THE Ampatuan Massacre, the first anniversary of which journalist and media advocacy groups marked last Tuesday, November 23, achieved what had been exceedingly difficult to accomplish before it occurred. It provoked outrage among a people long desensitized by the levels of violence that characterize daily life in these islands, and put on trial a justice system that, with hardly anyone noticing, was failing to provide the value its official name promised.
When the Massacre exploded in the national consciousness, blame for the continuing killing of journalists as well as political activists had long been laid at its door — both for its weakness at the local level and its vulnerability to political manipulation at the center — as well as on police and military collusion with the killers and even direct involvement as assassins.
A LETHAL combination of warlord politics, the privatization of police, military and paramilitary groups, and a fatal underestimation of the capacity for brutality of the local tyrants who rule with the gun over some 100 localities in this country resulted in the killing of 58 men and women, including two lawyers and 32 journalists and media workers, on November 23, 2009.
Because carried out to prevent the relatives of a candidate for governor from filing the latter’s certificate of candidacy, the Ampatuan town massacre has since been described as the worst incident of election-related violence in the Philippines. But it has also earned for the country the distinction of being the venue for the worst single assault on journalists and media workers in history.
Elections this November took place in two countries that are geographically far apart, and have practically nothing in common. But the results were in both cases as expected, although due to widely different reasons.
In the case of the national elections — the first in 20 years — in Burma (officially Myanmar; the ruling military junta changed the country’s name in 1989), almost 95 percent of the 1,157 contested seats for the bicameral parliament were won by the main political party backed by the junta, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), with the rest of the seats being won by other junta- friendly parties. One opposition party that contested the elections won 16 seats, another, three.
THIS is a quick current events quiz, much like the one your high school history teacher used to give at the start of every class session, but with a difference — it’s more like a geography quiz because you have to name the country where what’s described in each section happened or is currently happening.
LOW BLOW. When one of its own was caught plagiarizing the work of foreign legal scholars, the so-called highest court of this country showed that nothing is so high it can’t stoop too low. It quickly exonerated the plagiarist by arguing that it was the justice’s researcher who made an honest mistake, was anyway moved by the best of intentions, and that, in any case, there was no malice involved.