Elusive justice, political accommodation and economic power

bu-op-icons-benjieBy BENJIE OLIVEROS
Bulatlat perspective

“We are having difficulties fighting the moneyed Ampatuans.” This was a heart rending statement from Grace Morales – who lost her husband, Rossell, and her older sister, Marites Cablitas, in the Maguindanao massacre – as quoted in an inquirer.net special report Maguindanao massacre: Victims’ kin losing hope.

And to think, Morales was even considered as better off because she has a job to support her three children. What about the others who lost the family’s breadwinner like Nancy de la Cruz who was left to care for five grandchildren by daughter Gina who was also killed in the infamous massacre?

BULATLAT.COM FILE PHOTO
BULATLAT.COM FILE PHOTO

Reading the special report makes one doubt whether the elusive justice would ever be attained for the families of those killed in the Maguindanao massacre. President Aquino failed in his promise to the kin, would the next president promise the same and deliver?

The Aquino administration might say that it is already up to the courts. But with the slow grind of justice in this country, especially if the accused is moneyed, is able to pay good, mercenary lawyers, and could exert a lot of financial and political influence, like the Ampatuan clan, then the chances of the aggrieved, if they could not match up to the influence of the accused, to achieve justice is almost nil.

The Aquino government could not wash its hands off this. After all, it is not above influencing the justice system. Look at how it defied the Supreme Court decision on the Disbursement Acceleration Program, which practically rendered the decision of the highest court in the land declaring substantial aspects of the pork barrel fund inutile. Remember how it was able to use the Office of the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan, a special appellate collegial court, and the whole machinery of the government to weaken the Binay family politically and financially by causing the suspension of Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay and the freezing of bank accounts amounting to P600 million ($13 million) of Vice President Jejomar Binay.

If the Aquino administration really wanted to pursue justice for the victims and kin in the Maguindanao massacre, it could exert efforts to weaken the Ampatuan clan politically, militarily, and financially. What could prevent the Aquino administration from leaning on the Office of the Ombudsman, Sandiganbayan, the courts and the Department of the Interior and Local Government to run after the Ampatuan clan?

But it chooses not to. The Ampatuan clan still has free use of its money and other resources to influence the proceedings of the court. It is purposely delaying the proceedings to cause demoralization among the ranks of the relatives and the witnesses. The clan is still able to use the remnants of its private army to cause fear among and actually kill witnesses. And it is able to use its political clout to get accommodations from traditional political parties. In an interview by inquirer.net, Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, whose wife and sister were also killed in the massacre, said the Ampatuans still have considerable influence in 17 of the 36 towns of Maguindanao. That is still enough to get political accommodation from the administration and even the traditional opposition parties.

Sajid Islam Uy Ampatuan, youngest son of Andal Sr., was released on bail and is running for mayor of Shariff Aguak, the traditional bailiwick of the clan, under the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) of Vice President Jejomar Binay. His wife is running for reelection in another town Shariff Saydona Mustapha.

If the Aquino administration really wanted to pursue justice in the Maguindanao massacre, it should do more than just declare that it wanted justice to be had before its term expires. After all, the administration had made a lot of promises and declarations it never did in practice. It should exercise its will and authority in breaking the political, military, and economic power of the Ampatuan clan. But it appears that the Aquino administration is not willing to do so.

The sentiment of Morales may well reflect that of the other victims’ kin: They are tired of appealing to the Aquino administration.

It is up to the Filipino people to pursue justice. ()

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