By J.G. Azarcon, ESQ.
The merciless slaughter of 57 people in a convoy to file the certificate of candidacy of Mayor Mangundadatu for governor of Maguindanao in the Philippines will go down as the most gruesome in the history of Philippine politics.
In a culture where women were supposed to be respected and protected, the attackers were not content with just killing, they reportedly mutilated the bodies of the women particularly the wife and relatives of Vice Mayor Mangundadatu clearly sending a message that this is what happens to those who will challenge our hegemony over Maguindanao.
The Ampatuan clan is the prime suspect behind the killings. They have ruled Maguindanao for a decade now. They have been aligned with the Arroyo administration but have since been expelled from the party
Their arrogance and sense of impunity remind me of the assassination of Ninoy Aquino when he was gunned down while the whole country was practically watching. Not even the thousand eyes of journalists were able to deter the conspirators from carrying out the plot to brutally nip the imminent threat to the rule of Marcos.
President Gloria Arroyo has initially declared a state of emergency in Maguindanao and after two weeks declared martial law throughout the province except in areas controlled by the Moro Islamic Liberation Movement. The Ampatuans have been arrested and the military have been able to unearth several caches of heavy firearms buried in their properties.
The cry for justice all over the country was deafening. Now that the government has acted decisively to neutralize the Ampatuans while the investigation is continuing, there are calls to reverse martial law in Maguindanao. Maybe the administration does not have the factual basis to support a case for rebellion which justifies the imposition of martial law. That is still arguable.
I can understand the fear. The painful memories of martial rule in the 70s and the 80s are still raw in the minds of many. But to the victims, I can imagine that they would demand an iron hand to expeditiously remove barriers to uncovering the truth and mete justice accordingly.
While critics can argue about the value of the writ of habeas corpus, none of the victims families have come out to speak against this limited martial law. Vice Mayor Mangundadatu who lost his wife and other women relatives in the massacre is openly supporting the declaration of martial law that enabled the military to arrest the Ampatuans, collect heavy weapons and restrict the movement of their armed supporters.
So far, the military has not used martial law to abuse the civilians. This is one martial law I can swallow like a bitter pill. The atomic bomb was dropped to end the war in the Pacific. Extreme circumstances require extreme measures.
By J.G. Azarcon, ESQ.