Of Kindred Spirits And Betrayal

The Arroyo government and the Ampatuans were once of kindred spirits.

Lorelei Fajardo, Arroyo’s deputy spokeswoman during her presidency, once said:

” If we will see later on that the Ampatuans are found guilty based on the investigation, then whether ally or not they will not be given special treatment and they should be punished… but it doesn’t mean that we are no longer friends with them if they are guilty. I think that should be treated separately.”

Indeed, to show their bond and friendship, the Arroyo government had cook up very intriguing  schemes to help out their loyal political allies.

Arroyo’s government declared early on that the Ampatuans were suspected rebels instead of suspected murderers. I doubt that it was a way to catch them, but perhaps to get them off the hook through the clever use of the “Hernandez doctrine”.  This is based on a landmark Supreme Court decision which states that crimes like multiple murder are absorbed into the crime of rebellion.   A rebel cannot be tried for murder and at the same time for rebellion. Therefore, if the rebellion case is dismissed, the “rebel” cannot anymore be tried for any murder he committed while in the act of rebellion.

What is Kindred Spirits?

The words “kindred” and “spirit” both arose from the 13th century. Kindred evolved from the Old English word kinraden, which itself came from the word raeden, meaning to “condition” or “rule.” Spirit has its roots in the Old French word, “espirit.” The word kindred generally refers to family or relatives, while spirit has many meanings, including the original version of the word, espirit, meaning “soul, courage, vigor and breath.” The term “kindred spirit” itself has an unclear history in terms of its first usage.

Kindred spirits come in all forms. A co-worker who hates the company as much as you do, a sibling who shares your parental frustrations or a neighbor who boycotts the same block party as you all count as kindred spirits. In an informal way, this term has come to mean someone you feel a connection with, or someone who understands you. There are kindred spirits who seem to share all of your goals, ambitions and thought processes and there are those who share with you only one unique quality. Someone who has a rare illness, for example, may find a kindred spirit in someone who has little in common with them except for a diagnosis.

Kindred Spirits are people that make a special connection by sharing a bond that has joined them by the means of an experience that has drawn them together on a higher level of consciousness. This connection can be from the same experience at the same time or two separate experiences similar in nature.

If these people were in a dramatic situation and had to depend on each other in order to get out of the situation or one having to help rescue the other, they would become bonded as kindred spirits.

Oftentimes, these people had both come from very bad past situations in a relationship; a bond is then reached because an understanding of what the other had been through where they feel no one else truly understands, through this they have become kindred spirits.

The Maguindanao Massacre

It has been two years since the gruesome mass murder that took place on a lonely dirt road in Maguindanao shook and awakened us to the terrifying reality of local warlords who conduct themselves as if they were beyond the reach of the law. Esmael Mangudadatu, now the governor of Maguindanao, was then challenging the powerful Ampatuan clan, and this challenge brought in grave consequences claiming the life of his wife, sisters, and many media workers. Fifty-seven people were killed in the massacre perpetrated allegedly by armed men led by Datu Unsay town Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr.. The body of a supposed 58th victim, journalist Reynaldo Momay, still remains missing.

The victims were on their way to Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao to file the certificate of candidacy for governor of then Buluan town Vice Mayor  Mangudadatu, when they were mercilessly mowed down by members of this powerful Muslim clan. Were it not for the fact that the majority of the victims were media people, the case against the Ampatuans might not have reached the courts. Despite the ruthless manner in which the Mangudadatu women were killed, it is not unlikely that the perpetrators of this crime would have succeeded in localizing the conflict and eventually settling it according to customary rules.

The Ampatuans and the Arroyo Government

November 23, 2009 – the carnage in Maguindanao took place.

November 26, 2009 – Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza, after negotiating with Andal Ampatuan Sr., obtained physical custody of  Andal Ampatuan Jr., the alleged leader of the band of killers.

December 4, 2009 – President Arroyo signed Proclamation No. 1959 placing Maguindanao province under Martial Law and suspending the writ of habeas corpus there.

December 6, 2009 – Andal Ampatuan Sr and another son, Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Zaldy Ampatuan were detained by the authorities.

Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera justified Martial Law by saying, ” It was a looming and in fact it was already practically an overthrow of government. The courts were not functioning in Maguindanao.”  However, she contradicted herself by adding that: ” There were arrests and there were witnesses that came up and the appropriate charges were filed for multiple murder.” How were the charges filed, if the courts were not functioning?

The proclamation 1959 sent a chilling reminder of the Philippine authorities’ failure to eradicate longstanding threats to law and order, including the existence of political warlords and private armies, which have attacked civilians and journalists in the past.

Many senior government, military and police officials collectively justified turning the Ampatuans into rebels instead of the alleged monsters who murdered in broad daylight 57 people and then tried to bury the bodies.

Interior and Local Governments Secretary Ronaldo Puno was very exact and all-knowing as to the date when the Ampatuans and their followers suddenly turned into rebels – November 26, 2009 – after Andal Ampatuan Jr. was turned over to the government without handcuffs.

“On November 26, when action was being taken against suspects on multiple murder – apparently all these forces (rostered policemen and various kinds of civilian militia men) switched their allegiance to their family (the Ampatuans).”

He said that instead of defending the Constituiton and the Republic of the Philippines, “they now become instruments of violating the law of land, no longer following the chain of command.”

He added, “This was really the incipient rebellion at that time. On Nov 26 we told the secretary of justice (Devanadera) a condition of rebellion already existed.”

Justice Secretary Devanadera agreed to these statements.

Was it possible no switching of allegiance from the Republic to the Ampatuans took place, and therefore there was no rebellion, because the civilian militia men called CVOs and SCAAs were never really loyal to the Republic but only to the Ampatuans who caused them to be hired in the first place?

How could thousands of Ampatuan followers suddenly switched allegiance from the Republic of the Philippines to the Ampatuans?

It was also clear that all the firepower that the Ampatuans has was not amassed in a week but probably took months and even years.

The  authorities elaborated on the “rebel” theme. They described the Ampatuan followers as in “offensive” and “defensive” positions. But the only firefight they could point to – to justify the Martial Law declaration – happened Sunday night of December 6 for ten minutes – and nearly 48 hours after Martial Law was imposed.

Such a brief firefight is nothing compared to those battles with the MILF and the Abu Sayyaf which last an entire day or days.  And yet Martial Law was never imposed for those.

How could a 10-minute “firefight” be used to justify imposing Martial Law when this happened nearly two days after Martial Law was imposed?

The government additionally justified Martial Law by saying it feared an outbreak of violence between the Ampatuan and Mangudadatu clans.  It had described both clans as “well-armed”.

Police Director General Jesus Versoza (second on the right in the video) and Police spokesman Senior Superintendent Leonardo Espina dazzled us with an enumeration of the wide array of high-powered weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition they had seized from the Ampatuans’ huge warehouses and palatial homes.

If truly both sides were “well-armed”, how come the Mangudadatus were not disarmed  by the government as well.

If the Ampatuans were indeed rebels, they seemed to be a different species altogether.

To understand why many were stupefied at the sudden declaration of Martial Law to catch the Ampatuans, let me give you these facts:

1. Filipino rebels are just a phone call away. It is actually easier to reach by mobile phone a communist or Muslim rebel leader than a high government official.

2. For those covering rebels since 1987, the Ampatuans have never been in their radar. In fact, top officials of the Moro National Liberation Front felt very aggrieved that the Muslim autonomy they had won with the blood of their warriors was handed on a silver platter by Arroyo to an Ampatuan, whose clan had continuously opposed them during the Marcos dictatorship.

3. By being suspected of killing journalists en masse just before launching their rebellion, they had ensured that the media would boycott and even be hostile towards them. What strange rebels indeed because rebels usually exert effort to  communicate with media to air their grievances. As a rule, rebels don’t liquidate journalists because it is not in their creed and not to their advantage. If the Ampatuans had turned rebels on November 26, why did Governor Zaldy Ampatuan hold a press conference three days later to appeal to media and the presidential palace to treat him fairly? That would have been the perfect time to launch their rebellion.

4. Even the Abu Sayyaf, branded terrorist by the United States and the European Union, have merely held hostage and robbed journalists who come to cover them. They have yet to behead a reporter deliberately, knock on wood.

5. Rebels usually secrete documents laying out their ideology and plans. When the Magdalo group first burst into the picture, the president’s national security adviser Victor Corpuz presented computer diskettes they found to extensively detail the Magdalo’s ideology. All that ransacking the government did inside the various Ampatuan mansions failed to turn up a single piece of paper outlining the Ampatuan rebel ideology.

Does the acts of  the Ampatuans met the legal definition of rebellion?

The Revised Penal Code defines rebellion as “rising publicly and taking arms against the Government for the purpose of removing allegiance from said Government the territory of the Repulic of the Philipines or any part thereof…or depriving the Chief Executive or the Legislature, wholly or partially, of any of their powers or prerogatives.”

Rebellion is being committed by Muslim separatists trying to secede; by communist rebels trying to violently overthrow government; and by soldier rebels trying to unseat the Philippine president.

So what did the Ampatuans try to do to merit such a label?

Many foreign and local journalists who regularly take the red-eye flight to central Mindanao to cover the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) know the reputation of the Ampatuans. They are the king of the hill, the warlords, the overlords, the one whose 15-car speeding convoy you avoid on the highway if you don’t want your car to end up like a pretzel. These journalists take their life in their hands whenever they cover in the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Manila’s insurance firms have even attached a permanent rider to their life and accident insurance products that says – “Death due to non-natural causes is not covered if this occured in the ARMM area”.

Of Betrayal

January 2010 – A month after being taken into custody, Andal Jr. was arraigned in court.

April 16,  2010 –  Arroyo’s acting Justice Secretary Alberto Agra dropped murder charges against Zaldy Ampatuan. Assistant chief state prosecutor Richard Fadullon criticized the decision of Agra ordering prosecutors to drop Zaldy and Akmad “Tato” Ampatuan from the murder raps. In a joint statement, the panel of prosecutors handling the case denounced the “patently erroneous resolution” issued by Agra absolving the 2 Ampatuans. The prosecutors said “they cannot side idly by and be mute witnesses to another injustice committed by the acting secretary of an office tasked to dispense justice fairly.”

May 4, 2010 – In response to a motion for reconsideration from the prosecution, Agra reverses his ruling and reinstates Zaldy and Akmad Ampatuan on the charge sheet.

June 23, 2010 – Arroyo delivered her farewell message, exactly a week before she steps down.

July 1, 2010 – Arroyo stepped down from the presidency.

August 5, 2010 – Defense reveals that it plans to present former President Gloria Arroyo as a witness in the massacre case. A week later, the defense decides to drop her from its list of witnesses.

November 16, 2010 -Human Rights Watch releases a report claiming the Ampatuan clan was behind the killings of at least 56 other people in the last two decades.

February 1, 2011 – The Court of Appeals denies Andal Sr’s request to be taken off the charge sheet.

June 1, 2011 – Andal Sr. was arraigned in court and pleads not guilty, 11 Months after Aquino won the Presidential race.

June 6, 2011 – The Court of Appeals orders the freezing of about 700 bank accounts of the Ampatuan clan, including a number of their properties, as the government set out to determine if they were ill-gotten.

June 8, 2011 – Once again, the defense tells the court it is planning to present Mrs. Arroyo as a witness, this time for Andal Sr.

July 11, 2011 –  Zaldy Ampatuan expressed that he wants to  offer his inside knowledge on both the Maguindanao massacre case and the alleged poll fraud in Mindanao in exchange for his security and protection. He announced that his family had helped Mrs Arroyo cheat in the 2004 and 2007 elections. He then later on proposes to become a state witness in the for both crimes.

Has the Ampatuans lost all hope and faith in the Arroyos ? Have they given up their alliance or friendship with her because they felt they would have a better chance of reduced sentence, or even freedom, if they work with the Aquino government?

Zaldy’s sudden change of mind, which drew the nation’s attention on Monday night when the news broke out, was met with indignation and doubt from Pinoy social media users who questioned his motives for turning against his kin.

DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima of the  had earlier closed the doors on Zaldy’s offer, saying he did not qualify in all the essential elements for being counted a state witness. In the first place, he had repeatedly claimed he was not a participant in the crime and was in Manila when it happened.

DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo quickly made it clear that notwithstanding the security measure, Zaldy’s revelations thus far were inadequate for him to get state witness status.

Private prosecutor Harry Roque Monday night indicated disapproval of the notion of tapping Zaldy as state witness, as TV interviews seemed to project him as distancing himself from his family, a warlord clan that ruled Maguindanao for decades.

Malacañang presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said it is open to tapping Zaldy to become a state witness. “We cannot disregard his offer. It is important for us to study and assess what he can offer to the court. We will also have to study his being a co-conspirator. In case he does not qualify as state witness, we will see if his testimony can serve as a mitigating circumstance.” Later on he retracted what he said Zaldy can squeal all he wants but this won’t make him a State witness and enjoy the legal protection of the government.”

Mangudadatu, suspecting ulterior motives, has rejected the idea of turning key massacre suspect Zaldy into a state witness. He thinks Zaldy has a “hidden agenda” in volunteering to testify against his own father and brothers.

We do not need a witness coming from the masterminds, the culprits. We have many witnesses who can prove that Zaldy is one of the masterminds of the gruesome Ampatuan massacre. We do not need the testimony of Zaldy Ampatuan in the Maguindanao massacre.”

Zaldy’s lawyer Redemberto Villanueva denied reports that Zaldy was planning to turn against his father Andal Sr., who allegedly masterminded the massacre, and his brother Andal Jr., who was reported to have been present during the killings.

Villanueva explained that his client cannot be a state witness or “any kind of witness for that matter” because Zaldy already said that he was in Manila during the killings, and in Davao City when the massacre was supposedly being planned.

Zaldy had recounted in various irregularities involving Arroyo by revealing that Arroyo and her husband Jose Miguel had ordered the rigging of the 2007 senatorial elections in Maguindanao.

Zaldy also claimed that the former president got some P200 million in kickbacks from road projects in the ARMM.

Zaldy had also executed an affidavit detailing how the Ampatuan family was able to acquire high-powered firearms from the Arroyo government arsenal.

In the supposed sworn statement, the former ARMM governor alleged that Arroyo directed the Armed Forces and the Department of National Defense to provide 50-cal. and 60-cal. machine guns and bullets for the  firearms to the family.

The Ampatuans were then among Arroyo’s most favored political allies because she was using them to control the election results and to pocket billions of pesos in ‘commissions’ for different government projects in ARMM.

Why did the former ARMM governor suddenly decided to turn against Arroyo?  Was Zaldy deeply hurt by what has happened to him and his family after the Maguindanao massacre? Was Zaldy hoping that Arroyo would help them in exchange for the loyalty their family had shown to her?

Is  Zaldy trying to use his bombshells against Arroyo in a bid to convince the Aquino administration to absolve him in the massacre case?  or does he really just wanted to be heard and get protection for him and his family? Protection from whom?

As to why Zaldy spoke about what he knew about the anomalies in the Arroyo administration only recently, we could only surmise that his actions could be a sign of desperation.

Since Arroyo is no longer in the most powerful seat in government, the chances of the Ampatuans getting away with their alleged crimes are very slim, if not non-existent. But does these series of not-so surprising revelations in order to get a chance of freedom worth betraying years of friendship and loyalty?

Arroyo now faces charges of Electoral Sabotage, and I believe that is just the appetizer, for the Aquino government is surely cooking up more entrees. I can’t wait for the main course, and I wonder what the dessert would be? Let us just hope that all of these dishes they will serve are not half or over-cooked, and does not leave a bitter after-taste. Kudos to the chef if all turns out well and sumptuous.

Meanwhile, most of us Filipino people are watching these “tele-dramas” take place and extremely anxious on how it will eventually unfold, while we eat our favorite “chicharia”  infront of our television, or computer, in the comfort of our homes.

“It’s a case of self preservation. nahihirapan na cya to cover for his dad and bro. but that doesn’t mean he is innocent either.”

“Blood is still thicker than Water. I doubt na ginagawa nya ito for the sake of the victims… o para lang hindi siya masali sa kaso.”

“Truly when one loses hope, he succumbs into desperation, and turns against everybody, including his friends whom he feel has left him to rot in isolation”

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Eloy Mclaen
    Dec 11, 2011 @ 07:46:40

    I enjoy forgathering useful information , this post has got me even more info! .


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