When A Mayor Butchers His Opponents

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.  /

Bulan Observer

                                                                                                                        ———-end——-.

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1 Comment

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One response to “When A Mayor Butchers His Opponents

  1. attybenji

    The MAGUINDANAO MASSACRE, also known as the “Ampatuan massacre” (after the town where the mass graves were found), occurred on the morning of November 23, 2009, in the town of Ampatuan in Maguindanao province, on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines. The victims were about to file a certificate of candidacy for Esmael Mangudadatu, vice mayor of Buluan town. Mangudadatu was challenging Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr., son of the incumbent Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan, Sr., in the forthcoming Maguindanao gubernatorial election, part of the national elections in 2010. The 57 people killed included Mangudadatu’s wife, his two sisters, journalists, lawyers, aides, and motorists who were witnesses or were mistakenly identified as part of the convoy.

    The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called the Maguindanao massacre the single deadliest event for journalists in history. At least 34 journalists are known to have died in the massacre. In a statement, CPJ executive director Joel Simon noted that the killings, “appears to be single deadliest event for the press since 1992, when CPJ began keeping detailed records on journalist deaths.” The CPJ further noted that, “Even as we tally the dead in this horrific massacre, our initial research indicates that this is the deadliest single attack on the press ever documented by CPJ.”

    Even before the Maguindanao massacre, the CPJ had labeled the Philippines the second most dangerous country for journalists, second only to Iraq.

    The Ampatuans had been in control of Maguindanao since 2001. Andal Ampatuan, Sr. came first into prominence when President Corazon Aquino appointed him as officer-in-charge of Maganoy (now Shariff Aguak) in 1986 right after the People Power Revolution. Aquino, having come into power via revolutionary means, replaced every locally-elected official with officers-in-charge, although the town of Maganoy was approached differently; the aging mayor, Pinagayaw Ampatuan, was replaced by his vice mayor, Andal Sr. He won the 1988 local elections, then served for ten years. In the 1998 elections, Andal Sr. was elected as governor.

    Members of Lakas-Kampi-CMD, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo lists Andal Sr., as a major ally in Mindanao. Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) regional governor Zaldy Ampatuan was the party’s regional chairman. Andal Sr., the family patriarch, has been provincial governor since 1998; he has been elected thrice, unopposed. Eighteen of the mayors in Maguindanao belong to the clan. The elder Ampatuan attributed his popularity to “popular support,” adding “Because I am so loved by the constituencies of the municipalities, they ask me to have my sons as representatives.” In the 2004 presidential elections, Arroyo won 69% of Maguindanao’s vote; three years later, the party-backed coalition scored a 12-0 sweep of the senatorial elections in the province. Unable to run for a third term, he is currently grooming his son, Andal, Jr., to succeed him as governor.

    With escalating tensions in the province, Arroyo, as head of the Lakas-Kampi-CMD, mediated between the Ampatuans and the Mangudadatus (both are from the same party) to prevent election-related violence. Three meetings were held in mid-2009, with one meeting hosted by then Secretary of National Defense and current party chairman Gilberto Teodoro, who is running to succeed Arroyo as president. Arroyo’s adviser for political affairs Gabriel Claudio, disclosed that there was an initial agreement “in principle” that no Mangudadatu would contest Ampatuan Sr.’s gubernatorial post.

    Two days before the incident, the mass grave was prepared using a backhoe emblazoned with the name of Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr., and apparently owned by the Ampatuan family.

    Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu invited 37 journalists to cover the scheduled filing of his certificate of candidacy (COC) at the Commission on Elections provincial office in Shariff Aguak. He said reports had reached him that his rivals had threatened to chop him into pieces once he filed his COC, and felt the presence of journalists would deter such an attack.
    A local report stated that at about 9:00 AM, a convoy of six vehicles carrying journalists, lawyers, and relatives of Vice Mayor Mangudadatu left Buluan to file his COC at the Comelec office in Shariff Aguak. The convoy was composed of six vehicles: four Toyota Grandia vans (one grey, one green, and two white) owned by the Mangudadatu family; and two media vehicles – a Pajero owned by DZRH broadcast journalist Henry Araneta and a Mitsubishi L-300 van owned by UNTV. There was a seventh vehicle, a Grandia boarded by mediamen, but it lagged behind and decided to turn around once the passengers sensed what was happening. There were two other vehicles that were not part of the convoy but happened to be traveling on the same highway: a red Toyota Vios and a light blue Toyota Tamaraw FX. The Vios had five passengers: Eduardo Lechonsito, a government employee who was bound for a hospital in Cotabato City after suffering a mild stroke Monday morning. He was with his wife Cecille, co-workers Mercy Palabrica and Daryll delos Reyes, and driver Wilhelm Palabrica. The FX was driven by Anthony Ridao, employee of the National Statistics Coordination Board, and son of Cotabato City councilor Marino Ridao.

    Before reaching its destination (about 10 km from Shariff Aguak, four on other versions), the convoy was stopped by 100 armed men, who abducted and later killed most or all of its members. There is evidence that at least five of the female victims, four of them journalists, were raped before being killed, while “practically all” of the women had been shot in their genitals and beheaded. Mangudadatu’s youngest sister and aunt were both pregnant at the time of their murders.
    In a text message sent by Mangudadatu’s wife to him, she identified the people that blocked their way as the men of Ampatuan Jr, and that he himself slapped her. The female victims were shot in their genitals, according to Secretary of Justice Agnes Devanadera. According to Mangudadatu, his wife’s “private parts were slashed four times, after which they fired a bullet into it.” In addition, he said that “They speared both of her eyes, shot both her breasts, cut off her feet, fired into her mouth.”

    A backhoe located in the immediate vicinity of the carnage at Ampatuan town was identified as the instrument that was used to expediently dig the graves of the victims, including the vehicles. The perpetrators weren’t able to complete the job when a helicopter was spotted in the area. The backhoe, emblazoned with the name of Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr., was later identified to belong to the Maguindanao provincial government.

    As of November 25, the death toll had risen to 57, as confirmed by Chief Superintendent Josefino Cataluna of the Philippine National Police. Reporters Without Borders announced that at least 12 of the victims were journalists, making this the deadliest such incident in the history of news media. The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines originally estimated that a total of 20 journalists were killed, including an undisclosed number of NUJP members. The Philippine Daily Inquirer later updated the number of journalists killed to 34.
    On November 24, Philippine president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo responded to the news of the massacre by declaring a state of emergency in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and Cotabato City. Speaker of the House Prospero Nograles called on the police to quickly identify the perpetrators of the massacre and disarm private armies.[21] The Philippine Department of Justice created a panel of special prosecutors to handle cases arising from the massacre.

    In the aftermath, Nueva Ecija Rep. Eduardo Nonato N. Joson said the massacre might affect, or even lead to the cancellation of, the scheduled 2010 presidential elections.[21] Candidates in the election condemned the massacre.

    On Wednesday, November 25, 2009, the executive committee of the Lakas-Kampi-CMD political party unanimously voted to expel three members of the Ampatuan family – Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his two sons, Gov. Zaldy Uy Ampatuan of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. – from the party for their alleged role in the Maguindanao massacre.[24] An emergency meeting of the Lakas-Kampi-CMD was held in Pasig, during which the Ampatuans were stripped of their membership.

    On Thursday, November 26, 2009, Ampatuan Jr. surrendered to his brother Zaldy, was delivered to adviser to the peace process Jesus Dureza, then was flown to General Santos on his way to Manila, where he was taken to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) headquarters. Police in the Philippines charged Andal Ampatuan Jr. with murder. Ampatuan denied the charges, claiming that he was at the provincial capitol in Shariff Aguak when the massacre took place. He instead blamed the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), specifically Ombra Kato, as the mastermind, a charge the MILF dismissed as “absurd.”
    Mangudadatu successfully filed his certificate of candidacy at Shariff Aguak on November 27. He was accompanied by Lakas-Kampi-CMD chairman and presidential candidate Gilberto Teodoro, along with a caravan of 50 vehicles, to “ensure his safety.”

    On December 4, 2009 a number of homes belonging to the Ampatuan political family were raided in connection with the massacre.
    After the incidents it was predicted by critics that the Philippines could find itself on the next edition of the list of failed states annually reported by the Fund for Peace’s Failed States Index, if it continued to have such massacres, extrajudicial killings and disappearances.
    Among the worst mass killings earlier in the history of the Philippines are the Balangiga massacre of a whole American camp by Filipinos and the retaliation by General Jacob H. Smith in which all adults were killed and Samar was turned into a “howling wildness”, the Lapiang Malaya massacre in Pasay in 1967, the Escalante, Negros Occidental massacre owing to labor unrest, in September 1984, the Mendiola massacre of peasants for land reform in 1987 and the Lupao, Nueva Ecija massacre during a military campaign against the New People’s Army (NPA) in 1987.

    Declaration of martial law

    On December 4, 2009, through Proclamation No. 1959, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has officially placed Maguindanao province under a state of martial law. The declaration also suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the province. The announcement was made days after hundreds of government troops were sent to the province, which would later raid armories of the powerful Ampatuan clan. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the step was taken in order to avert the escalation of “lawless” violence in the province and pave the way for the swift arrest of the suspects in the massacre.

    Following the declaration, authorities carried out a raid on a warehouse owned by Andal Ampatuan Jr., the alleged mastermind of the massacre. The raid resulted in the confiscation of more than 330,000 live rounds of M16 rifle ammunition, and the arrest of 20 militiamen. Also confiscated in the raid were several firearms, a military humvee and an improvised armored vehicle.

    It was lifted on December 13, 2009.

    (Reference: “http://en.Wikipedia.Org/wiki/Maguindanao_massacre”, as source of the above information)

    PS: – I was in Maguindanao from 8 December until 18 December 2009 as member of PDEA Special Task Force “Salman” , While thereat, I was able to personally witness the discovery/recovery of the buried several high-powered firearms and ammunitions during the joint operations conducted by the PNP/AFP in the compound of the palatial mansions of the Ampats in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao.

    In addition to the 57 massacre victims of the Ampats, the Commission on Human Rights has confirmed “at least 200” politically motivated assassinations linked to the Ampatuan clan since 2001.The bodies are buried in several mass graves, scattered in the province of Maguindanao. The cases have emerged only now, following the arrest of Andalo Ampatuan Jr. – son of the powerful local governor – because witnesses did not report them “for fear of retaliation.”

    The Ampatuan family, with the government approval, set up its own army and ruled unchallenged for years in the province. It was a decision made by Malacanang in an attempt to contain the rebellions of Muslim separatists. (MILF, MNLF, etc.)

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