Thursday, November 26, 2009

a history of neglect

In all the gloss and sheen this third world country is furnishing—by means of trumpeting boxing world champions, broadcasting children singing at the top of their lungs in foreign talk shows, or riding on the laurels of a conferred selfless hero in a cable network—people in some parts of the Philippines have yet to free themselves from savagery.

The massacre in Maguindanao last November 23 left a gaping hole of shame not only on the reputation of the country but also the reputation of its people. As of today, the number of dead bodies has risen from 46 (Tuesday) to 57, of which 20 of those are journalists.

The rivalry between political clans of Ampatuan and Mangudadatu has escalated to this incident, a clear account of lawless violence. It is said that several armed men closely connected to Andal Ampatuan, the massive political authority in the area, seized and attacked the supporters of the usual opponent. On their way to file the candidacy of Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu, people who were all unarmed men and women, some lawyers and journalists, were slain.

Inhuman, that’s the bottom line.

This information is not only appalling due to its brutal nature but it is shocking in the most concentrated sense of the word, especially in the history of Philippine journalism. Aside from the constant drone of corruption and greed shown in all forms of media, nothing in recent years has tainted the image of Filipinos more than this.

It would certainly be of no surprise that the New York-based monitor Committee to Protect Journalists would soon move the position of our country from fourth place to the top—on the list of deadliest countries for journalists, with Somalia, Iraq and Pakistan trailing behind.

There may be countless reports by now trying to define the horror that happened, but considering our administration’s deaf ears on the calls of stabilization on crime and its other siblings of delinquency, putting in another write-up even in a blog post just to get anyone’s attention on this matter is apt. In fact, it must be raised a notch higher with the means of circulating news we’ve got in this time and age.

But in the end, with the regulations set by our purported “democratic” system, it is still in the hands of our administration to push the necessary procedure of protecting its people. Have we ever witnessed or felt such undertaking? I am not sure. Come to think of it, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo declaring a state of emergency to that kind of crisis? It’s like giving the arsonist a gallon of gasoline and a box of matchsticks.

Her decisions are ill, if not plain inane.

It’s as if the scale of this is incident is not enough to give her the knock on the head that firearms must be confiscated, especially those that are in the hands of undisciplined men. Sending army troops and police reinforcement is basically trouble masquerading as assistance. In the first place, before the mayhem, one man of Mangudadatu asked Chief Supt. Paisal Umpa, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) police regional director, to provide an escort in the travel, but he was turned down. This man then sought the assistance of an Army commander in the province to do the same, but his was a futile effort. He was rebuffed.

Overall, everyone is only left to ask: Are the people we deem to be trusted the best people to reinforce order, fix the order? Strange but what happened to the Kuratong Baleleng Case? To Bubby Dacer’s murder in 2000? And what about the Department of Justice’s approval of transferring Francisco Juan “Paco” Larrañaga to a penal facility in Spain to serve the remainder of his life sentence for the rape and murder of the Chiong sisters in Cebu in 1997? There are more cases in line, gathering dust in corners only God knows where.

I think I was wrong with inhuman being the bottom line of all these. It is not only that. Playing dumb can be considered but, on second thought, it’s another thing. There's this word that does not only embody the brazenness of the executioners but also captures the administration's attitude towards such incidents. This is called neglect.

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