24 November 2009

Worst Political Massacre in Pinas

Ampatuan Candidates
If everyone thinks that the alleged crime of Victor Ebarle, Jr., who gunned down a son of a public official after a traffic altercation, was bad enough, then they are in for a heinous surprise.

At least 36 people, mostly identified with Buluan, Maguindanao vice mayor Datu Ismail "Toto" Mangudadatu and accompanied by journalists, were abducted and later killed on 23 November 2009 by gunmen allegedly led by members of the Ampatuan political clan. The convoy had been on its way to an electoral bureau to file documents related to Toto's candidacy, which the gunmen wanted to prevent. One of those killed was Genalyn Tiamzon-Mangudadatu, wife of Toto.

Madaser Mangudadatu, Toto's brother and assemblyman in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said some of the victims were beheaded, while the women showed signs of sexual assault.

Even in the annals of political violence in the Philippines, this incident may have no equal in its brutality and in number of lives taken. The Plaza Miranda bombing in 1971 killed nine at a rally of the Liberal Party.

Even local residents were shocked by the brutality of the massacre. Clan wars have been waged and had thrived in this southern province of Maguindanao for ages, but they usually follow an unwritten rules: not to dishonor other man's woman, not to be brutal, not to spit and disrespect the dead. However, what happened recently was unequaled in history, not to mention the most gruesome act in the province this century.

"What they did was really heinous. The heads of the victims were bashed and the females stripped from the waist down," Toto reported.

Presidential adviser on Mindanao affairs Jesus Dureza also said, "Even women and media men were not spared. There must be a total stop to this senseless violence."

Will the national government really do something about this? Not a few doubt any concreete action will be taken against a powerful clan that supposedly delivered the winning votes for the President in the last 2004 elections: the Ampatuans, led by its acknowledged patriarch, Governor Andal Ampatuan.

The clan’s formidable clout rely on two main factors: guns and the blessings of officials from MalacaƱang. Political analysts even note that no less than non-entities in the present administration made it legal for the Ampatuans to have hundreds of armed men and women under their employ when President Arroyo administration issued Executive Order (EO) 546, allowing local officials and the PNP to deputize barangay tanods as 'force multipliers' in the fight against insurgents. The usual bullshit. We feel safe already.

In practice, though, the EO allows local officials to convert their private armed groups into legal entities with a fancy name: civilian volunteer organizations (CVOs). It is, therefore, not safe to bet that many are relieved that in the middle of never-ending bloodshed, with Abu Sayyaf running around beheading teachers and armed goons terrorizing voters, that this country's leaders have still got their priorities right by wasting their time and the public's money acting like blind lackeys giving accolade and tribute to any cretin who can deliver the votes.

It is an absolute scandal that anybody with guns can do such heinous things and not get the most violent reaction from the President herself. The cynical, hypocritical, undemocratic, nauseatingly patronizing, self-interest of the ruling party in Mindanao just stinks.

The President may have ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) to go after the perpetrators and recover the remaining hostages, but how can they effectively do this when the PNP was virtually 'the security of the Ampatuans' in the province? Witnesses has tagged Chief Inspector Sukarno Dicay, Shariff Kabunsuan and concurrent assistant provincial director in Maguindanao, as one of those who led the blockade on the convoy.

Unless MalacaƱang publicly denounces their alliance with the Ampatuans and arrest the perpetrators, they will continue to alienate a large part of its voter base in the 2010 national elections.