The Maguindanao carnage is an unspeakable crime against humanity. As Bangsamoro youth, we are extremely disgusted, appalled and ashamed over the bloody rampage that took fifty-nine (59) lives and counting in the town of Ampatuan, Maguindanao in that fateful morning of November 23, 2009. We join the rest of the Philippine society in condemning these despicable acts in the strongest terms. While many of us have grown familiar with clan-based conflict, nothing could have ever prepared us for such savage brutality.
As we express our indignation, we have been trying to answer the question that we and the national government can no longer neglect — why and how has it come to this point of saturation?
The Frankenstein in Mindanao that has been making the lives of the majority of the Bangsamoro people miserable has not just been armed conflict. There must be a prerequisite. Running deeper than the armed conflict is a history of repression, abuse and exploitation of communities at political, social and economic levels perpetuated by various actors that includes the state. This, for a long time, has left our people vulnerable to the injuries of powerlessness and defenselessness, which has run for longer than any armed conflict waged in that part of the Philippines. This has been a struggle of striving not anymore for the full exercise of rights or the full enjoyment of freedoms, or maximizing their life’s full potential. Rather it has been a struggle of just being able to survive in the margins, of making it even if only in the periphery, and of living by the minimums.
Unfortunately, an event as gruesome and abominable was what it took for the rest of Philippine society to finally take the problems of Mindanao seriously and for the public to realize that “ang problema ng Mindanao ay problema nating lahat.” It took losing the lives of innocent people before the national government finally keeps in touch with the reality in the grassroots. It did not only neglect Mindanao issues, the state even let impunity takes its crudest form which subsequently permits the culture of violence to flourish in micro-communities.
Warlord politics is an over-arching issue pervading not only Mindanao politics but in many other parts of the country, as well. Yet one may point out, while not all of Mindanao politics is bad news, the rest of it still deserves serious consideration for taking all these election and governance issues unto itself and projecting them ten-fold worse than in any other in the country.
Therefore, we hope for this to be an opportunity for everyone to reflect on the kind of politics, democracy and governance we have been tolerating in our respective localities. This is an opportunity for us to determine, as a nation and as a people, the kind of government and governance we want and are willing to demand from those who offer to lead. This is a real chance for us to decide the kind of society we want to be a part of.
We further hope that this incident would not end up as just another item in the news – hot for now, but without , rather a grim reality that Filipinos must be vigilant about and keep an eye on as to its outcome, ensure accountability on the national level.
Most importantly, we express our deepest condolences to the families left behind by those who were killed in the gruesome incident. The people who died were real people with real lives and real aspirations. They did not intend to live only to become pawns in somebody else’s power play. Nonetheless, while they may be martyrs by accident, in our eyes they are heroes in their own right.
· National government: – We call on the government and responsible officers to fairly, honestly and genuinely investigate the incident and apprehend those who are responsible for the carnage. Look beyond party loyalties and past political commitments.
· Local governments: – To commit to a stronger democracy and less violent politics
· Investigating bodies: – Immediate arrests, international human rights committees to send a team of experts to lend integrity to the investigation; we need the intervention of a neutral third party to investigate these heinous crimes. – Invite and open up the investigation to international bodies such as the UN Human Rights Committee. We also call on independent human rights organizations such as the Human Rights Watch and the Amnesty International to launch their own investigations on this incident.
· Media: – We call on the media not to be swayed by fear, by the chilling effect that the incident may cause on their exercise of their job and the freedom to express, to responsibly cover the incident and to incessantly assert the integrity of this pursuit for justice.
· The rest of Philippine society/the electorate: – We call on the public and other sectors to be vigilant for themselves and also in behalf of the people of Mindanao, to ensure that no one would be bold enough to try something like this again or suppress the truth and fragments of it in the process of seeking out justice.
We can only hope that the worst is over. We call on you to be vigilant now more than ever of our institutions in government, for your sakes and on behalf of our countrymen who thrive in Mindanao, forced to accept this much violence and live with it as part of everyday politics. We call on aspiring politicians to consider this incident in defining your vision of government and a just and democratic Philippine society. We call on you to make a stand with this vision.