"They Own the People": The Ampatuans, State-backed Militias and Killings in the Southern Philippines
"The November 2009 massacre of 58 people in Maguindanao on the southern Philippines island of Mindanao was an atrocity waiting to happen. For more than 20 years, the ruling family charged with the massacre, the Ampatuans, and its 'private army' were responsible for a string of killings and other abuses in the province. The Ampatuans rose to power and enforced their rule with the help--both tacit and overt--of local officials, police, military, and eventually, the administration of then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Even after a flurry of activity and arrests following the Maguindanao massacre, over half of the suspects are still at large and the family remains powerful. They Own the People focuses on the Ampatuans and their militia. The report details their many abuses, including more than 50 alleged incidences of killings, torture, sexual assault, abductions, and enforced disappearances over two decades.It charts the Ampatuans' rise and expansion, aided by President Arroyo, who relied on the family for crucial votes and support in the protracted armed conflict with Moro armed groups in Mindanao. Based on in-depth investigations in Mindanao, the report draws heavily on 'insider' testimony provided by former members of the Ampatuans' 2000- to 5000-strong private army. Although perhaps one of the most powerful and abusive forces in the Philippines, it is hardly unique: more than 100 private armies are estimated to operate throughout the country. The level of direct government support for these militias varies, but if the Ampatuan example is any indication, a history of abuses is no disqualifier. The report urges President Benigno Aquino III to ban all paramilitary and militia forces in the Philippines because of their long and continuing history of serious human rights violations.It also calls on the National Bureau of Investigation to prioritize investigating alleged extrajudicial killings and other serious crimes that may involve government officials, security forces, and militias. As long as such official support continues, so will private armies and the atrocities for which they have been responsible."--P.  of cover.
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