The Long View: Shattered talismans

The Long View
Shattered talismans
By Manuel L. Quezon III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:23:00 11/25/2009

IN A NATION WHERE THE POWERLESS HAVE few options, the least useful being to try to out-goon, out-gun, and out-spend those who possess a plenitude of these things because of political office, the lack of an effective sword against provincial warlords is compensated by the use of three shields: womankind, the media, and lawyers.

Whether it was nuns clutching rosaries or schoolteachers or simple mothers braving the massed ranks of the military or goons, peaceful, non-violent resistance has often called on womankind to stand up to gun-wielding tyrants, on the assumption that one of the few things thugs respect are unarmed women. Then media have been summoned, time and again, to cast the harsh glare of publicity on the vulnerable, in the belief that goons and murderers prefer to operate in the shadows and will slither back into the darkness the moment the cameras show up on the scene. And for those who have guns, goons, and gold, lawyers on the side of the powerless offer the possibility of the legal system securing a semblance of justice and protection for the rights of the defenseless, the weak, and the persecuted.

All three shields were shattered in Maguindanao, and with a ferocity that should make us all take pause if these shields will ever be as useful in warding off wrongdoers as they once were. For the unspoken assumption was that all three shields derived their power from the power of public opinion: No official, however ruthless, the thinking went, would ever dare to dismiss the power of public opinion, because the story of our country is littered with the ruined political careers of strongmen who once thought they could defy public opinion, for it is the real high court in a country where even the Supreme Court has proven how craven courts of law can be.

Public opinion is howling with anger over the mass murder in Maguindanao. For once the nation has united where once only the lonely voices of Moros could be heard. And perhaps this outrage means everyone will take a look at their surroundings and see the extent to which warlords have not only survived, but flourished, under the present dispensation.

The administration’s response has not only been true to form, but instructive. First, it tried to downplay the mass murder as an “incident.” Then it tried to pass the buck, from the Armed Forces of the Philippines to the Philippine National Police. Then it focused on shielding President Macapagal-Arroyo from culpability even as she tried to put a lid on things by imposing a state of emergency on the locality to keep media at bay and buy time. The administration has resorted to collusion, instead of action, because this is the only option for one that has assiduously courted allies such as the Ampatuans who are needed more by Manila than they need national officials – itself an unprecedented state of affairs (formerly warlords ruled the roost in their provincial domains but were firmly subordinate to their national patrons).

Provincial warlords displayed utter impunity before, the difference being that they reached a point where their sense of impunity led to their destruction.

In 1951 Time magazine described Negros Occidental, then the second most populous province in the Philippines, as “a well-run little police state and its Mussolini was Governor Rafael Lacson.” A subsequent 1954 article detailed the governor’s methods: “The province’s 200,000 voters did as Lacson bade and so did the underpaid farm workers. If anyone stepped out of line in Negros Occidental, he answered either to the planters’ private armies or to Lacson’s own bullet-hard, radio-equipped constabulary. In 1949 a few foreign correspondents flew in to inspect this little dictatorship; Governor Lacson turned them right around and flew them out. Occasionally, a charge of rape or murder against Lacson reached the court but nothing ever came of it.” Until, that is, someone challenged Lacson’s power: Moises Padilla dared to run as an opposition candidate for mayor of Magallon. Time tartly reported that Padilla lost, “of course,” and went on to describe the Lacson machine’s revenge: “That night Lacson’s uniformed bully boys picked him up and took him on an impromptu road show. They toured from town to town beating and torturing Padilla, displaying him in a public square while one of the boys announced: ‘Here is what happens to people who oppose us.’ Once Padilla saw his mother and managed to mumble: ‘Communicate Magsaysay.’ But when Magsaysay reached Negros Occidental, he found Padilla’s body, broken and dripping blood onto a police bench with 14 bullets in the back. Lacson smiled easily: ‘Shot dead in an attempt to make his getaway.'”

The older generation knows what happened: Magsaysay demanded of President Elpidio Quirino that he suspend their partymate, Lacson, or else he would quit. An investigative team was dispatched. Charges were filed. Then the case dragged on and a frustrated Magsaysay ended up bolting his party and defeating Quirino in the 1953 election. In 1954, finally, Lacson was convicted of murder.

Today, it seems to me the public knows no one within the administration is capable of doing a Magsaysay.

Ninoy Aquino’s, Cesar Climaco’s, and Evelio Javier’s murders (1983-86) all accomplished what Padilla’s killing did, which was to solidify outrage against official thuggery. Yet all these were individual assassinations. The Maguindanao mass murder was not only the liquidation of scores of individuals. It was a smashing of the talismans the vulnerable and powerless clutch when daring to confront the strong. Every warlord will be keenly watching to see if an infuriated public will topple the Ampatuans, who believe they are untouchable. To confront them, after all, by force of arms, is to confront them on their own terms, where they literally call the shots.


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    • Mia on November 27, 2009 at 1:38 am

    Mr. Quezon,
    I listened to you on RockED Radio – thank you much for explaining the truth of the situation clearly and with surgical precision. But how can public opinion and fury affect a psychopath (your words, so rightly put) with power and 700 armed men? Do we rally, now for peace and later for justice when it is not served? And then maybe a conviction of the Ampatuan who surrendered…but what about the angry family at home still in office with the battalion at hand? As you said on the radio.. the National govt. cannot effectively maneuver in their territory without them. So is it all out war? Assassination ninja style to wipe them out? How does public opinion play a part in all this? I’m generally an optimistic person I can’t think through this.

    • leytenian on November 27, 2009 at 2:14 am

    All three shields were shattered in Maguindanao, and with a ferocity that should make us all take pause if these shields will ever be as useful in warding off wrongdoers as they once were.

    The lack of national and effective military governance leaves the provinces outside of central control, with warlords filling the vacuum. Regional actors question the government’s capacity to provide basic public goods and undermine its authority by controlling alternative resources through a variety of mechanisms, including fraudulent collection of votes and promising its local people a future without a foundation. Consequently, the bewildered local people does not know what to believe.

    With this power, the local warlord can easily negotiate a weak administration. It can do whatever including at the end… blackmailing the weak president but will destroy his own.


    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)

    100 uniformed men killed the convoy in cold blood, buried using government owned backhoe paid by people’s tax. We cannot trust these people.

    I am not sensing a quick action from the current administration. Executive order 546 lacks oversight, implementation, regulations and reinforcement of proper use.

    poor filipinos… (sigh)

    • J_AG on November 27, 2009 at 4:17 am

    When tolerable justice systems disappear and the idea of impunity becomes the reality of impunity takes hold no sort of talisman will suffice when men move over to their beastly side.

    Mass murder starts with small incidents and let alone to fester they become normal to the perpetrators.

    All throughout history normal men lose sight of their humanity when they become used to absolute power over others.

    This was a cold calculated crime against humanity. GMA should sign on to the Rome treaty and prosecute these guys in charge of the clan in the Hague.

    We also have prosecutorial warlords in the DOJ who will minimize the heinous and inhumane nature of this mass murder for their master in the Palace.

  1. I see you’ve used the sentiment I expressed in your last blog post regarding the untenability of local warlords following an act of over reach as a take off point for this one.

    While nothing is pre-determined here, I believe that this despicable act was a case over reach with the accompanying consequences. By trespassing past what local norms and customs deem acceptable behaviour (the code of honourable warriors), the tendency now is for “hearts and minds” to turn against the perpetrators.

    Filipinos have shown that no matter how brutal their overlords are, once they cross that line, public opinion turns against them; their stranglehold will eventually wane. It may take some time for it to happen, but eventually they do capitulate.

    The central government in Manila will first have to change hands perhaps. It is true: the policy of arming local militias to deal with insurgency in the 70s created a monster that took a life of its own (just as the US found when they used Pakistan to fund the Afghan insurgents against the Soviets). It seems that lease on life is about to run its course.

    • UP n grad on November 27, 2009 at 8:14 am

    To the Cusp: If there is a conviction from the Maguindanao massacre before June2010, then that conviction has been railroaded. A few months at least will be needed for evidence to be collected, presented to both defense and prosecution. The elapsed months is also needed to prevent the emotional fervor from tainting the court proceedings.

  2. That’s right, UP n grad, and that is why I believe that the public outrage, while understandable and appropriate at this point in time (some would say necessary), should not lead us to despair. Otherwise it may lead to unwarranted retaliation and retribution, which will further muddle the whole situation.

    But beyond the mere legal proceedings which many feel are at times rigged to favour those connected with national elites, I believe what is more important are the local traditions and codes which run deeper and have a way of being reinforced through formal and informal institutions.

    As Manolo has pointed out, it is this code that has been broken by an act of extreme hubris. This act of cowardice and desperation will lead to the eventual downfall of the perpetrators in my opinion regardless of how slow or fast the legal system works.

    • cvj on November 27, 2009 at 9:47 am

    UPn is part of the Admin’s delaying tactics.

    • ramrod on November 27, 2009 at 9:53 am

    Justice delayed is justice denied…
    …as usual, these people will take their time, knowing perfectly well the Filipinos’ penchant for ningas kogon. This will all be forgotten in a couple of months, if not relegated to one of the cold cases…

    • ramrod on November 27, 2009 at 9:54 am

    …no evidence, no witnesses…

    • Mike H on November 27, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    It is probably better, NoyNoy will be the president after he wins May2010. NoyNoy will ensure the conviction of the Maguindanao massacre perpetrators.

    • Carl on November 27, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    Ironically, this was an internecine conflict between former allies. Both sides were jockeying for supremacy within Lakas and Mangudadatu still insists he will challenge Ampatuan under the banner of Lakas. Who encouraged the Mangudadatus to defy the Ampatuans?

    • Bert on November 27, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Nagpuputok ang mga butsi natin sa inis sa nangyaring karumaldumal na masaker, nagpupuyos ang ating mga damdamin sa galit sa mga hinayupak na walang pusong mamamatay-tao, umiiyak ang ating mga puso sa awa at pakikiramay sa mga inosenteng victima lalo’t yaong mga mamamahayag na naroon lamang upang gampanan ang trabahong bumubuhay sa kanilang mga pamilya. Subali’t ano ang ating nakikita at naririnig sa ngayon?

    1. Si Mangudadatu ibina-bandera ang kanyang COC sa COMELEC na parang walang nangyari sa pamilya niya.
    2. Ang Malakanyang nagpahayag na tuloy ang pagkakaibigan ng Gloria administration sa mga salaring Ampatuan.
    3. Ang mga kandidato tuloy sa kanilang pangangampanya at hindi man lamang kakitaan ng lungkot o’ pakikiramay sa mga inosentang namatay.
    4. Tayo lang dito sa Blogosphere ang nagpuputok ang mga butsi!


    • SoP on November 27, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    “…non-violent resistance has often called on womankind to stand up to gun-wielding tyrants, on the assumption that one of the few things thugs respect are unarmed women.”

    The difference from the last 20 years and the time before that is shabu. We’re in the top five per capita in the use of the illicit drug. All massacres of the last 20 years have been caused by it, if not magnified by. Whereas as before riddling women’s bodies with bulltes would have been enough, being high as a kite on obat’s makes murderers want to rape, mutilate, and do nasty things with their victims.

    • SoP on November 27, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    I say the Maguindanao murders have been an indirect result of our failed drug policy as much as it has been caused by Gloria’s brand of politicking. We’re gonna see more heinous crimes if the next president doesn’t come up with a workable strategy to combat drug use and distribution. We’re reaping the effects of the last 3 admin’s failed drug strategy.

    • jay on November 27, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    Great article. Yes, yes, what has been on my mind. Forget about this administration. Will the next administration have the courage?

    • UP n grad on November 27, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    Manolo wrote above : Every warlord will be keenly watching to see if an infuriated public will topple the Ampatuans, who believe they are untouchable. To confront them, after all, by force of arms, is to confront them on their own terms, where they literally call the shots.

    The central government did confront the Ampatuans by sending government soldiers on tanks and personnel carriers and the alleged mastermind has surrendered and flown to Manila, charged with multiple murders.

    Two other questions — (1) what will the voters of Maguindanao do? (2) What will the infuriated among metro-Manila, Davao, Cebu and other parts of Luzon and Visayas do do now, and what will they be doing in the March2010-April2010-May2010 months?

    Understandably they are probably scared, but the religious and civic leaders of Maguindanao and other parts of Mindanao also have to raise their voice against the mass killing by their own against their own.

    • Brian_B on November 28, 2009 at 12:05 am,-Part-1.html

    Good narrative of events above.

    What I cannot understand about us Filipinos is that when we’re not scared we act so over the top and mean (Tsip Chao), but when we are faced by fear we clam up (Ampatuan). No it’s supposed to be the other way around.

    Manolo, I don’t believe the ampatuans are practicing brinkmanship. This assessment is stupid. They have gone way OVER the brink. The Philippines should ask the entire Muslim world to condemn the ampatuans and even ban them from ever entering a mosque. Their entire fate hangs by the horse hair that is GMA. I think being a vocal in condemning here and her allies would accomplish a lot.

    • UP n grad on November 28, 2009 at 4:04 am

    mlq3 got mention in the TIME-magazine online article with title “Why the Philippines’ Maguindanao Massacre Happened”.

    TIME took liberties, though, and instead of:

    …the use of three shields: womankind, the media, and lawyers.

    TIME wrote:

    . “Among the conventions that govern clan and political-related violence in the region is that women, children and the elderly are off-limits as targets,” wrote Manuel Quezon III, a prominent political commentator, on his website.

  3. Prof Randy David does a loverly job of breaking down political clans and the role they play in our weak state in today’s Inquier.

    What becomes apparent is the need to prevent patriarchs from “bequeathing public positions to their children as if these were part of the family heirloom.”

    From empirical studies, we now know that it is not the presence of political clans per se that obstructs development in a locality, but the monopoly by one family because it removes the incentives for them to perform.

    Term limits were meant to work hand in hand with an anti-dynasty provision to prevent the re-emergence of this brand of pre-martial law politics. Unfortunately, term limits were hard coded into the constitution while the political succession of dynasties was not.

    The acceptability of an anti-dynasty law to the political elite in Congress may be forged if they adopt a balanced definition of what a “dynasty” means: one that allows political clans to operate on the one hand, but prevents them from engaging in succession for the same position once term limits expire. That way the musical chairs that occurs every nine years could be avoided.

    • MikeL on November 28, 2009 at 9:31 am

    What was Gibo doing at Mangudadatu’s filing of COC?

    • Carl on November 28, 2009 at 9:33 am

    “Two other questions — (1) what will the voters of Maguindanao do? (2) What will the infuriated among metro-Manila, Davao, Cebu and other parts of Luzon and Visayas do do now, and what will they be doing in the March2010-April2010-May2010 months?”


    What the voters of Maguindanao can do is to vote off the Ampatuans. Although the Mangudadatus are also allied with Lakas, they are more development oriented, and less vicious, than the Ampatuans. This can easily be distinguished by comparing the Mangudadatu-controlled areas to those of the Ampatuan-controlled towns. The Mangudadatu areas are more progressive and affluent.

    There’s only one hitch: because of their recent rivalry with the Ampatuans, the Mangudadatus have moved closer towards the influence of the MILF. Will they allow the MILF to dictate to them, once they are in power?

    As for the millions of infuriated non-Muslims and non-Maguindanaons, it may be difficult to understand the situation from their perspective. The way things will evolve, and the way the Maguindanaons, including the Mangudadatus themselves, respond may not be as we expect. They have their ways, their peculiarities. I am sure, for example, that many did not expect to see Toto Mangudadatu file his certificate of candidacy for governor accompanied by Gibo Teodoro. And that, despite the Ampatuans being with the ruling party, the Mangudadatus would continue to affiliate themselves with Lakas.

    • mlq3 on November 28, 2009 at 9:44 am

    Gibo had Ampatuans expelled from PaLaKa, then roped in the Mangadadatus so they desisted from leaving PaLaKa and are now PaLaKa’s anointed: while the Palace and the Ampatuans insist the ties with GMA have not been broken and Sec. Puno (DILG) insisted the Ampatuan explusion was simply Gibo’s and not the party’s, act. So let’s see who gets proven to be the true PaLaKa boss.

    • mlq3 on November 28, 2009 at 9:46 am

    Brian my belief is they sacrified one member of their family but have hunkered down in the 9 municipalities with the unwritten challenge to the government of come and get me. It’s a Mexican Standoff, really.

    • mlq3 on November 28, 2009 at 10:56 am

    UpN in my view it’s more of a Mexican Standoff.

    • GabbyD on November 28, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    i dont understand ampatuan’s motivation. why did he do it? wouldnt he know people would know? that people would care?

    • mlq3 on November 28, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    psychopaths don’t care, and road to that is paved with impunity.

    • Phil Cruz on November 28, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    MLQ, you said “Today, it seems to me the public knows no one within the administration is capable of doing a Magsaysay.”

    But Palaka’s candidate is certainly desperately trying to be one but is failing miserably and looking silly and comical doing it.

    • UP n grad on November 28, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    I suppose one says that — Mexican standoff — because there are no dead bodies to count from a firefight, there has been no surge-the-gate against the Ampatuan mansion, there are no military stockades populated by surrenderees from the Ampatuan group.

    Tha Ampatuans remain a potent force (even with the 300-some pakbung Garand’s that had been confiscated from them), that is for sure, and campaigning for the vice-mayor would still be a risky proposition in Maguindanao.

    • Phil Cruz on November 28, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    MLQ, I like the term you used..”roped in the Mangadadatus”.

    If the Palaka didn’t rope them in, the clan could have gone to the Liberals. And could have spilled a lot of beans to the opposition. But roping them in and corraling them in was a desperate damage control move. And they still have “their man” in the area.

    • Brian_B on November 28, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    “If the Palaka didn’t rope them in, the clan could have gone to the Liberals. And could have spilled a lot of beans to the opposition. But roping them in and corraling them in was a desperate damage control move. And they still have “their man” in the area.”

    I think once and for all the people should make it clear that the ampatuans are political pariahs. Accepting their offering to tell all, unless they are behind bars, would be like accepting a disease from a prostitute.

    • Brian_B on November 28, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    We should prepare to begin pointing an accusing finger to GMA. If the military doesn’t want to make a move we can recruit volunteers to serve justice there. I am betting a lot of businessmen would donate arms.

    • SoP on November 28, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    GabbyD on Sat, 28th Nov 2009 2:17 pm
    i dont understand ampatuan’s motivation. why did he do it? wouldnt he know people would know? that people would care?

    mlq3 on Sat, 28th Nov 2009 2:19 pm
    psychopaths don’t care, and road to that is paved with impunity.

    Disagree Manolo. He did it because he thought he wouldn’t get caught. Bad luck that the military was passing by, but if they didn’t, he would have a way to strike fear to those guilty conscience who are now wanting to testify against him.

    I can imagine our islands are dotted with mass graves of political enemies. Dead mutilated victims who didn’t have the same fortune of a military convoy passing by.

    • mlq3 on November 28, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    SoP I’m tempted to look at it differently: he knew he woudl have time to tidy up, except, for some reason -and if we ever findout why, it will be quite interesting indeed- the same military that declined to provide security ti the convoy, and which had check points up and down the highway, decided to barge in when, as accounts seem to suggest, the logistical preparations had been going on for what, at least a day or two? so seems to me one thing here is someone sensed a potential opportunity to trap an ally getting way out of control.

    • SoP on November 28, 2009 at 10:44 pm

    If you think about it, killing that convoy was more politically convenient than, say, just putting one bullet through Mangudadatu’s head. Assassinating Mangudadatu would immediately implicate Ampatuan. But killing Mangudadatu’s wife, relatives, and journalists was relatively risk averse. It has the effect of:
    – putting fear, uncertainty, doubt on Mangudadatu’s clan
    – putting fear, uncertainty, doubt on general Maguindanao population
    – would not implicate the Ampatuan clan, as they could shift the blame on MILF or Abu’s
    – is good election strategy (stopping Mangudadatu from running at all is better than trying to assassinate him during election campaign, as he might have a large retinue of body guards)

    The only clincher is they got caught. I blame this on incompetence wrought by drug use (I theorize they used shabu before carrying out the killings to have more “courage”. But the negative effect shabu is it makes you careless and think less logically).

    • SoP on November 28, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    mlq3 on Sat, 28th Nov 2009 10:43 pm

    …so seems to me one thing here is someone sensed a potential opportunity to trap an ally getting way out of control.

    I like this theory of yours too. We’ll find out in the coming months, if we ever find out.

    • SoP on November 28, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    I’m also of the opinion that there are still good soldiers out there which powerful clans cannot buy with money or who would fear the firepower of the clans, not unlike that convoy which discovered the mass grave.

    • mlq3 on November 28, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    Yss, and this is what makes Mindanao even more complex: it is used to exile officers and units that show a reluctance to be bought.

    • pilipino on November 29, 2009 at 7:08 am

    Sixty four innocent women, journalists travelers were dead. Almost one week now and yet only one person is in custody? The deepening silence of the Muslim world is also extraordinary. Where are the Muslim leaders?

    • cvj on November 29, 2009 at 9:23 am

    Given the history of emnity between Christians and Muslims, it would have been easy to spin this incident as a separatist-related violence if not for the Vice-Mayor’s wife phone call identifying the Ampatuan’s henchmen as her captors and the military convoy stumbling upon the grave digging operations.

    • Carl on November 29, 2009 at 10:00 am

    “Where are the Muslim leaders?”


    Filing their certificates of candidacy?

    • pilipino on November 29, 2009 at 11:02 am

    on 7:08 above..

    it should be “deafening silence”

    sorry guys, after Thursday and Black Friday, malagihay pa ang mga daliri ko, hehehhe

    • Phil Cruz on November 29, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    I may have missed it, but has the Catholic Church issued any statement on this?

    • Phil Cruz on November 29, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    And shouldn’t this massacre be called the Ampatuan Massacre? It happened at the town of Ampatuan. Why drag the whole province into it?

    • Anonymous on November 29, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    Truth is stranger than fiction…and probably will never be known to all…
    How many millions, billions have been funneled into this region, intelligence funds, anti terror funds, election related funds, aid? There are probably more military presence here than anywhere else in the country, not counting the palace. Contrary to the “complicated” scenario that is always painted about this area, it may not be as perplexing in real life. There is only right and wrong, nothing in between, black and white, truth or lie, beyond that, there are “complications” “gray areas.”
    As usual, we just have to follow the “money trail,” who stands to gain from protracted conflict here? Soldiers can only follow orders, those unfortunate enough to question seemingly “illegal” orders will be dealt with the fullest extent that the chain of command will allow. A man can be kidnapped, murdered, beaten, in front of a military camp but if no orders are given to intervene, the perpetrators will be left alone to do whatever they want. Standing orders are “not to intervene.”
    With most of our brightest people, people with sky high IQs, steeped in military strategy and tactics, trained to anticipate possible scenarios, given the intelligence network, armor, manpower, firepower, the works, why? Even the Americans are there?
    This seemingly perpetual peace and order problem in Mindanao looks more like a “way of life” rather than an age old problem of cultural roots, then again its easy to make it “complex” as complications feed the mystique, the unknown…people like to make things complicated if they want to hide the truth. Find the people who profit from this, the hidden traditions, the unwritten, unaccounted priveleges that wait for certain positions…then we can come closer to solving this so called complexity that has claimed the lives of countless friends and brothers who only followed orders but were inexplicable pawns in the greater scheme of things.

    • Phil Cruz on November 29, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    One of the greatest motivations is greed and fear. Both have worked so effectively for warlords.

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  1. […] Leave a comment X […]

  2. […] Shattered Talismans lie at our feet. We’ve hidden behind a shield of women and media and lawyers. Like every army […]

  3. […] It is unknown when the additional bodies were uncovered—or, as has been remarked, if these are in fact part of the current crime being investigated, considering that Mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr., the alleged mastermind, is known to be a “hatchet man” (“chainsaw man” would not be inappropriate)—but the gruesome details remain the same: a group consisting of several women, among them lawyer and at least 30 media workers, set off in a convoy of six vehicles from Buluan on the morning of November 23, Monday, to witness the proxy filing of the certificate of candidacy of gubernatorial hopeful Ishmael Mangudadatu at the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) office in Shariff Aguak. The group had previously made separate requests to the army and to the police for a security escort, but had been turned down. The convoy, along with a carful of innocent motorists, was stopped by armed men, who, led by Mayor Ampatuan, Jr., abducted, tortured, and killed most of the members of the group, in one stroke shattering the traditional shields of the powerless. […]

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