I had the chance to attend the Anatomy of a Massacre talk, which is in accordance to the International Day to End Impunity. The speakers were Ed Lingao from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) and Cristina Palabay from End Impunity Alliance. I was very much interested to go to this talk (sometimes talks are more interesting than university courses) and hear what they have to say on the Maguindanao Massacre. I am a child of Mindanao, and every inch of my being is deeply connected to it. And in many ways, the Maguindanao Massacre has affected me so much.
For a backgrounder on the Maguindanao Massacre, click here.
Ed Lingao started with a video that showed how powerful the Ampatuans are even after the Maguindanao Massacre was publicized. Many of the Ampatuans related to the massacre are now in jail waiting to be convicted. But while they are resting their butts inside the prison, 10 of them still managed to run during the last elections in 2010 and 8 of them actually won. 42 Ampatuans were elected around the Philippines — most of which ran for positions in Shariff Agwak, the fort of the Ampatuans.
The Ampatuan is a politically and economically powerful family with properties all over the country, money stashed everywhere (they’re not very fond of banks, so go look for moolah in their vaults) and a firm grip on Maguindanao. Their lawyer, Fortun, says otherwise. He said he didn’t ASK the exact monetary value of the Ampatuans under his care so he’s not so sure how rich they are, but I just think he was too afraid to ask.
They have a firm hold of the entire Maguindanao province — one of the most impoverished provinces in the country, with most residents not having enough to eat or enough means to support themselves. But take note that this is one of the areas which is heavily funded by our government. Last 2010, 3.42 Billion from the Filipinos’ hard-earned taxes were allotted to Maguindanao. And yet, there is no slight development in the situation of the people. They are still hungry, children can’t afford to go to school, not enough social services. Hey! Some of their employees don’t even get paid for a time! Imagine working almost for free.
And as the people go hungry, the Ampatuans are able to expand their properties, acquire high-tech guns and ammunition, and fund a private army composed of vigilantes hired by the government. Hey! They are even rich enough to hire Fortun (and maybe Fortun should consider that). And they even have a mosque inside one of their houses! Regular people, eh Fortun?
So what drives these horrific people to still be in power?
First and foremost, our own government. They are kept in power because they keep the higher-ups in power. 1.3 Million voters — that is really something to think about when you’re running for president.
As Sir Ed Lingao said, the Filipino citizens are also responsible for people such as the Ampatuans to stay in power. They are there because we voted for them to be there. They are there because we forget that their purpose is to serve our communities — and this service is not a charity-work or privilege for them to give. They are there because we turn a blind eye to the horrendous things they do — or we accept their actions as if to say, “It’s okay that he killed my neighbor. He gave me money so he should be a good guy and I’ll vote for him” or “Ms. so and so is so great because she gave us a TV and so I’ll forget that she got my brother stabbed”. We don’t hold them accountable for their actions. So my fellow countrymen, the next time you vote please consider this: your vote, your politician, your responsibility. And since s/he is your responsibility, you must hold her accountable for every crap s/he does.
Ms. Cristina Palabay commented that many of the massacres around the Philippines are state-perpetuated. Many of them are supported or even initiated by the government officials. In the Jabidah Massacre, 200 soldiers from Sulu were killed as instructed by Marcos for abandoning their mission to capture Sabah. 7 farmers were killed and 27 had gun shots in the Hacienda Luisita Massacre in 2004 because they were fighting (with stones and sticks against the heavy armaments of the police and the military) for their right to own the lands that they have tilled across the years — which is, by the way, is rightfully theirs because Hacienda Luisita was bought by the Cojuangcos (related to the Aquinos) using government money with the promise to give these lands to the farmers after several years. As the Cojuangcos stay in the economic echelons of the country, and the Aquinos stay in their political seats, they keep an iron hand on these lands. So hard is their grip that they’d cast the first shot at the bare farmers.
To know more about the crap of the Aquino-Cojuangcos, click here.
When the most revered mother-hen Aquino — Cory Aquino — was in power, 13 unarmed farmers were shot in Mendiola during a rally. In the regime of Cory’s son — Noynoy Aquino — there are already 65 victims of extrajudicial killings. So that’s what he was been busy with for the past year. Instead of doing true and good reforms, he gets people killed. Oh, but he also awarded the tree in front of his house! What an action man he is (*sarcasm*).
The political situation in the Philippines sounds like a shogunate (not exactly, but I’m trying to do an allegory here) with warlords, private armies and enslaved people. A lot of innocent people have been killed since the American colonization because they were fighting for their rights — rights that clash with the greediness of rich people. Conflict of interest, as Marx said (oh shit! I’m gonna be marked as a communist *sarcasm*). In Arroyo’s term alone, around 1,200 were victims of extrajudicial killings — and she even hunted down, with her pet Jovito Palparan, students, farmers, ordinary people.
The military gets top one in the National Budget and still they get the people killed . Lest they forget, their salaries and benefits come from the people who work and pay taxes which go to the National Budget. And these hounds don’t really protect the people (which should be their job), but put them in danger instead. And by the way, with the tons of massacres in the country, none of those responsible have been convicted. Makes you feel safe, doesn’t it? (*sarcasm*)
For my last call: End Impunity! Do not let these people kill more people.
And a few quotes from Sir Ed Lingao:
“Journalism is about change”.
“Filipinos have fallen in love with revolutions. But real change comes from one’s self”.