Saturday, January 2, 2010

Justice for the Victims of the Maguindanao Massacre, Break the Warlord Clans, Dismantle the Elite System

The Partido ng Manggagawa condemns in the strongest terms the massacre of more than 50 people in Maguindanao, including 18 media workers and two government employees, by the private army of a local warlord. We condole too with the families of the victims who apparently are the collateral damage in a deadly game of political rivalry between two prominent political clans.

The date of November 23 will now live in infamy as arguably the single bloodiest day in history for media workers. The brazenness of the atrocity absolutely highlights the rule of impunity by warlord political clans in the rural hinterlands.

These modern-day political lords govern over these poor provinces and towns like the fiefdoms of old times. Yet these warlords survive only with the tolerance, nay connivance of the national government in Manila. The corrupt regime in Malacanang and the warlord clans feed off each other in a symbiotic relationship to preserve a rotten social system that oppresses the people, especially the poor.

The political debt of the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to the Ampatuan clan, the principal suspect in the massacre, is common knowledge. In the fraudulent elections of 2004, the Ampatuans delivered an incredible plurality of ballots for Arroyo in Maguindanao to the point where in one town her electoral rivals received no votes. What is less acknowledged is the role played by the armed forces in propping up the warlord rule of the Ampatuans in the guise of battling the Muslim insurgents in Mindanao. The cache of high-powered arms uncovered in the property of the Ampatuans reveal the cozy association between the military and the warlords which can only happen with the blessing of Malacanang.

Justice for the victims of the Maguindanao massacre begins but does not end with bringing the full force of the law on the mastermind (who happens to be the heir apparent to the Ampatuan patriarch), dismantling the private army of the warlord clan and breaking their political stranglehold on the province and towns. But smashing the Ampatuan clan only for it to be replaced by their political rivals would be Pyrrhic victory for the victims of the Maguindanao massacre.

Genuine justice for the victims of the Maguindanao massacre goes beyond destroying the warlord clans and political dynasties such as the Ampatuans and Arroyos. The social and economic basis for the existence of the warlord clans and political dynasties must also be broken up. If not, tearing down one dynasty only to pave the way for a new clan, would be a labor of Sisyphus. The sacrifice of the Maguindanao massacre victims would not have been for nothing if it leads to a fundamental rethinking and radical restructuring of Philippine politics and society.

A real not just formal democracy is the antidote to the virus of warlord domination and elite rule in Philippine politics. A real democracy rests on extending the concept and practice from politics and elections to economics and society.

Elections—however clean, honest and automated it may be—in present society are mere exercises for the people to choose their oppressors. No worker can ever be president in electoral campaigns costing billions to wage. Still real democracy means not just a level playing field between the rich and poor in elections—which is an illusion under a society split between an elite minority and an impoverished mass.

Democracy must be revolutionized by the direct participation of people in the administration of things. Direct not representative democracy is the real exercise of the rule of the people.

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