Philippines: Remembering the Maguindanao Massacre

More than a month has passed since the November 23 2009 massacre of more than 60 men and women by the private army of the Ampatuans, a warlord clan allied to Philippine President Gloria-Macapagal Arroyo, but it already seems that the gruesome event has already become part of the collective imagination of the Filipino people.

What do you do with obstacles and problems that come your way, one joke circulating during holidays asked. The answer is to learn to bury them so they will stay away, alluding of course to the Ampatuan's use of the back hoe to bury the massacre victims in shallow mass graves. The massacre is remembered in many other ways.

Graphic photos are widely available online. Philippine blogs and social networks have put the spotlight on the shocking event.

Critic After Dark connects the Maguindanao Massacre to films in a discussion of state-sponsored human rights violations and political violence represented in classic Filipino films.

The Village Idiot Savant believes that the massacre victims should not only be considered as victims.

The Mangudadatus made the conscious decision to send women and journalists — without any bodyguards and weapons — in order to emphasize their peaceful intent. We know how that turned out. That's why the victims ought not to be considered victims but martyrs.

Likewise, the massacre has become the theme for protest actions and traditional activities. The Vera Files reports that a float depicting the Maguindanao massacre was one of the highlights of the annual Lantern Parade held at the University of the Philipines Diliman campus last December.

The College of Law and the militant student organization STAND UP both had the Maguindanao massacre as their message. STAND UP had effigies of a backhoe and a wrecked van, both having become symbols of the killing of 57 people, 30 of them journalists by members of the warlord Ampatuan clan in Maguindanao on Nov. 23. The College of Law had a tableau of the massacre victims with a mural of a gun-toting warlord as backdrop.

Meanwhile, High Chair, a Philippine-based poetry journal, is soliciting for poetry submissions that is of “value to the Maguindanao Massacre” for its 12th issue.

The Arroyo government declared martial law in the province of Maguindanao for one week last month to supposedly run after the Ampatuans and their private army. However, it remains to be seen if the perpetrators will be put to justice.

For Tonyo Cruz, the recent declaration of martial law seems to be used by the Arroyo government to allow the perpetrators of the massacre to evade the full force of the law.

If the martial law proclamation goes unchallenged, Filipinos lose several things. One, we lose the chance to prosecute one of the worst warlord families and allies of President Arroyo who implicated themselves in the most brutal mass murder in recent history…

In this light, Marianna Gurtovnik of The Mantle is asking for comments on the Maguindanao Massacre:

1) How have the major political parties in the Philippines reacted to the investigation of the Ampatuans’ involvement in the multiple murders committed in Maguindanao last November?

2) In light of the approaching end of her presidency, is President Arroyo believed to be more or less likely to complete the investigation of this case and to sentence the Ampatuans if they are found guilty? Why?

3) What steps are currently being taken by the Philippine government to disarm the Ampatuan-sponsored militia that was allegedly involved in the murder?

4) What implications would the possible conviction of the Ampatuans likely have on the political dynamics in Maguindanao?

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