Warlord’s Faux Pas

What is so indignant of about the Maguindanao Massacre really?

From activists, rebels, soldiers, journalists and politicos; death mayhem and chaos are part and parcel of everyday Filipino life. We wake up each morning and hear gruesome news stories about some poor schmuck nga gi-ihaw sa eskinita(stabbed in the alleyway) and become apathetic. Like smelling crappy feet, we become used to the stench and slog on.

Yet this massacre is one for the books. This wholesale murder, a hallmark in global and Philippine history has breached an unspoken code of conduct amongst warlords. As mlq3 eloquently states:

Those unable -or unwilling- to fight fire with fire, who cannot or will not confront warlords and high officials on their own terms -because the powerful have all official and unofficial venues for the redress of grievances in their pockets or because, even if on par with a rival, one is unwilling to call that rival’s bluff- have relied on three antidotes to violence: womankind, the media, and the law.

All three manifested themselves in the decision to send that ill-fated caravan to the Comelec office. Mangadadatu sent female relatives: “Buluan Vice Mayor Ismael Mangudadatu’s wife Jenalyn, his sister-in-law and currently Mangudadatu town Vice Mayor Eden, their youngest sister Bai Farina and his cousins Zorayda Bernan, Raida Sapalon and Rowena Ante Mangudadatu,” as reported by Mindanews; and the lawyers sent to accompany them were women as well: Connie Brizuela and Cynthia Oquendo, who were also slain. Among the conventions that govern clan and political-related violence in the region, is that women, children, and the elderly are off-limits as targets.

And then, there was the media, including both national and regional reporters and correspondents: the glare of publicity and attention is generally considered enough to make even the most hardened of warlords take pause. And, indeed, the story was a big one: the colossal might of the Ampatuans actually facing a challenge.

All three -women being off-limits as targets of political or clan violence; media’s ability not only to cover stories, but to guarantee, in a sense, safety for those who bring their stories forward; and of the law, both in terms of the Mangadadatus pursuing a perfectly legal objective -filing candidacy papers- and of lawyers themselves as persons not to be targets, ceased to matter when the massacre began.

These conventions, crap no filmmaker, reportes or novelist I’ve heard has written do exist. Yet one has to be close to appreciate the gravity and subtleties of the existing political bushido. So for all those who view the Philippines through the spectrum of foreigners or conyos this singular act of barbarity is worth raising cries for. Even for a semi-barbaric country like the Failippines.

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