by jun asuncion
The Ampatuan massacre was unequaled in recent history and which has placed the southern Philippines one of the top places to be avoided at the moment. It is just the tip of an iceberg when one would consider how many Ampatuans are sitting in the Philippine local governments, carrying with them the idea of killing their “problem”- their political rivals. This murdering mayor of Maguindanao had proven to us that the dynastic political system in the Philippines is a breeding ground for political murderers- mostly mayors or presidents- because extended power simply corrupts the mind of man and makes him believe he alone has the right to govern or that he owns the town or the nation and the people- you and me. Pass the throne to another family? No way. And on the local level this goes on as a tradition and normally escapes the world’s attention.
Where and what is justice in the Philippines?
Last year, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, during the 50th anniversary of the Philippine College of Criminology Alumni Association, Inc., made mention that :
“The five pillars of criminal justice system – enforcement, investigation and prosecution, the courts, the correctional system, and the community – underpin the nation`s peace and the people`s assurance of security.”
However, we all know – as she surely does- that these five pillars are a sham- at least during her administration- and that these have long been submerged under the muddy waters of patronage politics. Patronage politics is the main cause of our miseries in the Philippines, corrupt politicians and public servants as our biggest burden. Now the whole world knows at least that we have a mafia-style government system where countless godfathers and godmothers rule across the country.
One such mafia-styled clan administration is the Ampatuan in Maguindanao, the prime suspect of this hideous carnage, who is long been considered as untouchables in their region. They practically own this region- the community, the police and the army, the prosecution, the courts, the prisons and the press. They have their own private army, the money- and the powerful connection that has entitled them to such royal privileges: The Malacanañang, the residence of Gloria Arroyo. Under the Ampatuans, Maguindanao delivered votes to Arroyo during the 2004 election. Now we may ask: How many Maguindanaos do we have in the Philippines? And how many Ampatuan clans do we have in the Philippines who are allied to the president? How many of them would like to rename their municipalities after their own family names? I think if we have to deduce from this logic, the whole of Philippines is an Ampatuan Republic whose president is Gloria Arroyo.
Now it’s been laid bare before the world that this culture of impunity is indeed a reality in the Philippines. Exempted from this culture are our petty lawbreakers the majority of whom have been driven to criminality because of poverty, injustice, poor education, social isolation, poor health- areas that have been totally neglected by an administration of corruption and exclusive privileges among the “connected”.
With this culture of impunity propagated by the administration, it is pure hypocrisy to talk before young criminology students about the “nation’s peace and assurance of security” as a consequence of the functioning five pillars of criminal justice system. How can one spoil the young minds before they even graduate? (But it seems that this all is part of her public insult policy). The many scandals perpetrated by herself and her own family and that of her allies have shown us otherwise. And recently this has been clearly illustrated by the untouchable Ampatuans. But this recent brute carnage seems to have undergone an error: it went out of proportion. This savage butchering of political opponents, journalists and innocent passers-by has turned the Sicilian mafia to an amateur and which even promted Eid Kabalu, a leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, to call the attacks “gruesome”.
On that ominous day, 23rd of November, nowhere in the world had such a monstrous brutality been unleashed but in the Philippines, nowhere else were several journalists killed within a few hours- not even in Iran, Iraq, Somalia or Afghanistan. This sent indignation beyond the Philippine territories.
Pressured at home and by the world community, Arroyo was forced to go against her protegé by expelling them from her own party, disarming them and by declaring the Ampatuan massacre as “a supreme act of inhumanity”, declared a state of emergency in Maguindanao and promised to bring the killers to justice.
To bring the killers to justice? Indeed, it seems that justice in the Philippines is the interest of the strong and is really possible when she wants it, but also not possible when she doesn’t want it. Precisely this personal attitude is the nucleus of this culture of impunity in the Philippines, culture of impunity because it fulfills the requirement of the logic of greed.
No doubt, this brutal massacre was an act of inhumanity. But I guess that to perpetrate an exclusive culture of impunity, to maintain political allies and reward them with special privileges, to engage in political practices that encourage such act of inhumanity is an act of inhumanity itself.
Hence, adjusting a bit to Philippine reality, Arroyo was actually talking something like this to our young criminologists:
“The five pillars of criminal injustice system – undermine the nation’s peace and the people’s assurance of security ” but underpin my allies’ peace and assurance of security. And these five Pillars are:
– Sham Enforcement and Investigation
– Sham Prosecution
– Sham Courts
– Sham Correctional System
– Terrified Community
The sixth Pillar- which protects- and in turn protected by- these five pillars of criminal injustice is that nucleus of the prevailing culture of impunity in this very unpopular administration. You know where this nucleus is. /