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Palace: Arroyo not bound by political debt to Ampatuans

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Palace: Arroyo not bound by political debt to Ampatuans

Post  Admin on Sun Jan 17, 2010 1:16 pm

Palace: Arroyo not bound by political debt to Ampatuans
Sat, Jan 16, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network

By TJ Burgonio

MANILA, Philippines - Malacaņang on Thursday bristled at an accusation by a lawyer of the Ampatuans that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo abandoned them in the aftermath of the November 23 massacre of 57 persons in Maguindanao.

"It's a good thing that they're being dropped like a hot potato and that a neutron bomb wasn't dropped on them after what some members of the family have been accused of doing,'' Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said at a press a briefing.

Ampatuan clan members have been arrested and charged in connection with the massacre of relatives of a rival candidate and journalists in Datu Shariff Aguak town in the country's worst election-related violence.

Their lawyer, Philip Pantojan, lamented on Thursday that Malacaņang had dropped the Ampatuans "like a hot potato'' and even backed the filing of charges against them in an attempt to save face.

Staunch supporters of the administration, the Ampatuans delivered crucial votes for Arroyo that ensured her victory in the 2004 presidential elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, with rival Fernando Poe Jr., an immensely popular actor in the region, failing to get a single vote in Manguindanao.

Remonde said that the government's action to hold the Ampatuans accountable for the massacre far outweighed whatever political debt Arroyo owed them.

"Responsibility over a crime as heinous as the Maguindanao massacre cannot be bound by any utang na loob (debt of gratitude),'' he said.

Prospero Pichay, presidential political adviser, agreed and said that the Ampatuans should not take their prosecution against Arroyo.

"No one is above the law. The President is letting the wheels of justice turn. Even if she is the brother of the President and he violates the law, I'm sure the President will let the wheels of justice turn,'' he said. "How many of our colleagues in the media died? Debt of gratitude is out of the question here.''

"We still assure them of due process; due process is being conducted. But if their lawyers expect that they can get away with it just because they supported the President in the last elections, then they must be dreaming, but their dream will be the country's nightmare,'' he said.

Remonde said it was unwise for the Ampatuans to assume that their support for the President could shield them from prosecution for a crime.

"We support a President because we believe in the President's programs. But it's wrong to assume that this same President will tolerate any wrongdoing. What kind of a President is that?'' he said.

Could they live with the fact the Ampatuans delivered the votes for Ms Arroyo?

"Yes, we can live with the fact especially because the larger part is that it's not only the vote of the Ampatuans in Maguindanao that made the President win. If we speak of any group voting, I claim that it is the Cebuano vote that really made her win. You cannot cheat in a place like Cebu,'' he said.

Condense from: http://www.asiaone.com/News/Latest+News/Asia/Story/A1Story20100116-192243.html

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