Note: This essay was written a year ago. It remains relevant, no matter the changes in the Philippine political setting.
We join in calling for the arrest and prosecution of the perpetuators, with no exception. While some, if not most, of the killers maybe mere foot soldiers who do not understand the war they are fighting, their prosecution is nonetheless imperative. If indeed the killers are unknowing pawns, it does not make them any less liable. That they are highlights the senselessness of the violence. Yet justice begs that not only the pawns suffer the consequences, but more so their liege lords.
For the senselessness of the pawns is but an inkling of the blind rabidity of their bosses. The political warlords in Maguindanao and elsewhere in the nation are far more liable, not only for the death and other misery they cause upon their opponents, but also for sending out unknowing human pawns to do the dastardly deeds. Pawns also often end up as victims themselves, or become the goats that are sacrificed to shield their bosses.
As things stand, the bosses that need shielding in Maguindanao now are close to the biggest warlord of the country, the current occupant of Malacañang. The bosses in Maguindanao are the minions of the President, and they have shown their worth as pawns by delivering her victory in that province, though the legitimacy of that victory is ever questionable.
The violence that the current leaders of the state perpetuates to maintain power, against critics, the media and the citizenry in general, though not as crude as the Maguindanao killings, is all the same the result of the culture of impunity that has made our nation a most dangerous place.
How the discredited Arroyo government handles this latest addition to its unpopularity is being watched. That the victims in the massacre include prominent political opponents, themselves warlords, is beside the point. Even if the erstwhile victims may be themselves once and future killers, it highlights rather than diminishes the need for a decisive resolution of the Maguindanao political war.
The Maguindanao massacre is not merely a throwback to a violent feudal past, it is an indication that the feudal conditions that breed such unnecessary and senseless violence are still very much present. Feudal social and political structures continue to be the norm in many parts of the country, and these structures are in fact being abetted and perpetuated by the patronage politics that pervades the national political system.
Local warlords deliver the votes to national politicians, and in return national politicians give them a share of the spoils in exchange for the patronage. This political culture encourages the rapaciousness of local political contests. Local warlords and their minions become senseless and insensible attack dogs that, by establishing dominance in their territory, are able to support the top dog in Malacañang.
The culture of violence is likewise the fault of the military and police establishment that organized militias, providing them with lethal firearms that often are used indiscriminately. That the resolution of the Maguindanao massacre now rests on Malacañang, the police and the military is poetic justice to a point, for now they shall have to go against the very monsters they have created.
Yet we are ever fearful that there shall be no immediate resolution, even if the perpetuators are brought to justice.
The political culture that breeds patronage, the culture of violence and impunity, show no immediate signs of waning, and so long as the citizens of this country allow it so, we shall witness more political monstrosities. So long as we elect dogs to power, we shall ever be in danger of being victims of their rabidity.