I’m afraid the photos published the other day of the demonstration led by the National Press Club and the National Union of Journalists protesting the snail pace of justice for victims of the November 2009 Maguindanao massacre do not quite remind the nation of how horrific that crime was.
These do not quite shock us to the reality that five years of hearings without a conviction bring us national shame. It is the biggest criminal negligence and incompetence of President Benigno Aquino 3rd, who has appeared so uninterested in bringing justice to the 58 people who died in the atrocity, including 34 journalists.
Aquino has not even bothered to say anything, or issue an official statement — other than a comment by the deputy presidential spokesperson — on the fifth anniversary of the massacre.
Aquino could mobilize resources, even violate the Constitution to raise the bribe funds to do what had seemed impossible: the removal of Chief Justice Renato Corona and the incarceration of three prominent senators.
Yet he is deliberately impotent in hastening the conviction of the alleged perpetrators, led by two provincial warlords Andal Ampatuan Sr. — whose rise to power starting in 1986 was due to Cory Aquino’s patronage — and his son Andal Jr.
Or has Aquino’s hands been tied when his operators got Ampatuan Sr.’s long-time assistant and Maguindanao provincial administrator Norie Unas to be the sole witness against former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in the electoral-sabotage case brought against her, which has kept her detained for four years now?
Unas was, in fact, the sole witness against Arroyo. And what did he “witness?” That he “overheard” Arroyo asking Ampatuan to have her 12 senators win in the 2004 elections! He “overheard” her even above the din of more than 50 guests conversing as they were making their way out of the dinner hall. Did he overhear her telling Ampatuan to cheat? No, just that she told him to have her 12 senators win.
Unas, according to Ismail Mangudadatu – whose wife and two sisters were among those killed – was part of Ampatuan’s inner circle that planned the massacre. Remember the tractor backhoe in photos of the massacre at the crime site? It was Unas who ordered it deployed, according to Mangudadatu, so the victims’ bodies could be quickly buried to evade detection.
Or is it because of some depraved idea in Aquino’s mind that he isn’t doing anything about the massacre since it happened during Arroyo’s watch, and therefore, he doesn’t want to have anything to do with it?
I end my words here, to give space to photos of that massacre, more powerful in conveying how horrendous that crime was, and that this President has not really lifted a finger to bring justice to the victims.