Reading Judge Solis-Reyes’ decision
I have not read the entire decision of Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes, presiding judge in the Maguindanao Massacre case. It is 761 pages long. If you want to try, Reader, you can access it on Rappler. But I will plow through it to the end. I have reached p. 370. In the meantime, let me share my general impressions.
Number one takeaway is the brutality and unspeakable horror of it all. The witnesses said that the shooting took about half an hour. Multiple shooters against one victim. They were not just killed, they were exterminated. Against the women — bullets aimed at private parts, faces unrecognizable. Witnesses spoke of women crying and begging for mercy, texts from them as they awaited their death. They also spoke of 200-400 shooters, mostly uniformed.
Apparently, the uniforms of our armed forces are easily duplicated, and in Mindanao, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or the Abu Sayyaf, when uniformed, are hardly distinguishable from ours. Is there any way to get past this problem?
But the impunity with which these killings were performed spoke of the supreme confidence of the Ampatuans that they could get away with it. They had the political connections, and they had the money — a formidable combination. In fact, months before the massacre, high government officials (defense secretary, presidential political adviser, congressman) brokered talks between the Ampatuans and the Mangudadatus and were warning the latter that the former were violent, and warned off Mangudadatu from running. Methinks it is safe to say that the Arroyo administration saw this coming.
The second takeaway is the disproportionately high number of policemen or police officers involved, as well as the number of CVO (community volunteer organization) members. According to witnesses, these policemen and CVOs manned the checkpoints along the three alternative routes that could have been used by the Mangudadatus to file Esmael Mangudadatu’s certificate of candidacy.
Add to that the relationship of the top honchos of the Maguindanao Philippine National Police with the Ampatuans. There is Police Supt. (Col.) Bahnarin Kamaong, the brother of Norie Unas, a close-in adviser of the old man Ampatuan (since deceased). And Maj. Sukarno Dicay, who is married to an Ampatuan. Both Kamaong and Dicay have been found guilty and sentenced to reclusion perpetua.
In a surprising twist, Colonel Kamaong’s name is listed among the guilty-beyond-reasonable-doubt and also among the acquitted-on-ground-of-reasonable-doubt, just one page apart. When this was pointed out by defense lawyers, Judge Solis-Reyes said she would review. I think it is a clerical error; from what I read, he belongs to the first list. This does not diminish in any substantive way the excellent job that Judge Solis-Reyes did.
But the point of this second takeaway is: How did this come to pass — that the top police officials in Ampatuan country at the time of the massacre were related to the Ampatuans? Because surely that had something to do with the number of police officers involved. Apparently, Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Richard Fadullon asked the PNP sometime in 2010 or 2011 why this was the case, but he got reassigned. So I’m asking: What measures have the PNP taken to assure that this does not happen again? Is it still happening? The PNP must be protected from politics, or alternatively, it should not let its decisions be influenced by politics. PNP, your salaries have been doubled by President Duterte, but it is the Filipino people who pay you. Can we depend on you?
The third takeaway is that the witnesses that brought the Ampatuans down were simple farmers whose farms were around the killing fields. They had heard CVOs talk before the massacre, that the Mangudadatus would be killed. They told no one out of fear for their lives. What does this say about police or army protection? The Army since 2010 has set out to transform itself. What about the police?
The point is, people have a role to play. I hope that those farmers are being protected.
Fourth takeaway: Political dynasties should be done away with. The Ampatuans have been done away with.
Unfortunately, it looks like the Mangudadatus are taking their place. Pass the antidynasty bill.
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