyway due to old age. The Aquino administration, with advice from then Local Government Minister (and chief government negotiator with Muslim insurgents) Aquilino Pimentel Jr., replaced just about every elected official in most local government units.

It approached Maganoy differently, though. There, the Aquino government followed the succession rule and installed the vice mayor as OIC.

That first-term vice mayor was Andal Ampatuan Sr. We now know him as the long-time governor of Maguindanao, and as father, grandfather, uncle, and in-law to at least 10 mayors, vice mayors, and other local officials in the province.

According to local sources, the appointment of Andal Sr. as OIC mayor in 1986 was backed by Maguindanao congressman Guimid Matalam, whose father in law, former Senator Salipada Pendatun, was a Liberal Party stalwart.

From then on, Andal Sr. never looked back. In 1988, in the first local elections that would test the acceptability of the OICs that Cory had installed, Andal won as mayor. He was also charged for the murder of his poll rival, Surab Abutasil.

He served as mayor for the next 10 years, and then as governor of Maguindanao. Meanwhile, his sons, nephews, and grandsons have been elected to various local positions, too.

The Ampatuans has since become a dependable ally of the next woman president, Gloria Arroyo. They delivered votes—believed to be rigged—in the 2004 and 2007 elections for Ms. Arroyo and her candidates in the national polls.

It’s also under the Arroyo administration that the Ampatuans are said to have expanded and strengthened their private army, composed of civilian volunteers enlisted and funded by the military.

Ms. Arroyo, however, may just be improving on something that Cory’s Constitution has allowed. The 1987 Constitution does not really provide the dismantling of private armies per se. Read carefully Section 24 of the Transitory Provisions—it bans only the private armies that are not sanctioned by government. But those that are “consistent with the citizen armed forced established in this Constitution”—like the civilian volunteer organizations formed by the military during Cory’s time—don’t have to go.


As posted in several e-newsgroups by Mon Ramirez

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