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Author: mary joyce lising
•5:47 PM
Warning: Graphic picture of dead bodies in Maguindanao Massacre. on Twitpic

Authorities urged to identify perpetrators of Maguindanao massacre

MANILA, Philippines - Speaker Prospero Nograles called yesterday on the police and the military to act swiftly in identifying the perpetrators of the massacre of 43 people in Maguindanao on Monday and on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to assess the situation to determine if polls should be suspended in the province.

Meanwhile, Nueva Ecija Rep. Edno Joson warned that the declaration of a state of emergency in three provinces in Mindanao could lead to no elections next year.

Nograles, who comes from Davao City, said the Comelec can postpone the election in Maguindanao until things cool down.

“Right now, the situation can be really volatile and we don’t want more killings in the area,” he said.

Nograles said the military and police must immediately disarm private armies in Mindanao.

The massacre in Maguindanao can erupt into a full-blown rido or clan war, he added.

Nograles said efforts to identify the culprits, particularly the masterminds, should be done with cold objectivity.

All partisan considerations, including political alliances, should be set aside, he added.

However, Nograles said the investigation should not be based on speculations but on solid evidence and testimonies.

“This is already beyond political alliances,” he said.

“This horrific mass murder is just beyond human comprehension. The government should use everything to apprehend and prosecute those responsible for this most atrocious incident.”

“I share the grief of the victims’ families and I pray to God that those who are responsible for this atrocity will give up voluntarily to our government security forces,” he said.

“I still cannot imagine how a man can be so brutal and cold-blooded in employing violence just to achieve one’s political end. It is really unbelievable.”

The military must beef up security in Mindanao, particularly Maguindanao, to avert the escalation of violence, Nograles said.


Joson warned yesterday that next year’s presidential elections could be canceled or that a major failure in the balloting process could affect the results of the elections.

“In both cases, it is President Arroyo who will be the beneficiary since she could prolong her stay in office,” he said.

Joson said even if the electoral exercise pushes through, a failure of election in Mindanao could result in a long delay in the proclamation of winning candidates for president and vice president.

“If the results in Mindanao could not be determined, the entire presidential election might be scrapped altogether,” he said.

These scenarios have prompted him to file a bill expanding the line of succession to the presidency to include senators other than the Senate president and justices of the Supreme Court, Joson said.

Under the Constitution, the President would be succeeded by the Vice President, Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives, in that order.

Joson’s succession bill is still pending in the House.

Joson reiterated his proposal for the Comelec to impose a total election gun ban to reduce violence.

“But the Comelec, MalacaƱang, the Philippine National Police, and the military should have the political will to enforce such a ban,” he said.

“They should disarm private armed groups and individuals.”

Aspirants linked to killings to be barred from running

Comelec chairman Jose Melo warned that any aspirant who might be directly or indirectly involved in the massacre would be disqualified from running for office next year.

“We may be saying this a little prematurely, but if there are political candidates or political office holders there, we will be ready to disqualify them if they are linked to the killings,” he said.

“This is an incident we condemn in the strongest terms. Imagine such a massacre, including women and media people. They were raped.”

However, Melo said the Comelec could not yet place Maguindanao under its control because the election period has not yet started.

The election period runs from Jan. 10 to June 9, 2010, he added.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said the poll body has allowed Maguindanao aspirants facing threats to file their certificates of candidacy with the provincial election supervisor of Maguindanao.

“What we want is to remove you from areas where you feel you are threatened,” he said.

On the other hand, Comelec Commissioner Elias Yusoph, a Muslim, said Islam abhors killings and that Muslims are peaceful people.

“If they are really Muslims then they should not have done that because Islam abhors killings,” he said.

“Whoever is responsible for that, they should answer. This is a barbaric act committed by these people.”

Police placed on alert

Philippine National Police chief Director General Jesus Verzosa placed yesterday police nationwide on alert to prevent a breakout of election-related violence.

Chief Superintendent Leonardo Espina, PNP spokesman, said Verzosa ordered police regional, provincial and station commanders to monitor political rivalries in their jurisdictions.

Espina said intelligence chief Director Eugene Martin is assessing and analyzing the peace and order situation nationwide.

Martin will come up with a list of electoral hotspots and areas of concern, he added.

Police are also closely monitoring the situation in Nueva Ecija, Abra, Masbate, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, and Sulu.
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