BUENAVISTA, Agusan del Norte (MindaNews/23 November) – It’s not just coincidence that the nation marked the second anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre at the same time that it’s facing yet another major issue: the arrest of former president and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on charges of election fraud in relation to the conduct of the 2007 senatorial polls. She will certainly have to confront many more cases in the days ahead, things that will frustrate any and all attempts to spirit her out of the country to evade prosecution and possible conviction.
The principal accused in the Ampatuan Massacre happen to be the same politicians who orchestrated the incredible although passed off as realistic 12-0 sweep of Arroyo’s senatorial candidates in Maguindanao province, in 2007. Arroyo’s link with the Ampatuans, if one looks at it closely, was the biggest factor that led those 58 victims to the lonely hills of Sitio Masalay in Ampatuan town to be killed in cold blood. Yes, no lawyer can prove that in any court, the law not being designed to exact culpability based on remotely circumstantial proof, in the same way that negligent parents cannot be held legally liable for the crimes their children may commit.
Nonetheless, this reminds us that the perpetrators of crimes, in particular murders that are abetted by a culture of impunity, are not just the men who pull the trigger; equally guilty are the individuals who encourage the crimes not only by providing the killers with the arsenal but also by ignoring their dastardly acts. The desolate hills of Masalay – and Maguindanao itself – would not have become a killing field if Arroyo and his generals had taken steps against the Ampatuans. But anyone who understands the implication of the DND and PNP markings on those weapons that were recovered from the Ampatuans knows the futility of wishing what could not have been.
This can’t possibly be argued in court, only in a venue like this column where the mind is not bound by rigid rules of what’s material and relevant. But what could be more material and relevant than knowing where the ultimate moral responsibility lies? Arroyo, not being a direct party to the massacre and the other crimes committed by the Ampatuans, may not be prosecuted along with her wards. But at least, let the world know that she contributed to it by pampering the perpetrators like a consenting parent would a deviant child.
Justice vs mercy
As the noose tightens around Arroyo, her supporters have resorted to appeals for pity. They said that subjecting the former president to pressure through the filing of cases and subsequently placing her under arrest may worsen her physical condition.
There’s a need to sift the chaff from the grain, so a cliché goes. Safeguarding a person’s health is a legitimate issue. But so is the quest to know what really happened in Maguindanao in 2007. Lumping these two different issues together will get us nowhere. Let the prosecutors do their job and see how the cases will fare in court.
Allowing Arroyo to go off the hook simply because she claims to be sick, real sick, is preposterous. The Ampatuans or any suspects may as well do the same, feign sickness and that’s it. Why limit this privilege to a former president? (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)