A photo of Andal Ampatuan Jr, who was recently convicted for the murder of 58 people in 2009 in what has since been dubbed the Maguindanao Massacre, flashing the “L” hand gesture has been making the rounds. The “L” salute, as most Filipinos know, signifies allegiance to the Aquino-Cojuangco feudal clan and the partisan camps that surround them known as the “Yellowtards”.
Many who have followed the case lamented the slowness of the wheels of justice considering the astoundingly heinous nature of the crime. However, the “L” salute flashed by Ampatuan in the photo offers clues as to why justice had been so baldly delayed in this instance. Could it be possible that the prosecution of Ampatuan was deliberately drawn out perhaps to ensure stability in the the Ampatuan domain in the hope that the clan would deliver the votes for Mar Roxas and Leni Robredo back in 2016?
Indeed, over the term of former President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III, the Ampatuans were at their most influential even in the aftermath of the massacre…
In the 2010 elections which took place months after the massacre, the Ampatuans still emerged as the political family with the most number of winners. Comelec’s list of candidates had over 70 Ampatuan bets. A total of 43 individuals bearing the Ampatuan name clinched local government seats in Maguindanao–among them 28 of Andal Sr.’s children and children-in-law, grandchildren, nephews, and other relatives.
According to a 2014 Bulatlat report, over much of his term, Aquino pretty much just sat on his hands even as the Ampatuans continued their blood-soaked iron-fisted rule over the province.
[Luis Teodoro, former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication] said the killings and other forms of attack continue after the Nov. 23, 2009 massacre in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao. Twenty-five journalists have been murdered since Aquino assumed office. Four of them were killed this year. In 2013, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) documented 68 cases of physical assault, threats and harassment against journalists.
The same report also cited the observations on the matter of Cristina Palabay, secretary general of human rights alliance Karapatan who criticised then Justice Secretary Leila De Lima’s ineffective handling of the case.
Palabay said the so-called superbody headed by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to resolve cases of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances has not accomplished anything yet.
It is perhaps not surprising that, under the administration of current Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, an Ampatuan had finally been convicted. Unlike Aquino, Duterte is evidently not a friend of the Ampatuans.
Duterte, who was then mayor of neighboring Davao City, helped borrow a helicopter to search for the hilltop massacre site, said [Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu], now Maguindanao congressman.
Gunmen were still digging shallow graves using backhoes when the helicopter found the site, which prompted them to flee, he said.
“Kung hindi nagpahiram si Mayor Duterte noon, si Presidente, halos walang traces na makita,” he told radio DZMM.
It is high time Filipinos examine more closely the backstories behind the Maguindanao Massacre and how the Aquinos and the Yellowtards who claim ownership over high-horsed Western notions of “human rights” and prop up narratives around heroic “media practitioners” could be complicit in one of history’s darkest crimes against humanity.
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