COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
The Maguindanao massacre may not be aptly defined under these modern day concepts of human rights and culture of impunity, for the perpetrators of that brutal killings are not living on those terms. The event still speaks of an ancient and primitive culture where killing en masse is a way of eradicating an enemy. And why Maguindanao or the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao for that matter still remains in that primitive culture is largely due to the government’s utter neglect of that part of southern Philippines all these years.
Democratic processes has been in progress for a century now in the different parts of the country, but what we see in Maguindanao are dynasties where members of a few families are lording it over in all of the municipalities. The Ampatuan clan for example is holding great political and economic power over a vast majority of the populace that holding on to that power becomes a matter of survival. The rival Mangundadatu clan is exercising a considerable amount of economic and political power as well.
Equal opportunity for everyone which is a democratic ideal has not been advanced in that region by the national government that the winner takes it all – economic, social, and political clout. The strong rules while the weak which comprises the majority of the population are kept in abject poverty and powerlessness. Malacañang likewise governs by convenience, allowing private armies to the Ampatuans and most probably to the Mangundadatu and other clans in order to fight for themselves the insurgents.
Now with the Maguindanao massacre, Malacañang is seeing the consequence of its lack of governance and declares Martial Law as an emergency measure. We have heard of political killings and election-related violence targeted on individuals in the past, but it is only now that we face this Middle Ages kind of violence where total annihilation is rendered to an enemy. The Ampatuans could be so desperate in holding on to their positions and might find it hard to rig an Automated Elections that they’ll wipe out anyone and anything that crosses their way.
Declaring martial law, however, might be a drastic move, but it could be the fastest way to arrest the perpetrators of the massacre, dismantle private armies, disarm the Ampatuans and preferably other ruling families, and inspect more mass graves that could have existed in past lesser carnage. But martial law must only be implemented for a very limited period of time so as to normalize the situation especially for the innocent civilians.
Violence has been raging in Mindanao for decades now, carried out by government forces, armed groups, and civilians of different kinds. And to the Ampatuans, killing 5 or 57 person may not make much difference at all as they have lived and survived in that culture of violence. Add to that is the culture of impunity of the Arroyo regime with its long list of extra-judicial killings.
But the killings must stop and the structure that breeds violence in Muslim Mindanao must be changed, otherwise, more atrocities will continue in the future. The best and the bravest of our Muslim brothers were lost to the senseless wars of the last century, while the majority of those alive are also living in abject poverty and powerlessness. Only a very small portion of the Muslim population has managed to get an education and lead productive lives.
If the government continues to ignore the real situation in Muslim Mindanao then we shall be seeing more of this recent kind of violence which is a dangerous combination of modern technology and atavism. Democratic processes must come in for the rule of law to prevail. By then, we can cry out for human rights and against the culture of impunity for the whole world to see.