Friday, November 27, 2009

Malacañang Was Warned About the Maguindanao Massacre Three Months Ago

The whole world was caught by surprise and shocked by the Maguindanao Massacre. It was something never before seen in our country and it has immediately placed us in the number one position in the list of the world’s most dangerous places for journalists to be assigned.

People are saying this was something unimaginable, that no one expected it and no one could have foreseen the carnage. Well, it turns out that those premises were wrong. Someone did see it coming.

Someone saw it coming and warned the government. He warned Malacañang. And the warnings went unheeded.

About three months ago, August 28, 2009 to be exact, the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security and the Committee on Peace, Unification and Reconciliation conducted a joint public hearing on the peace process in Zamboanga City. One of those invited to be a resource person was the Vice-Governor of North Cotabato Manny Piñol. Vice Governor Piñol is one of the most respected officials whose opinion matters when the Mindanao situation is discussed.

In his statement to the Committee, Vice Governor Piñol revealed that he had warned Malacañang about the potential for the outbreak of hostilities between the MAngudadatus and the Ampatuans in relation to the 2010 elections. It was a warning which was explicit and clear. But in spite of that, it was ignored.

Following is the statement of Vice Governor Piñol lifted from the transcript of that hearing :

MR. PIÑOL : Government must be clear and straightforward with the MILF on what it can and cannot give. Government peace negotiators must get out of the box of the international standards and methodologies for conflict resolution and look at the Mindanao conflict as a problem we cannot and should not compare to the Northern Ireland or Darfur conflicts.

We were amused by the idea of Tony Blair negotiating peace in Mindanao. We were appalled by the suggestion that Manny Pacquiao could bring peace to Mindanao.

This shows how shallow and superficial the appreciation of some of our leaders of the problems in Mindanao. There should be no generic solution to the Mindanao conflict given the fact that problems have different complexions depending on the political, social and economic conditions of a specific area.

Take, for example, Maguindanao. What is the cause of the conflict in Maguindanao right now? It is a feud between the Ampatuans, a big political family and the MILF. And mind you, I have already forewarned Malacañang of an impending bigger trouble come 2010 elections because the Ampatuans are facing another big family, the Mangudadatus, and the Ampatuans are being backed by the military, the government. And that Sends the Mangudadatus towards the MILF orbit and this could spell trouble for Maguindanao in 2010.

I have already warned the GRP panel about this and I have forwarded this message to Chairman Rafael Seguis of the GRP panel.

The statements of Vice Governor Piñol were quite clear. The government was warned. If the warnings were heeded and the government stepped in by disabling the private armed groups in the area, we probably wouldn’t be mourning the deaths of 57 innocent people.

On whose hands have their blood spilled?

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