SPEECHES & INTERPELLATIONS

Speeches

THE MOTIVES BEHIND THE MAGUINDANAO MASSACRES

Privilege Speech of Senator Nene Pimentel, Jr. at the Senate on December 01, 2009

 

 

The most recent massacre of at least 57 innocent people at Maguindanao last November 23 was gory, ghastly and gruesome.

It was unprecedented, unparalleled and unmatched in the history of this country.

The main targets of the mass murder were Muslims. But there were non-Muslims, too. Indeed, men, women, and children of several faiths.

 

No religion

The principal perpetrators of the indiscriminate slaughter were Moros. It is possible that some of the killers were hired hands that respect no religion.

I specifically mention these preliminary data to show that the Moros of Mindanao cannot complain that their main oppressors are Christians.

In history, there had been instances where the Spanish conquistadores wrought havoc on the settlements of the Moros.

But so had Moro raiders razed many a non-Moro settlement in many Spanish colonized parts of the Philippine archipelago.

 

Past lessons

But if we keep on raising the specter of the past, we might not be able to move forward in our search for peace and development in Muslim Mindanao. The reason is that history is full of recorded atrocities committed from many sides of religion that divided people.

The thing is that while we must not forget the past, we must learn from its lessons.

 

Partisan politics

But to go back to the recent Maguindanao massacre, it must be mentioned, lest we forget, that what now appears to be the main motive for the unforgivable carnage was partisan politics.

Since the present administration came to power, Governor Andal Ampatuan of Maguindanao has lorded it over the people in the province.

And he apparently brooks no dissent from anyone.

 

Contrary view

The Mangundadatos are a Muslim clan residing in Maguindanao. They happen to believe that as citizens of this Republic, they have the right to aspire for public offices with or without permission from the self-proclaimed supreme ruler of Maguindanao, Governor Andal Ampatuan.

One of the Mangundadatos, Toto by nickname, dared to announce that he was running for governor of the province against whoever the Ampatuans would put up. On that fateful day he sent his wife in the company of two lady lawyers, several journalists and some supporters to file his certificate of candidacy with the office of the Commission on Elections located in another municipality.

 

Blasphemous

Apparently, that act of Toto was considered by the Ampatuans blasphemous against the Governor who by now had assumed demigod attributes by which they additionally intimidate his subjects.

One of his sons, Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., of the municipality of Datu Unsay, from the look of things, took it upon himself to punish the blasphemer.

At one of the highways of the province, armed men waited to ambush the convoy of vehicles ferrying Toto Mangundadato’s wife, his two lady lawyers, several journalists and other supporters.

From media and other accounts that I received, the vehicles were reportedly soon stopped at the scene of the ambush by armed men in the uniform of soldiers or police. And when the vehicles had to stop, from the sketchy reports I received, the shooting began.

I understand that some other vehicles which were not a part of the Mangundadato convoy were also shot at and when the bullets stopped raining on their targets scores of dead bodies littered the ambush site.

 

Outrage

As a senator from Mindanao, I must express my outrage at the massacre that could only be associated with barbarians.

As a lawmaker of the land, I must denounce the murderers for savagely snuffing out the lives of their victims without provocation.

As the representative of ASEAN+3 and the Asia Pacific Group of Nations in the Committee of the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, I cannot help but demand that justice be done – not tomorrow but – today against those who did the dastardly deed. And especially against those who plotted, organized and ordered the massacre probably out of a misplaced belief that they enjoy impunity under the protection of some highly placed officials of the Republic.

 

Regret

I regret that despite the heinousness of the offense, there does not appear to be an adequate and speedy response by the government to the blatant challenge to the Rule of Law in the province of Maguindanao.

What is needed is a decisive action on the part of the President, not a questionable delegation of her executive powers to a cabinet member. Questionable because of the scope of the delegation – power to supervise and control in her behalf the governmental operations of the provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays in the ARRM. Questionable because the Local Government Code specifies the manner in which local government units may be supervised but not controlled by the President. Questionable because the DILG was supposed to have been phased out of the areas of local governments years ago after the approval of the Local Government Code in 1991.

What is needed is not a national period of mourning. What is needed is effective and efficient action on the part of the government to uphold the Rule of Law and neutralize the warlords even as they pretend they are helping in the enforcement of the law.

I am sorry that I am now compelled to advert to a subject that no matter how revolting to our sensibilities, we must take up today.

 

Rotten elections

And that is the putrid manner in which the electoral process has been handled in Maguindanao by the then rotten Commission on Elections under the chairmanship of Ben Abalos. Mr. Abalos, as everyone knows, was compelled to resign when he was associated with some questionable aspects of the so-called ZTE contract with the government that was investigated sometime ago by the Senate.

        Corrupt elections in Maguindanao abetted by Comelec’s looking the other way under the Abalos leadership certainly were a major cause of the massacre we have just adverted to.

         One example of the scandalous way Comelec officials under Mr. Abalos handled the electoral process was the national elections in 2004. The hugely popular opposition candidate for president, Fernando Poe Jr., was roundly cheated of victory in the province of Maguindanao courtesy of the arch-Comelec operator, Virgilio Garcillano as the main trickster, supported by a cast of subordinate electoral sharks operating as employees of the Commission.

        Incidentally, some of them are still in positions of power in other provinces either transferred or promoted shamelessly by their superiors.

 

Another massacre

        In any event, in the 2004 elections in Maguindanao, it was not the bodies of people who were indiscriminately slaughtered. It was their sovereign will.

 

Repeat performance

Since nobody was sanctioned for the anomalies in the Maguindanao elections in 2004, except Ben Abalos, who was sideswiped in the investigation of the ZTE scandal, the shameless manipulation of the votes to favor certain candidates in the 2007 senatorial elections was repeated in the province.    

Without in any way trying to minimize the horrific effects of the more recent Maguindanao carnage, it may be said that assassinating the minds and suppressing the wills of thousands of people as the election cheats did in the two elections might in the long run be more gruesome than the outright murders of tens of innocent victims.

        The Maguindanao massacre removed life from scores of individuals. Terrible as the physical killings are, the murder of the minds by sheer intimidation and the suppression of the wills of thousands of people by the oppressive will by another human being create robots and automatons of Maguinanaonons. Such unconscionable acts may be more lethal and injurious to the capacity of the Maguindanaonons and ultimately of the citizens of the country to develop their full potential as a free people for the advancement of the general welfare.  

       

More painful

Which brings me to the more painful part of this privilege statement.

        In the 2007 senatorial elections Maguindanao reported what probably were the most unashamedly fraudulent election results in the history of the nation.

        Out of an estimated 105,000 votes, Migs Zubiri was credited anomalously by the Comelec under Mr. Abalos with 195,823 votes or with an incredible, impossible and dubious 95% of the votes cast in the province.

 

Zero votes

Amazingly, even better known candidates of the then opposition registered zero votes from Maguindanao in that election.

To name a few of those who received negative votes in Maguindanao in the elections of 2007 in alphabetical order were:

1.    Sen. Benigno Aquino III, now the presidential candidate of the Liberal Party;

2.   Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, now the assistant minority leader of the Senate, and Secretary-General of the Nacionalista Party;

3.   Sen. Panfilo Lacson, now chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee;

4.   John Henry Osmena, a long time senator of the Republic;

5.   Sen. Antonio Trillanes, now detained for some charges involving rebellion and sedition, and

6.   Victor Wood, a famous crooner.

With the 195,823 votes credited to my provisional colleague, the Abalos-led Comelec proclaimed him as the winner of the last slot for the senatorial winners in the 2007 elections by 19,000 votes more or less over my son, Koko Pimentel.

Koko, then, filed with the Senate Electoral Tribunal a protest over 1078 precincts of the entire province of Maguindanao. The SET ordered the ballot boxes opened and the contents recounted.

The results showed that more than 95% of the questioned Maguindanao votes were fake, forged or fraudulent.

Consequently, Koko has posted - as of the end of his protest - a commanding lead over Migs.

For the record, Migs filed a counter protest. And he still has to get a few ballot boxes recounted to end his counter protest. But the indications are that there is no way that he may validly overcome Koko’s edge over him as determined by the actual recount of the votes as of this date.

 

May I, therefore, humbly submit a few recommendations regarding the Maguindanao massacres.

I.       

a)    Disarm all the members of the Civilian Volunteer Organization of Maguindanao.

b)    Investigate and prosecute those who were involved in the Maguindanao massacre on November 23.

c)    Hasten the investigation and prosecution of Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., and Governor Andal Ampatuan, and of other public officials for their involvement in the Maguindanao massacre.

d)    Transfer the venue of the investigation either to Cebu or Manila so that the witnesses can speak freely before impartial investigators, prosecutors and judges.

e)    And pursuant to the Rule of Law, suspend the Ampatuans and other officials concerned from office pending the outcome of whatever court cases may be filed against them.

II.   

a) To discourage a repetition of the massive frauds perpetrated in the province of Manguindanao in at least two of the previous elections, the election officials involved in the anomalies like Lintang Bedol and his cohorts should likewise be arrested, probed, indicted, suspended, and after due process, convicted pursuant to law.

 

b) For purposes of ensuring clean, orderly and honest elections for 2010, the elections for Maguindanao should be set at least 10 days before the national and local elections scheduled for May of next year.

By doing so, the forces of the government, the Comelec, the Armed Forces, the Police, the NGO election watchdogs like the parish pastoral council for responsible voting, and the people themselves may concentrate their attention on the advance elections of Maguindanao.

c) It is also suggested that the counting of the election results for the proposed advance Maguindanao elections be done at the same time as the results of the national and local elections in May 2010.

        I trust the reorganized Comelec under the leadership of Chairman Melo that it will do what needs to be done to enforce the law so that the will of people as expressed in the ballot shall prevail.

III.           Finally, for the sake of justice, it is humbly submitted that the Senate Electoral Tribunal should come out with its decision the sooner the better.

Practically one-half of the contested term of the senators who were elected in 2007 is over.

Let it not be said that as a people we do not care about how elections are conducted in this country or how the results of the elections are arrived at. Or that we are more concerned with the form rather than with the substance of the electoral process.

        Let it not be said that election protests in this country amount to nothing more but an exercise in futility where lots of money are spent to pursue them and a lot of legal argument is aired by both sides that only produce a lot of speculation as to who actually deserves to sit in the Senate as the duly elected representative of the people.

 

Sham

Allowing the people to vote but without regard to the authenticity of the counting of the votes cast would make the electoral process a sham, a legally sanctioned deceitful exercise, a thoroughly useless machination that is designed to cover with the veneer of authority even those who obviously enter public office with utter duplicity.

I pray that our colleagues would not mind my making these pointed remarks.

My days in this Chamber are numbered and my days in this world have been measured since the day I was born.

I feel that this is as good a time as any to bring out this matter of the massacres that had been perpetrated in Maguindanao, none of which has as of now been fully resolved.

Without meaning any offense to any one, I submit this privilege speech for the consideration of our colleagues.

Thank you.

 

 



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