11/25/2009
We were massacred long before

GMA dared, the headline said. Get Ampatuans.

I've already heard quite a lot about the Maguindanao massacre since the news first broke on Monday morning. I was at work, supposedly disconnected from the world, but I was on Twitter too, and that's how I first learned of the disappearances. Ten hours later, the worst were confirmed, when the cars were found, when the bodies were found, one after the other, day after day.

That's how I also realized the possibly bigger implications of the crime, whose name is still being debated on. Maguindanao massacre? One of the poorest provinces in the country? Makes sense. Ampatuan massacre? Possibly, with the Ampatuans dominant in the region's politics, with two of its members occupying powerful positions in local governments. "Political warlords," they are called. Private armies at their disposal. Possibly, the hundred people who blocked the convoy of Esmael Mangandadatu's supporters. Possibly the police, God forbid the military.

The details, I don't know. But the connections, I think I do.

I have encountered the Ampatuans before, and not just when I was in Maguindanao earlier this year. Close allies of the administration, close allies of the President, the name was somehow dragged into the issue of the Garci tapes. They delivered a huge number of votes in the province. Some say the other serious candidates got no votes at all. The results were, of course, hotly contested, possibly up to now, in the minds of voters who believe President Arroyo is sitting in a chair that is not hers. For the rest, there isn't a choice.

Many entities, both here and across the world, have described the massacre as the worst day in media killings. 13 journalists killed, and surely that's not just it. One day. One event. One place. All in a country where desaparecidos remain desaparecidos, where murdered journalists remain statistics rather than solved cases. A culture of impunity, they say, have permeated the country. Of nobody caring, or actually allowing it.

And now, the quotes. "What kind of animals are these killers?" "This is a senseless slaughter." "I have called on the party to take the decisive step to initiate expulsion proceedings against them." "This is a supreme act of inhumanity that is a blight on our nation."

And I fear they will just remain quotes.

"Kasi," I told my mom when I got home, "allies sila. Hindi nila pwedeng galawin 'yan kasi kung may mangyari sila rin ang yari. Mawawala lahat ng boto nila. Saka tignan mo, they said the same things before with smaller instances, with Joe Burgos, at anong nangyari?"

"Alam mo," she just replied, "kaysa ma-frustrate ka pa sa kakaisip niyan, tumahimik ka na lang. Wala ka namang magagawa, eh." She's always said that, as long as it's political and it's me analyzing it.

"Are you actually promoting impunity?"

And your responses...

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