MANILA - Outraged senators on Tuesday challenged President Arroyo to go after her political allies, the Ampatuans, who have been tagged in the massacre of at least 22 people, including women, in Maguindanao on Monday.
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said authorities should take in for questioning Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. amid indications that the Ampatuans may have been involved in the killing of members of the rival Mangudadatu clan and a number of journalists.
"From the reports reaching me, it looks like some members of the militia under the control of the Ampatuans were involved in the killings," said Pimentel. "We cannot allow this dastardy act to go unpunished."
Pimentel said he received reports Gov. Ampatuan was in Manila and suggested he be taken in for questioning.
"I am suggesting that Governor Andal be detained as a material witness considering there are indications that the men involved (in the massacre) were militiamen of Andal," Pimentel pointed out.
However, it appeared later that it was Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanano (ARMM) Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan, Andal's older son, who was at a meeting in Malacañang.
Still, Pimentel was doubtful if the President would go after he own political allies who delivered votes to the administration in the 2004 and 2007 elections.
"We know that Governor Andal is very close to the President. He makes it a habit to kiss the President's hands and kilig na kilig naman si Presidente," Pimentel said. "But it's about time the rule of law is upheld. We must show that even in the Moro area, crime does not pay."
Pimentel also proposed that elections in Maguindanao be held 10 days earlier so that government can pour all its resources and manpower in the area to ensure there would be no more election fraud or violence.
Pimentel's son and namesake, Aquilino III who ran for senator in 2007 under the opposition ticket, has claimed he was cheated in Maguindanao where the Ampatuans delivered a 12-0 victory for administration candidates.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson also dared President Arroyo to go after the perpetrators of the Maguindanao massacre and "shoot them, if necessary."
Lacson said there is no such thing as a "political solution" as far as the Maguindanao massacre was concerned.
"The entire Filipino nation must act as one in challenging Mrs. Arroyo and all our law enforcement agencies to lose no time in arresting the perpetrators of this abominable act and if necessary shoot to immobilize them," Lacson said.
"The Arroyo administration must be cautioned this early that a political solution of any form is not acceptable as it is unconscionable," he added.
Sen. Pia Cayetano lamented that the murder of several women trying to exercise their democratic rights -- ironically two days before the celebration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women -- was a throwback to the dark ages.
"The Arroyo regime should move swiftly to bring the perpetrators to justice and restore peace and order in the area. Let the axe fall where it should, regardless of the influential personalities behind this barbaric act and their close affinity with the Arroyo administration," Cayetano said.
"I am also appealing to the men to stand up to these brutal acts. We do not want this to happen to your wives, daughters, mothers and sisters," she added.