It is easy to emphathize with the obvious sense of relief that Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar obviously felt in announcing the impending court decision on the Maguindanao massacre that may happen before its 10th anniversary in November.
The Communications chief spoke for most Filipinos in expressing his anticipation of achieving the long-sought closure of the gash in the nation’s consciousness for nearly a decade.
“The court has already deemed the case as submitted for decision, and barring unforeseen circumstances, we are hoping for a decision by the third week of November,” Andanar said in a statement.
Members of the Ampatuan clan were suspected as perpetrators of the hideous incident on 23 November 2009, when a total of 58 people, including 32 media personnel, were killed while accompanying the filing of the certificate of candidacy of then Buluan town vice mayor Esmael Mangudadatu against Andal Ampatuan Jr. for the 2010 national elections.
Andal Jr., the former Datu Unsay town mayor, was the principal accused in the slaughter, which was described as among the most barbaric politically-motivated mass murder in history.
The Ampatuans rise to infamy and almost absolute in Maguindanao was traced to the machinations of the Liberal Party (LP) and the late former President Aquino who favored the Ampatuans in having a firm control of the region.
Members of the political clan derived their power from patriarch Andal Ampatuan Sr. who was an ally of the LP and former President Noynoy Aquino’s venerable mother, Cory.
Maguindanao has been under the control of the Ampatuans since 2001, but Andal Sr. first came into prominence after Cory Aquino appointed him in 1986 right after the People Power Revolution as officer-in-charge of the province, later to be known as Shariff Aguak.
Cory stuck with him and he later ran and won in the 1988 local elections, serving for 10 years. In the 1998 elections, Andal Sr. was elected as governor. Up until 2009, he was unopposed as the political kingpin of Mindanao before the massacre happened.
Several members of the clan afterward won political seats and thus virtually controlled the former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) provinces, particularly Maguindanao.
As a show of where his loyalty lies, the detained Andal Jr., who created a name in media for his arrogant smirk, flashes each time he was filmed or photographed the “L” sign of the LP. Of course, Noynoy and his partymates dismissed the antic as a desperate move of Ampatuan to identify himself with the ruling party.
The reality, however, is that the warlord heir was merely stating his family’s true party affiliation since his clan’s claim to power was bestowed on them by an Aquino whose innate party is the LP.
The slow grind of justice under Noynoy where the case languished in courts throughout his term had a tinge of past political alliances.
Even then Noynoy’s appointed, the fake Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, gave a cryptic statement of what was then holding down the court proceedings: “Our processes depend a great deal on good prosecutorial work and an equally good defense, both cooperating and not obstructing the processes of the court, in order that expeditious trial can be realized. And even if there is popular belief in the guilt of the accused, if the prosecution can only muster a weak case, we have to dismiss.”
Another skeptic then was the International Federation of Journalists who placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of Noynoy for the trial’s slow pace which the group said offered the perpetrators of the crime more room to manipulate the cases.
The mere fact that the legal proceedings lacked the prodding from Noynoy, similar to his intervention in booting out then Chief Justice Renato Corona, also indicated past biases.
When then, during Noynoy’s term, the estimate was that the legal processes, at its normal lethargic pace, would take 50 years for a resolution of the trials, it took all of three years under President Rody Duterte to halt the horror show.