Just my opinion
By Raïssa Robles
Assassinations seem to be an accepted part of our political culture. Every election season brings a body count, sometimes high, sometimes low. But always, ALWAYS, someone dies during election season.
Three years ago, 58 people in Ampatuan, Maguindanao including 33 journalists, died. Today, the massacre case is hardly moving.
The fact that the nation’s two biggest political parties have now adopted candidates from the Ampatuan family partly shows the reason why. For the nation’s politicians, the massacre is just part of the political game they play. Please recall that the accused murderers and many of the slain victims came from two political dynasties which were both allied to the political party in power then. The refusal of one dynasty to give way to the other was the root cause of the carnage.
And the slain media men and women? Pawns and victims of that conflict.
Our elections are littered with the bodies of dead political rivals. And why not? Accused assassins are rewarded with political power. Remember that the young Ferdinand Marcos was accused of killing his father’s political rival and the nation’s top judge was so impressed with Marcos’ brilliant defense that he had him acquitted.
The political killing, Marcos’ arrest and acquittal catapulted him to national prominence and to the presidency. Ironically, another assassination of a political rival – Benigno Aquino Jr. - brought Marcos down 43 years later.
As I said, our post-war political history continues to be marked with killings. We’ve had no election season where no one died. It’s unheard of.
The fact that someone always dies every election season was brought home to me as highly unacceptable by a German political analyst. He asked me for a briefing on our politics. In turn, I asked him curiously what the body count was in a German election.
He looked at me oddly and exclaimed – “Of course we don’t have killings during elections. It’s not allowed.”
This led me to thinking why a largely Catholic nation has killings during elections even if these are not allowed by law and condemned by this religion. And why many such killings remain unsolved to this day.
I think it’s because few want to give up political power. It’s because we have the rule of clans and of dynasties who have weapons, assassins, armed goons, and state-paid civilian militia men at their disposal.
One way to reduce political killings is to impose the constitutional ban on political dynasties. A ban will not stop killings altogether. But I believe it will reduce killings greatly.
And guess what – all our political parties don’t want to do that because in reality they are groupings of dynasties and to them, dynasties are good. Their families are God’s gifts to the nation.
That’s the heart of our political problem.
Why not have a law where, if one politician is killed during election season (defined as starting on the last day of filing of certificates of candidacies until election day) all those contesting the same office would automatically be disqualified and new candidates allowed to run instead? That way, they will guard each other’s back. Just a thought, I know. Suntok sa buwan.
[Note: In remembrance of the massacre, I would like to share with you a piece I wrote for South China Morning Post three months ago entitled “Case of the Vanishing Witnesses”:
When a widow of one of the 58 victims of the Maguindanao massacre told Philippine President Benigno Aquino that she feared for her life, Aquino ordered she be given protection.
The first bodyguard assigned to Myrna Reblando appeared to be reliable, until one day he apologetically told her he had asked for a transfer, because ‘I’m not Superman who can deflect all the bullets of the enemy’.
Another bodyguard was assigned.
It wasn’t long before she discovered, through casual conversation, that he was a former security escort of Zaldy Ampatuan, the governor of the Muslim Autonomous Region of Maguindanao, who is alleged to have conspired to commit the massacre November 23, 2009.
Reblando has good reason to be scared.
To read the rest, please click on this link: