Ampatuan and Comelec blues

>> Sunday, December 20, 2009

Alfred P. Dizon

Somebody should talk with officials of Webster’s Dictionary or Guinness Book of World Records to make “ampatuan” a synonym of “impunity” in the English language. Anyway both terms have the same number of letters and more or less sound the same. You could make it into an adjective or a verb. “Ampatuan” could be pronounced “aim-pay-two-ain” to make it sound stateside. The pronouncement of “impunity” could be revised to conform to “ampatuan” thus -- “aim-pio-naytay” – like the peculiar Australian accent.

You see natay, in the Filipino Ilocano dialect means dead and conformity is a must in Maguindanao. Ampatuan could be made a synonym of impunity considering people all over the globe are now familiar with the name after those CNN and BBC reports.

This, after this character named Andal Ampatuan Jr. was charged as the mastermind in the recent massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao, a province of this Banana Republic called the Philippines. The victims were lawyers, journalists, clan members of a rival tribe, supporters or simply passersby.

To cut the story short, the victims were killed to prevent Vice Mayor Esmael Mangundadatu from filing his certificate of candidacy as governor of the province. His wife who was supposed to file the COC was mutilated and killed along with the others after they were stopped on a remote road by around a hundred men of Ampatuan, some of them reportedly policemen and members of paramilitary units.
They were rounded up, the women raped and systematically killed by shooting them in different parts of their body including the children. They were brought to a hill where they were buried in a deep and wide grave along with the vehicles they were riding in.

These scoundrels did the dastardly act with impunity thinking not even the government would dare cross their path as the Ampatuans were credited with giving national administration candidates in the 2007 elections magic votes in what mathematicians and social scientists called “statistically impossible.”

How opposition candidates were able to garner zero as tabulated by the Commission on Elections is one for the Guinness Book of World records. Of course, thinking the government wouldn’t touch them since they helped its candidates last elections, they committed their mea culpa of killing the 57 victims.

According to the Commission on Human Rights, witnesses are now coming out who would testify the Ampatuans not only killed the 57 people but there were also around 200 more who have been killed by them or their henchmen over the years they were in power.
How they were also able to amass numerous weapons of destruction like guns, grenades, battle tanks and what have you is also one for the books. They were also accused of using government funds worth millions of pesos like the Internal Revenue Allotment as their own private funds. They had numerous latest model vehicles while their constituents were living in abject poverty. They totally controlled Maguindanao and nobody dared go against them until the latest massacre.

Now, reluctant government big shots and those living in the big house beside the Pasig River are reluctantly and slowly rounding up and charging the perpetrators in court due to public outcry and indignation over the massacre from the national and international levels.

The Ampatuans have been doing things with impunity. Now it is high time we let humanity and the generations to come remember what these scoundrels did by making ampatuan synonymous to impunity, massacre or death. There should be a stronger word for it but I leave that to brighter heads as compared to this coconut of mine.
It is a good development the Comelec has finally come to its senses and extended registration of voters up to January next year following a Supreme Court ruling on the matter. In the Cordillera alone, the Comelec regional office admitted it does not yet have a complete list of registered voters in the entire region since it just started validating records of the 266,859 individuals who were able to register from December, 2008 to October 31, 2009 in preparation for the May, 2010 elections.

This and the Comelec still thinks it can run elections May next year through its computerization program. I sent somebody to get results of those who filed their certificates of candidacies in the region a week after the deadline of filing and wonder of wonders, the COCs were still not in. What more if it were election day? I wonder what different kinds of magic would have transpired particularly in counting of votes.

Anyway, based on summary of registration turnout, the regional Comelec claimed earlier projection of only 200,000 registrants increased by 40 percent because of influx of supposed first-time voters for the upcoming polls.

Lawyer Julius Torres, Comelec-Cordillera regional director, said the figure does not only refer to first-time voters but also includes previous voters who transferred, sought reactivation and correction or change in entries in their records.

Benguet recorded the highest number of registrants during the 10-month registration period with 82,062; followed by Mountain Province with 51,223; Abra, 36,033; Baguio City, 35,288; Kalinga, 29,217; Ifugao, 18,733; and Apayao, 14,403.

Regional Comelec officials said they hope to finish review of records before the poll body releases the official count of registration turnout in the region. Comelec officials also said they were coordinating with regional police to lay groundwork for the May elections next year. I wonder what kind of coordination this is. Let us hope it is not a Maguindanao-inspired ampatuan poll counting system.


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