On November 23, 2009, 58 people were murdered by a local warlord from Maguindanao in the worst case of election violence in Philippine history. Police have charged members of members of the powerful and wealthy Ampatuan clan for the murder of the 58, who were in a convoy to the local election office to file the candidacy papers of a challenger to the incumbent political family.
Among the victims were 32 journalists, mostly from Central Mindanao. The incident marks the largest number of journalists killed in a single incident in the world, making the Philippines the most dangerous place for journalists in 2009. A year later, hope still flickers for the families of the victims, but the path to justice has been unbearably slow.
IT’S not every day that you see subordinates publicly criticizing their boss, which is what acting Justice Secretary Alberto C. Agra is experiencing as government prosecutors assail his recent decision to absolve two members of the Ampatuan clan over the grisly killings last November in Maguindanao.
By all indications, Agra is not least aggravated by the criticisms. Yesterday, at the flag ceremony of the Justice department personnel, he declared: “I stand by that decision and the process I went through to arrive at it… I bow neither to political dictates nor to public opinion.”
Legal experts warned of a looming crisis in the justice system after public prosecutors openly defied an order by Acting Justice Secretary Alberto Agra to drop the murder charges against two prominent members of the Ampatuan clan accused of involvement in the November 23 Maguindanao Massacre last year. Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Governor […]
Media groups denounce decision of Justice Secretary Alberto Agra to drop the murder charges against Zaldy and Akmad Ampatuan in connection with the Maguindanao Massacre.
THE COMMISSION on Audit (COA) is probably used to seeing dismal book-keeping from government units, but in the last several years, it seems to have become particularly challenged in trying to keep track of the accounts of Maguindanao and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Since 2002, the state auditing agency, in various reports, has repeatedly raised adverse findings about the lack of transparency, inadequate documentation of expenses, disallowed or irregular or unliquidated disbursements, and mismatched or irreconcilable entries in bank balances and financial reports of ARMM and Maguindanao, as well as unverified or unavailable physical inventory of equipment and properties supposedly purchased with public funds there.
THE STORY goes that in his younger, wilder days, Andal Ampatuan Sr. — patriarch of the powerful family that holds sway over Maguindanao and much of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao — used to ride a horse as he led a band of armed men in forays to hinterland villages.
IN THE nation’s third poorest province, Maguindanao, the poverty incidence is a staggering 62 percent – five of every six residents live on less than a dollar a day. But in the midst of all that poverty, Maguindanao and the Ampatuans have always been awash in cash, not so much because of any economic activity of note. The cash came nearly entirely from Manila, courtesy of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who has pampered the province and the clan as if they were her spoiled twins.
It has been four months since the massacre in Maguindanao, in which the alleged main perpetrators are members of a rich and powerful clan. Until their detention, the principal suspects in the murder of 57 people on November 23, 2009 lived in mansions in the country’s third poorest province, in neighboring cities, and even in Metro Manila.
How they acquired their supposedly fabulous fortune cannot be explained in the documents submitted by the public officials among them. But an unbridled access to public monies may be one of the keys to the puzzle, as is the willingness of national government officials to tolerate even the excesses of a political ally.
This report exposes what population experts call a statistical anomaly with grave implications on the conduct and results of the May 10, 2010 elections the inexplicable sharp spike in the population growth rate of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
A RECENT conference of the Philippine Population Association had none of the media frenzy that usually attends the ongoing bail hearing for ex-Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., the prime suspect in the massacre of 57 people, including 32 media workers, in Maguindanao last November 23.
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