Some thoughts on the Declaration of Martial Law in Maguindanao

Some thoughts on the Declaration of Martial Law in Maguindanao, as of 5 December 2009

Rumors about the declaration of Martial Law in the Province of Maguindanao have been circulating through SMS Friday night even before the government formally declared the imposition of Proclamation 1959. Among others, the imposition of Martial law in Maguindanao suspends the writ of habeas corpus, the taking over of the military, through Lieutenant General Ferrer, of the administrative control of the province, and to give enough power to the armed forces to thwart the reported massing up of hundreds of armed men purportedly to defend the Ampatuans, the clan suspected of orchestrating the brutal election related massacre in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao last November 23 leaving at least 57 dead of mostly women and journalists.

It is important to point out that the said declaration took place while various developments related to the November 23 massacre and its effects to the political relations in Mindanao are taking shape and are massively being highlighted in the media. Until the declaration of martial law, Maguindanao is already under the State of Emergency, thus allowing the military and the police to limit the movements of the Ampatuan clan leaders, who are occupying various top local and regional government positions, within their mansions and controlling their visitors. Also, the primary suspect of the massacre, Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., was already under the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Luzon. Hundreds, if not thousands of supporters of the Ampatuans have also staged various rallies in Sharif Aguak town to show their support to the Ampatuan clan.

Days before, immediately following after the fateful November 23 incident, the Administration Party Lakas-KAMPI-CMD, to which the Ampatuans belong and supposedly under which the Ampatuans would run for the coming 2010 elections, kicked out the whole clan in its roster of members. The Ampatuans were a major asset for the said party in the previous elections owing to their “very remarkable” ability to produce votes that almost none of the other elites in the whole country could surpass. Upon the letting-go of the Ampatuans, the Lakas-KAMPI-CMD, through its presidential candidate Gilbert “gibo” Teodoro, immediately sided with the Mangudadatu clan, the clan that is challenging the realms of the Ampatuans and who painfully lost members of the clan during the November 23 massacre.

The government, a little late, took actions to “bring justice swiftly and impartially” to the relatives of the victims of the massacre. After the controversial statement of the setting president that they remained friends with the Ampatuan clan, the latter seemed cooperative to the process. Probably due to massive local, national and international pressures and protests, and the fear of another sound defeat in the coming elections owing to its inability to get rid of bad eggs in their basket (of course aside from the very low approval ratings of the present government) the handlers of the government saw that the situation would eventually go out of hand. In order to contain the situation they decided to systematically take drastic moves once and for all to publicly appear to be sincere to uphold justice and save itself from the destruction of the monster, the Ampatuan clan, that it created over the years, and eventually fine tune this unfortunate happening in Maguindanao with the over-all plan of the administration to perpetuate power beyond 2010.

This drastic move would hasten the destruction of the Ampatuan clan, bury to the graves the issues and blunders that the Ampatuans knew and participated like the massive electoral cheating in 2004 which made Gloria Arroyo won the presidency against Fernando Poe Jr., the hiding of the election commissioner and operator Virgilio Garcilliano during the height of the Hello Garci electoral Scandal, the Lintang Bidol Case, the 2007 electoral scandals which, unbelievably, made the opposition got zero in the ballot in almost all areas controlled by the Ampatuans, and the high profiting arms trade in the south. This contention is not far from the statements made by North Cotabato Vice Governor many Piñol, himself a former Malacañang close ally.

Thus, the simultaneous and remarkably accurate raids in various mansions and armories of the Ampatuans in different parts of the province are part of this whole politically saving move of the administration. It is no wonder that the military did not find it hard to locate the armories of the clan. An armory composed of high powered armaments, like automatic modern rifles, explosives, machine guns, sniper rifles, anti-tank weapons and hundreds of boxes of ammunitions, all with the stamp and marks of the Department of National Defense (DND), that is sufficient to equip battalions of combatants is impossible to posses without connivance with high ranking government and military officials.

The administration handlers and analysts are now very precise and seemingly got the upper hand in maximizing this situation towards their advantage by exploiting the in-placed system that breeds warlordism. By completely systematically dismantling and silencing the Ampatuans, it is putting to power another strong clan in Maguindanao with the eventually election of the Mangudadatus, the clan that lost many members during the November 23 massacre. Already an established political clan in Mindanao, the expansion and strengthening of the Mangudadatu within the perpetuating system and under the pampering of the administration would serve the latter on many things. For one, if their dominance will be consummated before the elections, it would solve the problem of vote delivery for the administration and a powerful clan partner of the Manila elites and war-mongers left by the Ampatuans. Given its present performance on the ratings, the administration presidential candidate needs the bulk votes of Mindanao more than anyone to accomplish the administration’s bid for power.

Another benefit the administration would get from this situation is the founding of a new partner to implement what might be called the worst-case scenario of the administration which is the failure of elections. A little farfetched but certainly not negligible, a new and wider scope of a powerful clan could best serve the interest of disrupting the electoral process, with a scope enough to influence the turn-out of the national elections. It has been a discussion that the last move of the administration is to declare a failure of election if all its initiatives to perpetuate power like the running of the president in congress, charter change and electoral fraud, would fail. This failure of elections scenario could be coupled with Martial Law, either through sustaining the momentum of the situation which the government said compelled them to declare Martial law, or declaring another Martial Law after the declaration of a failure of elections. Either way, Proclamation 1959 serves as a good and timely exercise for the administration handlers in implementing their wicked plans and in conditioning the public.

In all these thoughts on the declaration of Martial Law in Maguindanao, one could clearly conclude that it is just a clash of local elites at the expense of at least 57 lives. It is politics and political survival of the administration that is on top of the agenda of the government, rather than the genuine seeking for Justice. The seeking for justice is a good camouflage to pursue the administrations interest, and it remains threatened of being sidelined along the process. This is because, with the politics of no permanent ally and no permanent enemy, negotiations and compromises by the Mangudadatus and Ampatuans with the Manila elites as broker are still possible. After all, the Ampatuans are still keeping the president’s secrets!

Thus the quest for genuine justice for the victims of the massacre should not be solely trusted on the government. Mobilizations should be continued and intensified towards the internationalization of this issue. International human rights bodies should be tapped to ensure more human rights watchdog involvement. Moreover, this situation should be maximized to expose to the peoples how this corrupt and imposed system eventually breads warlords in Mindanao in order to highlight the need for a system change. Surely this situation would always happen in the future. Unless there would be a democratic system over haul by the people could this problem of warlordism, corruption and barbarism be effectively addressed in the long run.

(Published with written permission from the author Mr. Gabrielle Malaya)


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