by Alex Roldan
It had been foretold. Everyone knew that it was going to happen. It did happen too soon, and with a big bang. The wholesale slaughter of at least 57 people, including more than 30 mediamen, is a testament to how politics has evolved in this nation.
The killing of so many mediamen is unprecedented in the history of journalism. It happened in the Philippines, despite alarming information earlier circulating that the situation in Central Mindanao, particularly the relations between the two competing powerful political clans, was so volatile that violence could break out at any moment. Yet, the government did nothing, so the worst did come. It did not only come as an ordinary election related violence, but it did come with a direct assault to the democratic way of life of this country.
The perpetrators did it with impunity, because they believed that they had the power, they own the government, and most importantly, they believed that they could get away with it. I may be wrong with my conclusion of why it did happen and why it was done in the most bestial manner, but who can do it at such a magnitude if they don’t believe that they can get away with it! That they can buy justice in this country — as shown by past experiences of crimes committed by personalities, involving the same prominent political surnames despite strong legal evidences against them.
I may be full of anger now against the perpetrators, but it pains me to realize that the political system of this country has degraded largely towards an uncivilized form. That some politicians, after tasting power and wealth, feel that they are already on top of the world and could easily hack down anybody who dares challenge them. But worst of all, they rub elbows with the powers of government that propped their egos to high heavens and to show to everybody that in this part of the world, they are invincible.
They recklessly show their power by parading their riches and private armies with their high-powered weapons that only the Armed Forces of the Philippines is authorized to have. And the saddest thing about it is that these private armies were made legal by our government by simply converting them into armed civilian volunteers, becoming beneficiaries of regular allowances or pay from the government, making all others helpless against power and strength of these political terrorists! In their position are not only the dreaded force called 3Gs (guns, goons, gold). Add another G, the Greed (a lot of it) that overarch their intentions, and the last but essential to complete formula of power is the G force, or the Government Force! Summing all of it would produce savage human beings.
Vice Governor Manny Pinol was right in saying that this was a disaster waiting to happen. When I interviewed him at RMN, he claimed that he himself warned Malacanang – that the Ampatuan and Mangudadatu clans would certainly clash this coming election. Professor Moner Bajunaid agrees, but he thought that it would not be so soon, but both of them were not prepared for the worst — that so many mediamen were included in the carnage.
I was glad for Secretary Jess Dureza, for he was given the task to make sure that the conflict would not escalate into a full-blown conflict that other forces may take advantage of the situation, thus making the situation more complicated. He knew from the start that he was going to face a formidable task of maintaining order in Central Mindanao while maintaining objectivity in heeding the call to make sure that the perpetrators are brought before the bar of justice. He is in the thick of the public’s thirst for a government who could show that that it has the political will against the very people who helped the residents of Malacanang achieve power. Yet, despite criticisms of partiality he was able to make sure that the primary suspect would surface and face the accusations. That, at least, has controlled the situation momentarily.
I don’t believe that the private armies of these warring clans could be disbanded easily despite the suspension of the authority to carry firearms by civilians and para-military groups. Either side would not want to be clipped, as this would mean giving-up their power and clout. Their armies are their lives – to protect them against their enemies, ensure that they could continue to hold political power, and as a machinery to ensure that they can deliver the votes for whoever national candidate they would support in exchange for favors, and of course more clout.
Well, good luck to all of us, for this situation has completely changed perspectives. The government should act swiftly, despite legal limitations, because the nation –and the whole world– are watching very closely.
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