The 14 victims that Centerlaw represent in the on-going multiple murder cases against the Ampatuan clan for the Maguindanao massacre condemn in the strongest terms possible this latest special treatment accorded to the Ampatuans that allowed them to have a lavish party in their detention facility.At the onset, our victims have consistently decried these special treatment insisting that all of the Ampatuans accused of participating in the massacre should be detained as ordinary detainees in the Quezon City Jail. Repeatedly, they have been told that the Ampatuans required special security and hence, should be detained in a special facility either because of a threat on their lives, or the risk of flight. But even as they suffer in silence in seeing the accused killers of their loved ones enjoy the perks and privileges of VIP detainees, it has become apparent that it is these special detention facilities that breed the kind of VIP treatment that they have been getting.
Not too long ago, our victims, in conformity with the Public Prosecutors, filed a motion to require the warden of the Taguig Detention Center to show why he should not be cited in contempt for allowing Andal “Unsay” Ampatuan Jr. to conduct a press conference in the facility. Before the warden can even explain, comes now the news that the Ampatuans were allowed to have a party in their detention facility.
Enough is enough. Our victims now call on incoming President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III to appoint only a Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government who can promise an end to the special treatment accorded to the Ampatuans and that they should hence be detained in the Quezon City Jail where they rightfully belong. This Secretary, whoever he or she maybe, should also promise that all will be done to prevent the flight of any of them from the Quezon City jail. This Secretary should promise the victims and the Filipino people that with their last party, “TAPOS NA ANG MALILIGAYANG ARAW NG MGA AMPATUANS”. Second, we will not only file the appropriate motion to cite the warden and all those responsible for the “party” for contempt of court, we will also file administrative and criminal charges against them for dereliction of duty. It is not true, as jail officials claimed, that all inmates are entitled to hold lavish parties in jail. This privilege is accorded only to the rich and powerful.
The decision to allow them to hold a party is not only a gross insult to the victims of the country’s worse massacre, it also sends the message that those who massacre, when they are rich and with political connections, can have lavish party even as they are already under detention for the possible commission of a heinous crimes. This is a tried and tested formula for impunity of the kind that we precisely have in this country.
The victims call on the incoming Administration finally to exercise the political will and to give utmost priority to the investigation, prosecution and punishment of all those who are responsible for extralegal killing in this country, of which the Maguindanao massacre has been the worse incident thus far. It is only when these killers are punished within a reasonable time can the incoming administration claim a victory in the restoration of the rule of law in this country.#30#
*The Center for International Law (Centerlaw) is the Philippine representative to the Southeast Asia Media Legal Defense Initiative, a coalition of lawyers in the region committed to upholding freedom of expression. Lawyers from Centerlaw are appearing as Private Prosecutors for 14 of the media victims of the Maguindanao massacre.