Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Maguindanao Massacre

Some of you may have heard of the recent massacre in the Philippines. It took place in the province of Maguindanao.

To sum up, an entourage of reporters, low level politicians, women, and children were taking a gubernatorial candidate's candidacy papers to the concerned office to declare himself a candidate for governor of the province. The entourage was stopped and massacred — the suspect and speculation center on the current governor. The reason the candidate sent others to file his papers is because he figured a busload of reporters, women, and children would be immune to such attack. How horrible to be wrong in such a calculation.

As of this writing 57 are reported dead, however my recollection is that near 100 people accompanied the convoy and it seems rather realistic to believe all are dead.

Now, some of you will undoubtedly know or come to know that Maguindanao is in Mindanao and the more knowledgable of you may also be aware that Maguindanao is in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. However, and I can not stress this enough — the massacre is not due to jihadism. The massacre is due to warlordism.

Here is a good discussion the event with at least one person who has in depth experience in the region.

I have read about the massacre in a number of different forums and saw a discussion about it between Chistiane Amanpour and Maria Ressa. The early part of the discussion is the most informative. Maria makes it clear she believes this event is nothing more than political violence. That is exactly what it is..

While occurrences of political violence in my corner of the world are typically "candidate e candidate" there is a closer analogy. Street gangs. The scale of gang-related killings here is not on the scale of the Maguindanao attack, but the most vicious of street (motorcycle clubs, prison gangs, etc) gangs are similarly unconcerned about the murder of those they view as being in their way or a challenge to them. Innocents? Well, that is just too bad for them. If you challenged the likes of El Rukn on their streets and you and those in your presence would be similarly dealt with.

Another angle I have seen talked about is that of rido. While there is much about this event that does not fit that model, can anyone doubt the dynamics of rido will be present? The whole situation is likely to lead to a large number of reprisals which will be returned in kind. Of course, a bigger boss could prevent such reprisals, and this report indicates a bigger boss is definitely going to be stepping in.

Even so, will it amount to more than a few low level operatives being thrown under the bus? being blamed for the entire operation? [editorial note: I had forgotten for a moment how much I detest the stricken cliche!] What would be a just outcome and how likely is it to materialize?

[Update] 2009-12-09:
The sentence reading ...can anyone doubt the dynamics of rido will be present? used to read ...can anyone doubt the dynamics of rido will be absent?. The former sentence conveys the meaning I intended and NOT the later sentence. I apologize for the error.

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