By Raïssa Robles
As my contribution to this day of remembering, I’d like to share with you all what I wrote two days after the Ampatuan massacre. I thought I had lost this piece forever when my original site went down due to hacking. Fortunately I found it again today. The post-massacre photos in this piece were taken and generously shared by Rolivel Elusfa. A word of caution. They are extremely graphic.
It’s close to midnight of Day 3 since at least 57 unarmed women and men were murdered in broad daylight and still not one of around 100 suspects have been nabbed and presented to the outraged public. This is despite your declaration of a state of emergency in that area under Proclamation 1946. (By the way, your office has not released the text of this Proclamation. Wonder why.
How do you sleep at night, Mrs President, knowing you could have prevented this?
You must know who the Butchers of Maguindanao are and how this might affect the outcome of the 2010 presidential elections next year.
If the Ampatuans are guilty, you know that they know a lot of your dirty secrets. The Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), where Zaldy Ampatuan is the governor, has 1.5 million registered voters. You won by one million votes in 2004.
It fills me with horror that if even one of them perpetrated the crime, you were meeting with ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan on November 23 – the very day the massacre was taking place.
Did Governor Zaldy know something bad was scheduled to happen? It’s like a scene straight out of The Godfather mafia movie.
Governor Zaldy was there trying to get you to endorse Lakas Party Congressman Munir Arbison to run as governor of Sulu, your political strategist Gabriel Claudio said afterward. Sulu’s incumbent governor is Sakur Tan, who is in your Kampi Party. That is another dangerous political brew in the making. It would be just like Maguindanao where your two party mates – the Ampatuans and the Mangudadatus – are fighting it out not only for the governorship but for various local posts.
The massacre would not have happened if your Lakas-Kampi Party had resolved the Maguindanao gubernatorial issue internally.
I was thinking, if you’re really after swift impartial justice, why don’t you do it Manila style? Treat the suspects the way the police treated broadcaster Ted Failon after he found his wife shot in the head on April 15 this year.
Only hours after the incident, the police arrested Failon even without a single witness pointing an accusing finger at him. Even without a criminal complaint being filed against him. The police subjected him at once to a paraffin test because they said it was imperative that they find out whether he had fired a gun.
Four policemen were relieved afterward but only for the “forceful arrest” of his two relatives, not for arresting Failon.
When the test on his hands and clothes turned out negative for powder burns, the police insisted he was still their prime suspect because paraffin tests are not that reliable after all.
In the present case of mass murder, the prime suspect was at once tagged by Esmail Mangudadatu, husband of one of the victims and a relative of several others. The police and military knew beforehand there was a security threat against the husband because he had asked for armed government security to escort his wife. The authorities turned him down.
During that fateful day, the victim had phoned her husband Esmael Mangudadatu just before dying, to tell him that about a hundred men had blocked her group. She even named the ringleader of the armed blockade – Andal Ampatuan, Jnr. This turned out to be one of her last words before dying.
Hours later, she turned up dead.
It was this phone call that alarmed her husband into alerting authorities to look for her.
What did you do when your own party mate Esmail Mangudadatu asked for help?
Instead of the prime suspect – fingered by no less than one of the victims shortly before dying – being picked up by police for questioning and subjected to the usual paraffin test, you sent top presidential aide Jesus Dureza to talk to the suspect’s father and to ask for the family’s cooperation in the investigation.
Is that standard operating procedure when a murder happens? You ASK the family of the main suspect – could you pretty please cooperate with the investigation?
Many of the dead were reporters. Have you sent anyone to offer your condolences to their families? Or are they outside your concern?
The only demand to date from the presidential palace is for the murderers to please turn themselves in. It has sent no posse to pick them up the way Ted Failon and his relatives were immediately picked up for questioning.
The massacre happened last Monday. No one in the Ampatuan family has publicly said a word and it’s now Wednesday midnight.
No one has been arrested.
From now on, will you be treating all suspects that way? Or just these suspects.
You know, even if I did write about this for my newspaper (South China Morning Post, HK) I never really grasped the full-scale of the horror until I saw the photos of the victims sprawled on the grass like discarded trash. Many of them were killed because like me, they were just reporters.
The husband, Mangudadatu, recounted on RMN-DZXL radio that his dead wife was tortured while still alive:
Ang masakit po – nakita ko kagabi noong inautopsy ang aking asawa, nilaslas po ari, binaril ari, binaril sa bunganga. Yung kanyang kanang mata pinalabas. Yan po ay sobrang hindi po makatao. Lahat ng pinsalang doon, pinagbabaril ang ari para sa ganon hindi po magkaroon ng positibong resulta pagka ito’y nagkaroon ng masusing pagsusuri sa kanilang mga ari. Yun ang paniwala ng mga nanggahasa.
Here is the rough translation:
The painful thing is, I saw my wife last night when she was being autopsied. Her genitals had been slashed, and shot. She was shot through the mouth. Her right eye was gouged out. That is so inhuman. All that mutilation, her private parts were shot at so that there would be no positive results upon examination. That was what her rapist thought.
And the Mangudadatus were also your party mates.
In some photographs, some of the bodies have the flies of their pants open. And some are naked. Those are the women. Some also look pregnant. Mangudadatu confirmed his slain sister and two aunts were pregnant.
In a normal world the President of the Republic of the Philippines would be foaming at the mouth and spluttering in rage at this blatant butchery.
It took you – let me see – two days to express personal outrage.
Today you called for a day of mourning.
NO, Mrs. President, it should be DAYS OF OUTRAGE.
Your presidential standard-bearer Gilberto Teodoro earlier issued statements making it appear he has nothing to do with the deadly quarrel between the two Maguindanao clans. But in truth he has everything to do with it because the week before the massacre took place you made him chairman of Lakas-Kampi Party.
Or is he just a puppet with you pulling the strings?
At this very moment while I’m writing this entry I hear on the evening newscast that Teodoro and his running mate Edu Manzano visited today the grieving spouse, Mangudadatu.
Teodoro urged the Lakas executive committee to expel ARMM Governor Zaldy and his father, three-term Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan, “for their failure to supervise as heads of the Ampatuan clan the principles of our party for peaceful, honest electoral processes and peaceful honest political dialogue”
Mmmm. Is that their only crime?
I’m also hearing about fresh threats being issued against the Mindanao-based media covering the crime scene, because some people are hurting over the “sensationalized” reporting. Believe me, we don’t even have to try.
The facts are horrific enough.
Mrs President, is that why the reporters were killed? Because their words hurt?
NOTE: On November 27, 2009, I posted this piece below:
A source who personally knows members of the Ampatuan family has just told me this piece of disturbing news:
First, assuming the son Andal Ampatuan Jr. carried out the crime, the son is NOT the mastermind. The son reportedly carried it out on someone else’ orders. The key to finding the mastermind is the back hoe or excavator which had been digging up the killing fields even before Monday’s carnage.
The family decided that for the sake of the family’s political survival, the son would have to surrender to authorities and defend himself before a court of law. The family fully regrets what had happened.
Second, before the mass murder took place Lakas-Kampi Party presidential standard-bearer Gilberto Teodoro had tried to negotiate a political settlement between the Ampatuans and the Mangudadatus. In that meeting, the Ampatuan patriarch Andal Sr. reportedly expressed outrage that his allies the Mangudadatus had refused to concede the governorship to his namesake, otherwise known as “Datu Unsay”.
From what my source told me, I can only conclude that Teodoro knew even then how enraged the old man Ampatuan was.
Teodoro is a decent person. I wish he would disclose what had happened in his consensus-building meeting with the two families, which fell apart and led to Monday’s carnage.
Part 2: Why did GMA treat Ampatuans as rebels, not suspected mass killers? [Or how foreign media grilled top Arroyo officials on the Ampatuan massacre – I included here the actual videos of the grillings from journalists of various wire agencies Reuters, AFP, AP etc.]