by Nicasio Angelo Agustin
With 60 dead bodies so far and counting, the horrific evil that is the Maguindanao Massacre has left the entire country and the rest of the world reeling with disbelief. And the shocking details keep on coming.
Aside from the initial reports of a hundred armed men, rape, a backhoe on stand-by to bury vehicles and human beings (whether they were still breathing or not); there was a red Vios whose passengers – Tacurong government employees – were indiscriminately and bloodthirstily murdered for the simple reason that they took the wrong highway at the wrong time. We were told that Mrs. Mangudadatu was slapped repeatedly before her body was dragged by a vehicle for five kilometers; but did you know she was ordered to chew and swallow her husband’s Certificate of Candidacy?
The hairs on my neck are still standing as I write this. The brutality, pre-meditation and cold-heartedness of this gruesome disregard for what makes us human beings seems like a bad scene from a B horror movie. But the reality is that 57 lives – and counting – were snuffed out just like that. For a mob of men to be able to do what they did, they would have had to be intoxicated: high on drugs, drunk with power, inebriated with animalistic rage. This corruption of the soul needs to be condemned in the strongest terms; I hope the fear we feel will not immobilize us but provide the trigger for our collective action.
A call for action in reaction to this tragic event does not mean a call to arms and paving the way for more bloodshed. This tragic event does not imply that all our efforts for peace-making, peace-building and peace-keeping have been inutile. Inroads have been made where there were no roads for reconciliation before and if there is one thing this tragic event has taught me, it is that we should strengthen and intensify our efforts in the peace process.
Undoubtedly, this massacre will have lasting effect on the peace process – both positive and negative.
Some will say that the main players in the peace process are our leaders, and rightly so. However, pessimists will say that the process is doomed if it is the leaders themselves who are accused of violating the most basic of human rights: the right to live. Another negative implication of this tragic event is the fear, paranoia and loss of trust and confidence we feel towards our fellowmen. I overheard one woman say she would not be going to a popular mall in the south anytime soon, afraid for herself and her family to be caught in-between should the two clans cross paths there, as they have often done in the past.
Yet, others will say that this tragic event has effected a feeling of solidarity among Mindanawons, this solidarity of victims. Violence has claimed the lives of both Muslims and Christians, men and women, media practitioners, lawyers, government employees, wives, fathers and friends; it has spared no one. And thus with the solidarity of victims comes the acknowledgment that we need to look out for each other, be vigilant for each other, protect each other.
The loss of 57 lives has cast a dark cloud of despair over the peace process, as if the light has been snuffed out of the road to lasting harmony in Mindanao. The path has become dark, pitch-black and with no end in sight. It needs a brave soul – a leader – who will bravely take that first step into that darkness and light the way for all of us to follow. God said “let there be light” – and the light that we need right now is justice. Together, let us ask God, Allah, Yahweh and Jehovah for this light. Because there can be no true and lasting peace in Mindanao if there is no justice.
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