Manila, Philippines, Dec. 7, 2009 – A skillful handling of the Maguindanao massacre by the present administration under President Gloria M. Arroyo (GMA) could offer a last crack towards her redemption. If that happens, the Ampatuans could serve again as GMA’s reliable allies, though this time, they were her unwilling allies unlike in year 2004 where they were complicit and willing accomplices in delivering hundreds of spoiled votes to ensure her victory against her rival, FPJ.
It is a golden opportunity for GMA to rise above partisan politics and salvage her image as a corrupt politician. She can forget about running for a congressional seat in her district and devote full time her last remaining months in Malacanang to address the Maguindanao crisis and prove her detractors wrong by putting her erstwhile allies permanently behind bars.
She had already invoked her emergency powers by declaring martial law in the province and her Armed Forces had already put manacles on the members of the clan suspected of having achieved the singular distinction of being able to fashion out instant mass graves for their political opponents as well as some media people and civilians. These were encouraging signs although her detractors remain cynical of her efforts and would see these developments heralding a nationwide emergency rule, mass arrests and incarceration of political dissenters and the possible cancellation of the 2010 presidential elections.
Almost everyone was trying to compete in the inebriating notoriety of this tragedy. The left, headed by Satur Ocampo and his army of red-flag-waving crowds, as well as the trapos and the media’s most pretentious pundits have brought in their collective wisdom or a lack of it and started conjuring up the image of a martial law realities and in the mold of the Marcos bygone era. Only this time, they could not quiet distinguish between the fake ambush of Senator Enrile in 1972 which was made as one of the chief reasons why martial law was declared in that year and the actual slaughter of 57 or so people last month in a place long noted for violence and ruled by ruthless and merciless warlords who can kill with impunity fortified with armory supplied by the same military unit that now put them behind bars. What an incredulous irony!
Unfortunately, the Ampatuan clan is the government’s counterweight to the MILF which had been waging a violent war against the Republic. If you have to put this clan out of the political landscape, you have to anoint another clan to fill up the void to be left by its being temporarily out of power unless you want the MILF and other ragtag groups of violent people that operate in the area rampaging every corner of the resource-rich island of Maguindanao and other Mindanao provinces. Either way, the promise land is always confronted with the choice between the devil and the deep blue sea. It’s a sort of low-intensity conflict if you just allow these Muslims to kill each other rather than bring them united against the entire Armed Forces.
Finding solution to the problem facing Maguindanao right now, aside from rescuing its people from ignorance and abject poverty always poses a challenge to any occupant in Malacanang. In the past, imperial Manila’s predictable response to rein in the violence in the area is to impose its own brand of violence but this time around, the imposition of state violence can be explained facing TV cameras with somber expression of grief that Martial Law was put in place to bring the perpetrators of this dastardly massacre to justice and to dismantle all the warlords in the area.
Economic woes and unmitigated corruption in office had been the centerpiece of GMA’s presidency but if she plays her cards right in resolving the Maguindanao dilemma and her martial law objective in the area, her nine years of blunders and corruption could end up with one year of public euphoria. The ball is in her court. She could dribble it to fame or remain in the court of infamy.