Justice Secretary Alberto “Al” Agra decided last Friday, April 16, to clear of any liability in connection with the Maguindanao massacre ARMM Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan and cousin Akmad Ampatuan Sr., mayor of Mamasapano town in Maguindanao. Using the least believable defense–alibi–as basis, he threw out the direct testimony of a witness, the various circumstantial evidences pointing to an Andal Ampatuan family conspiracy, and the law books on the meaning of probable cause.
Understandably, all–including his own prosecutors–condemned his decision. The only remaining question is why. Why did he issued it in the first place? Why last friday and not anywhen else? Why risk a life-long reputation and become a legal pariah?
The only viable context to view his outlandish decision is the 2010 elections. Because we are talking here of the Ampatuan clan, the personal friends of president Macapagal-Arroyo’s family. Of the hard-fought presidential battle and the losing presidential bid of GMA’s candidate(s?). Of Maguindanao, the notorious nest of election cheaters and Garcillano when he was a fugitive.
What is happening in the Maguindanao in the 2010 elections? The Ampatuans, after the massacre, conveniently hid their candidacies behind other candidates, notably that of governatorial candidate Datu Ombra Sinsuat. Rumors had it that it was DILG Secretary Ronaldo Puno, architect of the Maguindanao state of emergency–existing until today–who paved the way for this transfer.
However, there were reports that the Ampatuans do not want to lose power and they are highly suspicious of the move to the Sinsuats which can be interpreted as a real power transfer and their demise as the political overlords of Maguindanao and even of the ARMM. Last month, the old man, Andal Ampatuan, Sr., called for a loyalty meeting of his candidates in his cell in the Davao City army camp
The meeting happened at a time when the two major survey outfits, Social Weather Station (SWS) and Pulse Asia, indicated a widening gulf between the front-runner, Noynoy Aquino and his closest rival, Manny Villar. These also indicated the end of the realistic bid for victory of Gibo Teodoro’s candidacy.
In this meeting, he outlined an electoral strategy for the 2010 elections aimed at ensuring victory for his candidates and, significantly, for presidential candidate Manuel Villar. His main rival, Esmael “Toto” Mangungudatu–whose wife and relatives were among those massacred earlier–was aligned with Secretary Gibo Teodoro and, possibly later, with Noynoy Aquino.
Basically, the strategy revolves on using his controlled areas in Maguindanao and elsewhere to deliver overwhelming votes to his candidates. If rumors are to be believed, this would mean the old method of ballot substitution and ballot-stuffing of the PCOS machines, or the forcible reversion to the manual election system. In both cases, the vaunted–and largely still-existing–Ampatuan armed group will be used to intimidate all those participating in local polls within their controlled areas. Maguindanao now has a 600,000+ registered voters, up from 500,000+ in the 2007 elections.
Of course, the problem is how to ensure loyalty and supervise the execution of the strategy–all the key Ampatuan leaders are in jail! Simple. Then get them out of jail!
This is where the cat got out of the bag. The role of the hapless Mr. Agra is to be a fall guy in a multi-billion, multiple stakes political game. Somebody had to get the Ampatuans out–his was the role assigned by the hard-boiled political strategists.
However, the a second cat got out of the bag–that is, the link between the Arroyos and the Villar candidacy. So far, this political resurrection of the Ampatuan is the clearest circumstantial evidence of the link. This is a real link, if only because of the risks involved in this desperate act.
The 2010 elections is now joined–the Aquino-led people’s coalition against the Villarroyo-led disparate coalition of the Marcoses, the Sisonites, the military rebels and the hard-core trapos. Is this the August 2009 people power scenario. Yes, it may be.