There’s the Rub

Brand of politics


It’s no easy matter, but I don’t know that we really have much choice in it. The Ampatuans have every right to run in the elections.

The objections to it are of course formidable. Where the Ampatuans are running in particular under the administration party, which is the Liberal Party—there are nine of them, out of 72—the public perception could be, and would be, that government is not stamping out the culture of impunity, it is helping perpetuate it. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) captured the widespread dismay in this way: “Even as the fear of reprisal continues to haunt witnesses and plaintiffs in the case, the government of Mr. Aquino and the other major political parties in the country have embraced the Ampatuan clan.”

The problem however is this: At the very least, there is this not very small matter of presumption of innocence. Zaldy Ampatuan and Andal Ampatuan have not been convicted yet. Arguably that is so for reasons that have little to do with lack of evidence. This case is not a matter of wit, or determination, it is a matter of will, or implementation. It is the very essence, embodiment and substantiation of the culture of impunity in that it was done with little effort to hide its authorship. Its authorship was plain for everyone to see, the intent of the deed being to put the fear of God or the devil on the Ampatuans’ enemies. I say it again: The point of presumption of innocence is to be fair, not to be blind. It is to be just, not to be idiotic.

But even if their guilt is patent, why should that extend to the rest of their clan? Why should the whole clan be judged on the basis of the crime of some of its members, even if those are its heads, even if those are its patriarch and son? Of course the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children, and often enough ought to, the stigma deservedly attaching to the family name for ages to come. But that may be enforced only culturally, not legally.

If we extend the crime of one person to his clan, the Roxases would not be there, the Aquinos would not be there, the Laurels would not be there. As well indeed as the Aguinaldos, the Ramoses, the Madrigals, the Rectos, the Vargases, and the Yulos. The crime of their forebears, though a political one rather than a criminal one, was collaborating with the enemy during the Japanese occupation. An occupation that led to the massacre of Filipinos, done viciously, done atrociously.

Unless the argument is that the entire Ampatuan clan participated in the Maguindanao massacre, actively or tacitly, unless the argument is that the entire clan approved of the massacre, publicly or privately, how can you condemn it as a whole and impose all sorts of bans on its members? Two wrongs do not make a right.

Of course despite the LP’s and Una’s claims that they have recruited only the more respectable Ampatuans—the specific ones they took in, said Edwin Lacierda though he did not name them, did not share the “brand of politics” of Zaldy and Andal—there will always be the suspicion, or presumption, that they were recruited not for their respectability but for their “winnability.” The Ampatuans remain politically influential however that influence, with the continuing non-conviction of Andal and Zaldy, comes more from coercion than persuasion, from a capacity to harm than an ability to charm. The suspicion, or presumption, is not unjustified, given in particular the kind of political “pragmatism”—or so they call it, others would call it opportunism—Una and the LP have shown these past months.

In the end, there’s no better way to slice through this apparent Gordian knot than to speed up the trial of the Ampatuans. This is a case where delay constitutes a crime in and of itself. It is not merely a monumental injustice to those whose kin perished in one of the most savage and gruesome crimes anywhere in the world, it is a continuing crime. The more it drags, the more open the invitation to murder and mayhem becomes. We’ve already seen that in the murders of some of the witnesses. We’ve already seen that in the terror that has been sown in the hearts of the aggrieved themselves, who are torn between anger and fearfulness, between seeking retribution for the loss they have suffered and accepting settlement for fear of suffering more.

More delay is intolerable, more delay is unacceptable. That three years have passed without the case being nowhere near getting closure, with the victims being nowhere near getting restitution, is a disgrace to all of us. Government should bring its moral and legal authority to bear on it, we should bring our fury and reprehension to bear on it. We need to see the trial take place before the elections, we need to see the verdict made before the elections. The impeachment of Renato Corona took less time, the verdict on Corona took less time.

As the Corona trial itself showed, that is the only way to curb impunity. You cut off the head, the body dies. You stop the shenanigans of the chief justice, you stop the shenanigans of the courts.

If Zaldy and Andal are guilty, then punish them. If Zaldy and Andal are guilty, then send them to a place where the sun doesn’t shine, and keep them there forever. A place where they can do no more harm, a place where they can no longer induce others to do more harm, a place where they cannot embolden others to do more harm. You cut off Zaldy and Andal—if they are guilty—then their tribe, or their clan, or their band of cutthroats will stop cutting throats. You cut off Zaldy and Andal—if they are guilty—and even if their relatives, or followers, or admirers run for office, they have to abide by the rules. They have to turn a new leaf.

They have to practice a new “brand of politics.”

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

More from this Column:

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Short URL: http://opinion.inquirer.net/?p=41585

Tags: Ampatuans , Andal Ampatuan , Liberal Party , maguindanao massacre , National Union of Journalists of the Philippines , NUJP , Zaldy Ampatuan

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


  • Nebraska toddler gets stuck inside claw machine
  • Philippine eagle rescued by Army turned over to DENR
  • Gunmen attack Iraq military base, kill 10 soldiers
  • South Korea president shouted down by distraught parents
  • Classmates celebrating 60th birthday among missing in ferry sinking
  • Sports

  • Nadal passes clay landmark with 300th victory
  • Wawrinka waltzes through with Monte Carlo walkover
  • Power Pinays smash India in Asian Women’s Club volleyball opener
  • PH youth boxers off to stumbling start in AIBA World tilt
  • Durant has 42, Thunder beat Pistons 112-111
  • Lifestyle

  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • This is not just a farm
  • Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  • Moist, extra-tender blueberry muffins
  • Entertainment

  • Jones, Godard, Cronenberg in competition at Cannes
  • Will Arnett files for divorce from Amy Poehler
  • American rapper cuts own penis, jumps off building
  • Jay Z to bring Made in America music fest to LA
  • Why Lucky has not bought an engagement ring for Angel
  • Business

  • Total says makes ‘very promising’ oil find off Ivory Coast
  • ‘Chinese Twitter’ firm Weibo to go public in US
  • World stocks subdued, Nikkei flat on profit taking
  • Asia stocks fail to match Wall Street gains
  • Fired Yahoo exec gets $58M for 15 months of work
  • Technology

  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Filipinos #PrayForSouthKorea
  • Taylor Swift tries video blogging, crashes into fan’s bridal shower
  • DOF: Tagaytay, QC best at handling funds
  • Smart phone apps and sites perfect for the Holy Week
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • Malaysia quarantines 64 villagers over MERS virus
  • DFA: 2 Filipinos survive Korean ferry disaster
  • PH asks airline passengers to check for MERS
  • Syria most dangerous country for journalists, PH 3rd—watchdog
  • Japan says visa-free entry still a plan
  • Marketplace