It isn’t even elections year, yet the hopefuls are hyping the elections enough to capture everyone’s attention. From their annoying campaign jingles to hearing their dubious (and sometimes ridiculous) platforms, these public-office aspirants make sure their names don’t even get forgotten with the candidates from Luzon being the most guilty ones. To them, popularity is key to success. Elsewhere however, in the lawless region of Maguindanao, a local politician is taking popularity to a whole new level. (Allegedly) This guy doesn’t believe it is in media that he can attain popularity, but he resorts to something else, massacre.
Residents of this war-torn Mindanao province are very much used to violence, most especially when elections are near. As a matter of fact, at the last national elections (senatorials 2007) Maguindanao registered the highest rate of violence. Yet, the fear is still there. Worried parents fear for their children’s future, education is not even on top of their concerns, what’s education by the way if you’re going to get killed anyways? The threat of death lurks in every corner of the land. There are Muslim rebels roaming freely as well as militia men of corrupt politicians asserting their employer’s supremacy, usually with violence. The military, who are obviously tasked to protect the civilians and enforce the law, find it difficult to do their duties with the kind of power they have in that place. And the equipment they get isn’t much of a help either.
It has been peaceful for a while in this place, there had been no major conflict that happened here for months. That is a good thing, but this isn’t right. Something was bound to happen. Peace here isn’t and has never been normal.
And now there’s chaos.
Twenty-one people, of whom 13 were women, were abducted and were later found dead. Some of them were even beheaded. The group composed of journalists and politicians, all of them were allies of Vice Mayor Toto Mangudadatu, an aspiring governor. All fingers are pointed at his rival, Mayor Datu Unsay Ampatuan, as suspect.
The time of the crime, the instance, the fashion it happened, the victims, it all adds up. The crime is election related. Police have identified one of the victims as Mangudadatu’s wife. What’s worse is that Mangudadatu fears that more may be found dead as he revealed that there are more of his allies that have been abducted.
This incident dents our country’s elections record once more, and another issue for foreign groups to reconsider the aid that they give to our government. The Maguindanao massacre is possibly the worst election-related crime and the worst incident of journalists being killed. And the sad thing here is that both records were made in one tragic event.
Today is a sad day for our country. Not only because a diabolical manslaughter has occured but also because our elections, our democracy, is turning more and more into a joke. And just a food for thought, were still four months away from the polls, and yet an atrocity of this calibre has already happened. What will happen next week then? Or next month? Or more importantly during the elections? The government are in the best position to secure a safe and fair election. Sure, they have failed so many times in the past but now is a golden opportunity to redeem themselves. Now is the best time to prove their commitment to fulfulling the dream of a peaceful election. They must ensure peace and fairness this time, and prevent another travesty of our judiciary and our elections from happening.