Wednesday, November 25, 2009


“Immediate and relentless pursuit.”

The dictionary defines immediate as “occurring without loss or interval of time or acting or being without the intervention of another object, cause, or agency”. Relentless is “showing or promising no abatement of severity, intensity, strength, or pace.

The phrase quoted above forms part of Proclamation 1946, which President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed in the aftermath of the Maguindanao massacre: 52 dead and counting. The phrase refers to what the government should do against perpetrators of this heinous crime.

Cerge, Jess, quoting Webster shouldn’t even be necessary, given that both of you are alter egos of the President of this benighted Republic. Presumably, among the qualifications for your exalted jobs is an average familiarity with basic words in English, the language of business.

In cases like holdups and armored bank robberies, or ordinary pickpockets -- even in incidents of leakage involving supposed national security documents or silicone bags -- immediate conjures an image a posse of law enforcers, government lawyers and spokesmen racing to the scene of the crime. Immediate means cops storming hideouts, establishing checkpoints and blockades.

Relentless – well, we’re not particularly known for being relentless against crime in high and low places, which partly explains the culture of impunity that blankets the land. About the best example of relentless involves the President’s pals in Maguindanao, whether they’re gifting her with statistically improbable election results or showing the world what happens to people who defy them.

I do not know whether you guys a) do not read the dictionary; b) have not read Proclamation 1946; c) do not take your President seriously; d) know that she doesn’t take her words seriously.

To millions of Filipinos trying to grapple with the unfathomable evil that resulted in the massacre in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao, the words in Proclamation 1946 should come as a balm, a reassurance that justice will be meted out against.

Yet events of yesterday and today are showing that words are truly cheap in this administration, as cheap as lives are getting to be in this land.

Cerge, Jess, I am all for due process and I am not a fan of summary executions or even illegal detention.

But I do not understand why the Presidential Adviser for Mindanao can appear on national television, calmly sitting between two Ampatuans, including the chief suspect in the massacre.

I can understand, Jess, that you want to prevent a tit-for-tat. But what am I supposed to think when you say the Ampatuans reassured you of their cooperation if called to appear before investigators?

“Magco-cooperate sila pag pinatawag sila sa imbestigasyon.
And they will also submit to whatever invitations and investigations extended to them.” The aftermath of the massacre has now become a tea party?

As for you, Cerge, how wonderful to see you so suddenly concerned about human rights.
"We have due process to be observed also, so let us allow the investigators on the ground to come up with [a case] through their investigation," you replied when asked by NUJP vice chair Sonny Fernandez why Shariff Aguak Mayor Aldan Ampatuan Jr. (or Datu Unsay) was still free and not relieved of his post.

People aren’t asking for his head, Cerge. They’re asking for his relief. It's called preventive relief or suspension. Two senior police officers were slapped with that following the massacre. Even petty bureaucrats are meted out preventive relief to ensure impartial investigation of anomalies. And you think a thorough investigation can be had if the kingpin to whom the murderous army of 100 -- including cops, soldiers and para-military forces-- swears fealty, roams free and in command of the local state apparatus?

That’s a glaring a display of double standards of justice. But this is what it’s all about, right, Cerge and Jess? The reason why the Ampatuans of this world have power of life and death over the rest of us is because government, in various ways, granted them this power, or looked away as they amassed weaponry and men, and the wealth needed for a sustained exercise of might.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has just ordered a manhunt for the murderers of an estimated 45 people, including more than a dozen journalists.

From military reports, the perpetrators were led Shariff Aguak Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. and a senior police office, Sr. Inspector Dicay. Their target: the group led by Genalyn Mangadadatu, whose husband Ismail is mayor of Mangadadatu town. The military says they were waylaid, then murdered. No survivors.

The military estimates around a hundred men were involved in this unprecedented act of mayhem. It was no ordinary band of "bandits" behind the carnage. Not even one of the dreaded lost commands. With Ampatuan and Sr. Inspector Dicay were practically the entire security apparatus of Shariff Aguak and, presumably, Ampatuan town.

Mrs. Arroyo is actually ordering the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to chop down a hydra she herself created or, at the least, nurtured.

Warlordism is prevalent in Mindanao and not just among Muslim clans. The Ampatuans and the victim clan, the Mangadadatu are among the most powerful clains in Maguindanao.

An Inquirer.Net report ( states:

"The Ampatuans and Mangudadatus have reigned in Maguindanao politics since 1986 when the revolutionary government of then President Corazon Aquino appointed officers-in-charge to local elective posts of mayors, municipal, provincial and village legislators, as well as governors and their deputies.

The patriarchs of both clans— Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr. and Datu Pua Mangudadatu —were appointed mayors of their respective municipalities, Maganoy (now Shariff Aguak) and Buluan, Maguindanao.

The two men never lost an election and their children have also entered politics and emerged winners, too. Many saw their political careers thrive in the positions they have held, among them, Governor Zaldy Uy Ampatuan of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and incumbent Buluan town Vice-Mayor Esmael Toto Mangudadatu, who is now said to be running for Maguindanao governor, the post to be left by Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr. to his son, Andal Jr."

A 2008 report of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism ( on the other hand, says the Ampatuans consolidated power since 2001.

In the previous entry, I reposted a 2007 interview by Mindanews' Carol Arguillas with Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Datu Zaldy Ampatuan. Asked about the glaring absence of any opposition posters, Ampatuan boasts that Maguindanao is "GMA country."

The PCIJ report, by Jaileen Jimeno, casts a harsh light on the seeds of today's carnage. I have posted the link, but would like to highlight the following paragraphs:

Guns, Palace blessing

Andal Ampatuan has four wives and over 30 children, and intermarriages with other political clans have made his political stock stronger. But political analysts trace the clan’s formidable clout to two main factors: guns and the blessings of Malacanang. They even note that no less than the Palace made it legal for the Ampatuans to have hundreds of armed men and women under their employ.

The 1987 Constitution bans private armed groups. In July 2006, however, the Arroyo administration issued Executive Order 546, allowing local officials and the PNP to deputize barangay tanods as “force multipliers” in the fight against insurgents. In practice, the EO allows local officials to convert their private armed groups into legal entities with a fancy name: civilian volunteer organizations (CVO).

Interestingly, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo issued the EO just weeks after a bombing in the Shariff Aguak public market that killed five people. Andal Ampatuan, who has survived several other ambushes, was said to have been the target.

According to a military officer who served for 16 years in ARMM — five of them in Maguindanao — Andal Ampatuan employs about 200 CVO members. The officer adds that Ampatuan’s sons and relatives maintain armed men, supposedly for their protection. (Andal’s eldest son Saudi was killed in a bomb blast in Shariff Aguak 2002.)

“Everybody carries firearms, mga paltik (homemade guns),” says the military officer. “Or (they) either borrow from the military or the PNP, or they buy.”

A soldier who spent five years on assignment in Maguindanao says of the CVOs here: “They support the internal security requirement of the capitol or the municipio.” He adds that while some of the CVOs are paid by the local government in areas where they serve, they are often “borrowed” for personal use by local officials.

And whenever they board the back of spiffy pickups that are staples of Ampatuan convoys, these CVO members typically lug long firearms. At times, the convoys of 20 vehicles or more also begin and end with pickups mounted with big machine guns.

(italics all mine)

With Mrs. Arroyo herself having laid the foundations of today's barbaric landscape, government talk of possible military and police control over Maguindanao till the May 2010 elections raises more fear than hope.


Yesterday's massacre was long waiting to happen. I stumbled on this 2007 interview of ARMM Gov. Datu Zaldy Ampatuan, conducted by Carol Arguillas of MindaNews.

Here is Ampatuan unfiltered: Actually, Maguindanao province is an extension of the home province of Her Excellency, PGMA (President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) which is Pampanga. Here in Maguindanao, considering that we have 20 mayors unopposed, these 20 mayors are allies of the administration, even those areas with opponents – Pagalungan and Talitay – the opponents are all allies of the administration.

Q and A: ARMM Governor Datu Zaldy Ampatuan: "ARMM voters are now politically mature" PDF Print E-mail
by Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews
Tuesday, 15 May 2007 14:25

SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao (MindaNews/14 May) – ARMM Governor Datu Zaldy Ampatuan stepped out of the Shariff Aguak Central Elementary School at around 9 this morning only to return through the main gate as former Justice Secretary Simeon Datumanong, a relative who is seeking reelection as representative of the second district of Maguindanao, arrived with his wife to cast their votes.

Across the 27-kilometer stretch of the highway from the boundary of Shariff Kabunsuan to the boundary of Sultan Kudarat province, not a single poster or any campaign paraphernalia of the Genuine Opposition could be seen.

Instead, one sees huge posters and billboards of the father-and-son team, Datu Andal Ampatuan, Sr., who is seeking a third term sa governor and his son Datu Sajid Islam Uy Ampatuan, as vice governor

Datu Andal is Datu Zaldy’s father while Datu Sajid is his brother

Several other siblings and relatives are running for other posts within the 22 towns of Maguindanao. Of 22 towns, candidates in 20 towns are unopposed. Only the candidates in Pagalungan and Talitay have opponents but, according to Datu Zaldy, they’re still “pro-administration.”

He answered MindaNews’ queries while waiting for the Datumanongs to finish voting. The answers in Pilipino have been translated to English.

Q: Did the division of Maguindanao into two provinces – Maguindanao and Shariff Kabunsuan help in making the election here rather quiet?

A: Yes, basically the creation of Shariff Kabunsuan province out of the province of Maguindanao is a major thing because first, it has helped in having a smooth election; second, it is easier to develop Maguindanao and Shariff Kabunsuan and third, we can give our brothers a chance to head their own government unit

Q: Have there been reports of untoward incidents in the six provinces of the ARMM?

A. The montoring team as of this morning said there’s a minor problem in Marawi City but voting has reportedly been smooth)

Q. What about Sulu?

A. Maganda rin ang monitoring. Sa Sulu, so far so good

Q. The other areas?

A. None yet but every now and then, there’s a direct communication with the monitoring team.

Q. Sir, in the 2005 ARMM elections, the issue on multiple 2005 registrants had not been resolved then and

A. Actually we have the Comelec to do the proper work and we will give them our trust and confidence to be able to resolve that issue.

Q: So it’s not yet resolved.

A: I think we can ask Comelec. The problem is already with them.

Q: I noticed along the way there has not been a single GO poster. So this is definitely a TU country?

A: Actually, Maguindanao province is an extension of the home province of Her Excellency, PGMA (President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) which is Pampanga. Here in Maguindanao, considering that we have 20 mayors unopposed, these 20 mayors are allies of the administration, even those areas with opponents – Pagalungan and Talitay – the opponents are all allies of the administration.

Q: So this is definitely 12-0 here?

A; Basically ganon ang mangyari pero iba ang sabihin ng 12-0. Ang meaning kasi ng 12-0 sa amin dito is yung first 12 candidates na boto ay in favor of Team Unity yung Opposition makakuha from 13 down to the last.

Q: Can you say the same of the provinces of the ARMM

A: Actually in the other provinces of ARMM -- in Basilan, considering that the opponents are influential – Gerry (Salapuddin) and the wife of Governor (Wahab) Akbar, the two parties are allies of the administration. In Tawi-tawi, Gov Sahali and opponent, Rashidin Matba, in Sulu, we have Gov Benjamin Loong. He is running for reelection against Sakur Tan and Nur Misuari. All of these candidates are supporting the Team Unity ticket of the administration. In Lanao del Sur, all the four candidates there for governor support Team Unity.

Q: So more or less, considering ou have one of the biggest regions in Minda

A: We have 1.3 million voters.

Q: Which can make or unmake the national candidates?

A: Palagay ko hindi gaano pero malaking factor dito sa Mindanao na makakuha ng majority of votes yung ticket ng Team Unity.

Q: But what about those criticisms that within the ARMM, because of the Hello Garci

A: Well we cannot prevent the opinion of the opposition. Considering we are a democratic country, they can campaign. What is important is we can rectify the negative impression that here in the ARMM, there is cheating.

Q: So this election will prove it?

A: Yes. Because the people will speak

Q: You’re saying this is a very crucial election as far as proving that the ARMM is not what as the opposition or critics say is a cheating region?

A: Yes. In fact, one way to show that the people in the ARMM are politically mature enough is that here in Maguindanao, electoral contests used to be very difficult. But because of the good programs that we show our constituents, majority of the towns herein Maguindanao are unopposed.

Q: Sharif is also unopposed?
A: Only one is unopposed – the mayor of Datu Odin Sinsuat. There rest have opponents.


The abduction and murder of around 45 persons, including around a dozen journalists, in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao is a spear thrust in the heart of our fragile democracy.

Let us grieve not just for our media colleagues -- though theirs is an especially tragic fate, to die in the line of duty, serving a profession that more often than not deprives provincial practitioners of a living wage and social benefits.

Let us grieve, too, for the other dead: the wife of a mayor, lawyers, drivers and followers. Let us grieve most for democracy, for election-related violence violates our people's right to an enlightened choice of leaders. Election-related violence prevents people from asking tough questions of prospective leaders; that violence is almost always aimed at subverting a people's free will.

Today's outrage brings this country closer to failed state status, and not just because of the number of persons killed. What is truly chilling about today's tragedy is, that the alleged perpetrators were not just excitable henchmen of a local politician -- in this case, Shariff Aguak Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr.

The perpetrators, according to military reports, included not just the mayor and his men but also practically the entire local police force, para military forces and senior police officials.

One hundred men; that's the equivalent of a company in the military. One hundred men; it's no wonder that journalists who tried to follow up the carnage could not get a word out of anyone.

Anyone includes the top officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Camp Crame.

Even as media was getting the names of those killed, even as the mayor of Mangadadatu told television reporters about how his wife called him to report being waylaid, even as Major General Alfredo Cayton of the 6th Infantry Division and Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Romeo Brawner Jr. confirmed that the 21 bodies had been recovered in Ampatuan town at around 4:30 p.m., the Public Information Office of the PNP continued to insist they knew nothing of the incident.

We have heard the usual statement of condemnation from Malacanang. They might as well condemn themselves.

The Ampatuan clan played a major role in the fraud that marred the 2004 elections; the fraud that allowed President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo another six years in power; the fraud that many of us chose to ignore because the alternative was another outsider-actor in Malacanang.

Maguindanao was where they tried a shutout of Fernando Poe Jr -- a zero vote. Maguindanao, as the Hello Garci tapes told us, played a big, big role in ensuring Mrs. Arroyo's continued hold in power.

Five years since that election, Ampatuan can strike at will, almost reassured of impunity because, after all, nobody ever got punished for the fraud of 2004. On the contrary, many elections officials and military officers implicated in the fraud reaped promotions and other rewards.

Now we are told the government is about to place the entire Maguindanao under military and police control. God help us all, because with protectors like these, we don't need enemies.