Nov. 19, 2010



Filipino Reporter’s San Francisco, California correspondent Cris D. Kabasares, second from right, and wife Nora V. Kabasares, third from right, recently visited the headquarters and hospital facilities of the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) in Camp Panacan, Davao City. Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang, right, public affairs officer of the EastMinCom escorted the couple. Cabangbang also briefed the Kabasares couple on the current peace and order situation in Eastern Mindanao.


Special to the Filipino Reporter

DAVAO CITY — On Nov. 23, 2009, barbarians in a small province of Maguindanao in Central Mindanao, Philippines, massacred 57 people, including 32 journalists, and hauled the dead with a government-owned backhoe  to shallow slumps in a hasty attempt to dump them.

It was a black day that will linger on in the country’s memory.

In his article Warlords Of The Republic published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) on Dec. 12, 2009, Prof. Patricio N. Abinales wrote: “They’ve so ruled politics in many provinces that they have gradually become de facto institutions of power and influence — even presidents of the country genuflect at the altar of their “authority.”

They’ve easily attained this status in part because of what Prof. Abinales call their “coercive” powers to manipulate  elections or obtain privileges from the government.

Who are the killers, are they “beasts or gods?” an outraged Philippine Daily Inquirer asked.

“In places where they exist, one speaks of them in spurious awe and dread. One who speaks ill of these groups does so under cover of darkness, then quietly leaves town to live a life on the run,” a prominent Davao lawyer told this writer.

In regions where armed political dynasties thrive, partisan sympathies are considered “war.” There, elections have virtually lost the legitimacy that the electoral process guarantees. The clans have wrested the method from it through either the use of private armies and bribes or both.

What alarms those unfamiliar with the elections in the Philippines is the knowledge that electorates themselves have allowed these clans to exist and eventually earn respectability. One thing they’re unaware of is they (electorates) are utterly powerless to deal with these clans.

It really seems that the electorates are way past the time to make decisions in reference to the kind of politics they want and politicians they truly need. So the problem has grown extremely more complex than they’re prepared to resolve.

Mindanaoans have grown weary of clan hostilities in Central Mindanao blaming our Muslim brothers as instigators. Slurs and preconceptions “have their own seasons of contagion,” an essayist wrote. This, indeed, is the season.

There’s a longstanding prejudice against the Muslims that’s  reemerging out of this unfortunate event. There’s a depraved sentiment that bloodbaths in Mindanao are serving well to eradicate the “moro” problem by their own cravings for power. The indictment is truly insensitive and disregards the reality that mobs as bloodthirsty as those from Maguindanao have long prospered in regions other than Mindanao.

In a country where in its many regions partisan politics is a form of “warfare” for obtaining  power, wealth and influence,  election campaigns are vicious undertakings. Debates are carried on in extreme villifications that inevitably provoke unbridled violence.

The political debates are nothing more than name-calling, cursing, slandering, raw threats, provocations, but they perversely enliven the crowd. Peaceful methods to win electoral fights may seem anachronistic. The uninitiated will find this means uncivil as it really is. But in the homeland nothing short of that provides the highlights under which a candidate needs to successfully bring his message through to the electorate. Losing elections there is surprisingly not an option. A candidate loses because he or she has been cheated in the process by the winning opponents.

Elections there never really end, the antagonism it built  between opposing groups continues and is passed on from a generation of descendants to the next — who would pledge to avenge the defeat of their ascendants at the right time in the future.

The end of the elections does not wipe out the enmity that has been triggered by the dirty campaign. In fact, many defeated candidates leave town after the elections to relocate elsewhere or wait for the heat to subside. In some bitterly-contested electoral fights those defeated are badly maligned.

The issue here in reference to the Nov. 23 massacre is — these clan wars have become a bane to all — Muslims, Christians and all.


Cris D. Kabasares, San Francisco correspondent of the Filipino Reporter, lives part of the year in Eden, Toril, Davao City.

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