The trouble with swinging a pendulum hard in one direction is that it will eventually swing back in the opposite direction just as hard. In the Philippines, the pendulum has swung from one end to the other hard all within less than a month.
Within days of the “heroic” triumphs of Manny Pacquiao and Efren Penaflorida, both of which sent Filipinos on a massive worldwide love-in of back patting and pride mongering, a dark cloud descended upon the fiesta and let it pour. Just like that, a big red splotch goes splat over the glittery little stars that Pacquiao and Penaflorida pinned for us over the island group labelled “the Philippines” on the world map.
Last Monday the Inquirer.net reported:
TACURONG CITY, Sultan Kudarat, Philippines – (UPDATE 3) At around 10 a.m. on Monday [23 Nov 2009], vice mayor Ishmael Mangudadatu of Buluan town in Maguindanao received a call from his wife that at least 100 armed men were holding her and 50 others, including 34 journalists.
Most of the 50 have since been confirmed dead, all gunned down at close range. The prime suspect of the moment is Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr, whose family controls a big chunk of Maguindanao province.
On second thought, I find my use of the analogy of the red blood of these victims staining the glitter in our short-lived moment of “heroism”-fuelled glory a bit flawed. That analogy implies that this weeks-old glory stood tall only to be overshadowed by Monday’s tragedy. I think it is the other way around. In Philippine society, it is actually human tragedy that is the imposing pig defining us as a people (and not heroes like Pacquiao and Penaflorida) on whose lips we continuously apply a coat of lipstick every now and then.
The Maguindanao massacre simply adds to the size of the proverbial pig we keep trying to apply lipstick on. And to put things in perspective is to remind us of the nature and size of this animal that we pretend isn’t there in good times and express “shock” upon seeing whenever it rears its fat head. Fourty six dead (last I heard) in Maguindanao adds to the body count of preventable Philippine tragedy — two hundred in the aftermath of Ondoy flooding, thousands more in deadly mudslides, and tens of thousands in ferry tragedies.
What is new about politically-motivated killing in the Philippines? Nothing, actually. What is shocking about this recent one? Perhaps the number of people — particularly the number of journalists and lawyers — involved in one go (our definition of “shocking” is whatever the Media tells us is). Yet, fourty six dead is a tragedy dwarfed by what one researcher estimates to be at least 10,000 Filipinos killed during the Marcos regime. Has anyone of consequence been punished? The answer to that question (or the more obvious lack of it) becomes relevant when we now consider what happens next in the aftermath of this most recent atrocity.
Perhaps our consistent inability to answer the question What’s next? is why the Inquirer.net in its infinite wisdom as an influential thought leader of our society seems to have found something newsworthy about a litany of “calls to justice” (mainly directed at President Gloria Arroyo) issued by a who’s-who of the top Filipino bozos, many of whom were reported to be “shocked and outraged”. And here are some of the “solutions” they came up with:
Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro Jr: “authorities should immediately arrest Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. on the strength of the evidence supposedly pointing to him and his men”
Prospero Nograles: “[Malacanang should] drop all political considerations” in leading government efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice
Political considerations? What’s that?
Noli de Castro: “These barbaric acts have no place in a civilized society”
Depends on your definition of “civilised” society. I think the Philippines has redefined the concept to suit its own “standards” years ago. Perhaps try googling “lola basyang’s standards” and see what results pop up.
This one, reportedly said by Satur Ocampo, is priceless:
the killings also showed the administration’s “utter incompetence” in preventing the proliferation of armed groups.
Er, there is the small matter of your link to the New People’s Army, Mr. Ocampo…
Last but not least, Gilbert Teodoro chimes in again with what he believes to be the obvious next step: “Even if they are political allies, they should be punished if they are found liable”.
No, you are punished when you are found guilty, Mr. Teodoro. But only in this case, okay?
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Perhaps Manny Pacquiao should hurry up and go beat the crap out of his next opponent on the ring underneath the bright lights of Vegas. That way, we can all go back to the normal business of being a “proud” people again.