NPC to lead protest rally in Mendiola: MILF ‘coddling’ Ampatuan massacre suspects – National Press Club

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The National Press Club of the Philippines (NPC) is calling on the Aquino administration to demand on the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the “surrender” of other suspects in the infamous 2009 “Ampatuan Massacre” in Maguindanao as part of their “confidence-building measures” before the signing of any formal peace settlement.

The NPC made the demand after it received “reliable information” that the erstwhile separatist movement has been “coddling” many of the participants in the massacre not only in Maguindanao but in other of its camps spread all over Mindanao.

“We were informed by concerned quarters and other reliable sources that many of the armed followers of the Ampatuan clan who participated in the massacre have found safe haven in the so-called “MILF territories” in the island to evade justice.

“Therefore, if the government is sincere in upholding press freedom and giving justice to the victims as promised by Pres. Noy Aquino during the campaign period, he should ask the MILF for the surrender of the suspects.

“Likewise, if the MILF is sincere in its pursuit of peace, national reconciliation and development in Mindanao, we are calling on MILF chair, Ebrahim Murad, to demonstrate his leadership thru the voluntarily surrender of those suspects whom they are now protecting,” said NPC president Benny Antiporda.

“A the very least, the handing over of the suspects by the MILF should be part of the ‘Framework Agreement’ it signed with the GPH only last month. It should also form part of the final peace settlement,” Antiporda added.

While the NPC recognized the efforts by state security forces, especially by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), to account for most of the suspects, it is estimated that over 90 armed followers of the Ampatuan clan who took part in the massacre remains at large.

Of this number, sources informed Antiporda that about “80 percent” (some 70 persons) are now with the MILF “Evidently, it would be next to impossible for the PNP and the AFP to arrest the other suspects if they are being given safe haven by the MILF.

“Thus, the initiative is now with Pres. Aquino and chairman Murad to ensure that justice is accorded to the victims of the massacre. For what is peace without justice,” Antiporda asked.

Of the 58 victims massacred by the Ampatuan clan on November 23, 2009 in Maguindanao, 32 were members of the press with several of them also members of the NPC.

Antiporda also bared that the NPC, together with the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan-NCR), the Burgos Media Center, UNTV and other cause-oriented groups, would be launching a protest march on Friday from the NPC to the Supreme Court and then to the historic Don Chino Roces (Mendiola) Bridge to commemorate the massacre’s third anniversary.

Two film showing of “Deadline: The Reign of Impunity” by respected film director, Joel C. Lamangan, has also been scheduled right after the protest rally at Cinema 9 of SM Manila.

“We are calling on all media groups and members of the NPC to participate in these activities to tell the world and the government that despite the passing of three years, we continue to hunger for justice for our fallen colleagues,” Antiporda added.

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