DISCLAIMER: This text is redacted from Jun Mercado’s blog on GMA News. Read the full text here.
“These were the actual arrangements in the political chess board when the Massacre occurred in the Province of Maguindanao that fateful morning of the 23rd of November 2009.”
Background: What is warlordism?
The Maguindanao massacre brought to the fore the issue of ‘warlodism’ in Muslim Mindanao. Warlordism in the Philippines, especially in Muslim Mindanao, is primarily based on a feudal system that continues to characterize the power relations not only between clans and families but also between the central power (Manila) and the periphery.
Warlordism is often associated with two major issues. The first issue involves the control over the machineries of the state that includes the security sectors (PNP and the AFP).
The second issue is about lawlessness with impunity. The ‘warlords’ are sort of ‘sui generis’ – ‘the rule of law’ is understood as the execution of their whims and caprices.
In modern times, the power basis of the warlords is no longer measured by the blood ancestry but by the actual ‘connection’ of the warlords to the all powerful Presidency of the Republic. People cite the infamous three “Gs” – guns, goons, and gold – in the making of the warlords. But the sad tragedy is that these three “Gs” are government’s ‘properties’.
Under the present dispensation, particularly in the ARMM, people speak in whisper of yet another ‘G’. That fourth ‘G’ refers to Gloria or President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
The ‘unlimited’ access to this fourth ‘G’ is the all that distinguishes the small time ‘warlord’ to a paramount warlord of a province or a the entire region.
Usually, the rise and fall of a paramount warlord depended on the whims and caprices of the real paramount LORD that resides along the Pasig River. The Ampatuan clan was able to venture outside their traditional ‘domain’ (Maganoy) with the ‘blessing’ of the paramount LORD in Malacañang.
The rise of the Ampatuans
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. His rival, Datu Surab Abutazil, also of the Ampatuan clan, was assassinated in broad daylight in a cafeteria right in the market place of Maganoy. Mayor Andal was charged for the murder of Datu Surab but later the case was dismissed for lack of witnesses.
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. Datu Andal became the ‘avid’ supporter of President Gloria in her decision to run for the Presidency in 2004.
He “delivered” the whole province to Gloria against the more popular Fernando Poe, Jr. This electoral ‘feat’ made Datu Andal the new ‘anointed’ one not only for the province but also for the entire ARMM.
It was no accident in 2005, when the Ampatuan made a run for the head ‘honcho’ of the ARMM. It was an invitation to the government and President Gloria to shift to a more ‘manageable and predictable overseer’ over the ARMM after almost nine years of disarray under the rule of the MNLF (more than five years under Nur Misuari and 3 years under Parouk Hussin).
With the ARMM falling into the hands of the Ampatuan clan and under the total patronage of Malacañang, the hold of the clan over the ARMM and Maguindanao has become undisputed. It is a steady and phenomenal rise to almost absolute power.
During the 2007 elections, the Ampatuan clan had proven, beyond doubt, their complete control of all government machineries including the Commission on Elections and the security forces in the area by the delivery a 12-0 results in the senatorial slate for the administration. This was also mirrored in the ‘no contest’ election in the province. From the provincial slate to the municipal slate in 30 towns in Maguindanao out of 32, all the positions were not contested.
In the past, the national government was the ‘check and balance’ vis-a-vis local warlords. The government in Manila made sure that the warlord’s control remains within his family or clan domain. Even during the height of martial law, President Marcos made sure that no one family or clan dominated the whole region. This equation has changed completely during the Presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo following the 2004 national elections.
There evolved a sort of symbiosis in the political agenda between the central government and the Ampatuan clan gaining control over the province of Maguindanao and the ARMM.
The shifting national politics after the death of President Cory begins to impact the local politics. Malacañang is no longer seen as the power that makes or unmakes local leaders. In fact, this is the first crack in the hold of the Ampatuan clan over the province. This is further exacerbated by the fact that the Sr. Ampatuan CANNOT run anymore for the top post.
On the other hand, the Mangudadatu clan is telling the new emerging national leaders that the time has come for new ‘stewards’ in the province. New political alliances begin to take shape in the province, when the Mangudadatu clan made known their intention to challenge the younger Ampatuan for the gubernatorial post.
These were the actual arrangements in the political chess board when the Massacre occurred in the Province of Maguindanao that fateful morning of the 23rd of November 2009.