Teodoro: Expel them from Lakas
- James Mananghaya () - November 26, 2009 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Former defense secretary and now Lakas-Kampi-CMD chair Gilbert Teodoro Jr. yesterday called on his party to expel Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Zaldy Uy Ampatuan and Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. for their failure to uphold party ideals and principles in the province, particularly those on peaceful and legal pursuit of political power.

Lakas leaders met last night to vote on the Ampatuans’ proposed expulsion from the party and would call a press conference today to announce their decision.

This developed as President Arroyo also faces rising pressure to bring to justice her political allies, who stand accused of masterminding a massacre that left over 50 people, including 13 journalists, dead.

Andal Ampatuan Sr. is Lakas-Kampi-CMD provincial chairman, while Uy Ampatuan is party regional chairman for ARMM.

Arroyo was reported to be politically indebted to the Ampatuans for ensuring her victory in the 2004 presidential race.

Teodoro urged the government to arrest Andal Ampatuan Jr. and those believed to be behind the “dastardly crime” and disarm groups in the area to prevent an escalation of violence.

“There's no justification or no idea whatsoever I can come up with or comprehend that makes a person do these things,” he said.

He also pushed the government “to discipline and arrest public officials who should have acted, but did not act.”

He said the entire country and the whole world is watching how the government would handle the volatile situation in the south, where clan wars are common for decades among political families.

“I urge the government to take strong actions to show as an example that crime does not pay,” he said. “They should arrest the perpetrators whoever they may be and disarm them, and make sure adequate security presence in the area to avoid a repeat of the incident.”

He said what had happened to the family of the Mangudadatu and the local journalists “has to be dealt with very firmly because this is a test case not only for this government but for governments to come.”

Teodoro is now in Cotabato and set to visit Buluan, Maguindanao to condole with the family of Vice Mayor Ismael Mangudadatu, who would contest the younger Ampatuan in the gubernatorial race in the May 2010 elections.

‘Cut warlords’ power’

Vice President Noli de Castro also urged Malacañang to order the police and the military to cut the warlords’ power and dismantle their private armies that have reportedly terrorized communities in Maguindanao.

De Castro called on the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other agencies to immediately resolve the massacre and arrest those behind it.

“I and the rest of the outraged nation demand swift justice for the brutal killings of the defenseless victims in Maguindanao. Let us send a clear signal to those murderers that law and justice reign in our land. Put the masterminds of this atrocity behind bars.”

The Vice President was dismayed with the police investigation, saying “police officers or individuals with personal knowledge of the brutal killings must join hands with the full force of the state to immediately arrest the perpetrators regardless of their political influence because no one is above the law.”

‘Unusual treatment’

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has criticized what it said was “unusual treatment” of the Ampatuans.

In an interview over dzMM, CHR chair Leila de Lima pointed out that police authorities should have already invited Ampatuan Jr. and consider the statements issued by the Mangudadatu family, whose members were among those brutally killed.

She noted that a suspect ordinarily would be invited for questioning and not visited by authorities.

De Lima questioned the police’s “less than decisive action” on the matter.

“Go to our precinct. Explain your side, (or) execute a statement if you want to. But to be visited just to get an assurance (of your cooperation)?” she said.

Presidential Adviser on Mindanao Affairs Jesus Dureza is said to be meeting with the Ampatuans.

He said his initial meeting with the family enabled him to secure an assurance from them that they would cooperate in the investigation.

De Lima said the CHR sub-office teams also reported to her the police’s failure to preserve the crime scene, noting that those excavating the mass gravesite were victims’ relatives.

Palace statement

The militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) also deplored Malacañang’s statement that no immediate arrests or suspension of local government officials tagged in the mass murders would be made even as the PNP had already named Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. as the top suspect in the Maguindanao killings.

“We do not want this incident to go the way of other unsolved political killings under Mrs. Arroyo’s watch,” said Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr.

“It would be a big slap on the face of the Arroyo government if no arrests are made within this week,” Reyes said.

Bayan also expressed concern that the statements of Malacañang “seem to carry with them the weight of political considerations,” pointing out the open allegiance of the powerful Ampatuan family with President Arroyo. – James Mananghaya, Pia Lee Brago, Katherine Adraneda

AMPATUAN AMPATUANS ANDAL AMPATUAN SR. BAYAN DE LIMA MAGUINDANAO MALACA PRESIDENT ARROYO
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