The Long View
Playing to the gallery
By Manuel L. Quezon III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:29:00 12/07/2009
PALACE megaphone Cerge Remonde during his crudely scripted press conference yesterday repeated one cherished Palace talking point – that Cory Aquino created the monster known as Andal Ampatuan Sr. Remonde can count on being further amplified by the Palace’s assets in media, but a quiet, respectable voice set the record straight on Dec. 2.
Fr. Eliseo Mercado Jr., writing in his GMA News.tv blog, pointed out “Datu Andal Ampatuan, Sr. was already the ‘ruler’ of Maganoy during the time of Ferdinand Marcos. President Cory Aquino in 1986 removed him from office and deprived him of access to the security forces of the state after Edsa 1. But in the first election under the 1987 Constitution, Datu Andal Sr. became the undisputed Mayor of Maganoy.” According to Mercado, “The turning point for the Ampatuan clan happened during the 2001 local elections. With the full support of the PNP and the AFP, Datu Andal had beaten the incumbent Maguindanao Governor and the 1st ARMM Governor, Zacaria Candao.” And then there was 2004, when Ampatuan Sr. “delivered” for the President and 2007 when he delivered for Team Unity including his fellow warlord, Chavit Singson.
The point isn’t that Remonde lies, but rather, he lies on behalf of a President selective about the law.
On May 28 of this year, as Lakas and Kampi were grafted together to formalize the Frankenstein Coalition, the President gave her marching orders: “Let us also make the alliance between the local government units and the Armed Forces of the Philippines a major campaign plank, especially in the local elections.” She asked “administration candidates to take this up as a key governance thrust, and openly support those who pledge to push peace and development, and oppose collaborators of those who seek to use violence to overthrow government and to impose their obsolete ideology on the people. In 2010, let us have none of our LGUs flirting with the enemies of the state. And let us show those who continue to do so as undermining their communities and their Republic. I am confident that with you working with me now under one political name and banner, we can further strengthen our partnership in pursuit of the people’s welfare.”
Our hard-working and prayerful President then began to provide the administrative nails to hammer into her proposed plank to disguise its warped nature. Secretary Ronaldo Puno began making fire-breathing statements about rounding up hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of loose firearms, particularly in Muslim Mindanao, even as he joined the glittering array of peace-loving officials in the senior leadership of PaLaKa on June 10 as their vice chair: Undersecretary Luis “Chavit” Singson as chair for Region 1, and Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan for ARMM. All these gentlemen enthusiastically applauded – and, indeed, made possible – the anointing of then-Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. as the President’s chosen successor, even as their party co-chair Puno continued his National Gun Control Program to seize 5,726 firearms in the hands of criminal elements, 15,676 supposedly held by “threat groups,” and, in Jolo alone, 100,000 illegal firearms.
Just how selective the effort was, all along, was finally revealed after Teodoro’s efforts to broker a political truce between the Mangudadatus and the Ampatuans failed, and the Ampatuan Massacre took place. Yesterday the AFP and PNP catalogued, with shock and amazement, the vast arsenals of the Ampatuans they’ve unearthed: a howitzer! Three armored vehicles, with two more missing! Enough arms to equip a battalion, maybe two! Unbelievable! We never knew!
In the meantime, of course, by now ex-defense chief Teodoro had maneuvered the expulsion of the formerly warmly welcomed Ampatuans from the Frankenstein coalition even as minor Palace megaphone Lorelei Fajardo cooed this didn’t mean a clean break with the Ampatuans. But they’d really gotten too big for their britches: time to anoint a replacement, which Teodoro did, embracing the Mangudadatus.
Jesus Dureza very helpfully published his diary of events as Andal Ampatuan Jr. was whisked off to Manila: ground fire as the helicopters ascended! An M-60 machine gun casing on the chopper floor as evidence!
Evidence for what? That these weren’t just psychopathic mass murderers, they’re something much, much more! A rebel clan! That’s it! And so, their enhanced status required an enhanced response. Martial law!
Megaphone Le Cerge was, of course, inconveniently asked, “any regrets?” because the Palace had so avidly supported the psychopaths previously. None, he smoothly replied, and went on to silkily sing the President’s praises. Such will! Such determination! And the AFP’s General Pangilinan ventured to suggest it might be nice to extend martial law in Maguindanao all the way to the elections to make the exercise “credible.” Provided Congress approves, of course. But, smoothly assured the AFP, even if shorter in duration, government will run after the rebels – “slowly.”
Meanwhile the President has created a Commission against Private Armies which will surely receive the warm endorsement of PaLaKa top brass, including Singson. And as bona fide, Palace-certified rebels, the Ampatuans, from Zaldy in martial law-free General Santos City to Andal Sr. in his non-military hospital confinement, can begin to negotiate on par with the MILF and the CPP-NPA. Multiple murder and conspiracy to commit murder can be subsumed under the crime of rebellion, with the possibility of amnesty.
And the country is cheering her on. The rebel clan is on the run; their arsenals are in the hands of the AFP and PNP with the addition of weaponry not bearing official imprints; evidence has been seized, and irrelevant evidence filed away as secret. Win-win!