Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. This was published in December  2, 2009 edition of the Business Mirror, page A6.

“We can’t call him an animal because I have pets and they are tame. No, he is a monster. They are monsters.” – Vice Mayor Toto Mangudadatu on the killers.

“Just because they’re in this situation doesn’t mean we will already turn ourbacks on them.  It doesn’t mean that they are no longer our friends, if ever they indeed committed the crime.” – Lorelei Fajardo, deputy presidential spokesperson, on the friendship between Mrs. Arroyo and the Ampatuans.

A backhoe bearing the markings of the provincial governor’s office stood idly by the freshly dug pits where at least 57 murder victims were dumped.

“A layer of bodies, then buried with soil, bodies again, and soil again…intended to make things difficult for us,” said the policeman in charge of recovering the cadavers.

This was not a spur-of-the-moment massacre. This was planned carnage, albeit with the sort of carelessness common among those accustomed to breaking laws with impunity.

According to the plan, the Mangundadato party was going to be stopped at a checkpoint, slaughtered, and buried along with their vehicles in two pre-excavated holes in the ground.

Did the monsters that planned the bloodbath not think someone might notice that a convoy on the way to the local Comelec office never reached its destination?

How were they going to explain the disappearance, were they going to say the convoy was abducted by aliens from outer space?

Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., principal suspect, came up with a story as fantastic as an alien abduction—MILF chieftain Umbra Kato did it!

So where did Umbra Kato get the authority to order policemen to man checkpoints and to kill political enemies of the Ampatuans? Who gave him permission to use a backhoe from the governor’s office to dig pits where the bodies of the victims would be hidden?

The principal suspect’s brother, ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan, said he was with Gloria Arroyo at the time of the massacre. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall listening to Zaldy and Gloria discuss the horrific incident.

It might have helped me understand why Gloria directed her personal adviser on Mindanao affairs, Jesus Dureza, to talk to the Ampatuans first instead of immediately sending a battalion of soldiers and policemen to restore the rule of law.

Prior to the bloodbath, Gloria offered Vice Mayor Toto Mangungdadato several positions in her government to dissuade him from running for governor, a post her friends, the Ampatuans, considered their private property.  Mangundadato did not bite.

And so a clan war loomed. But Gloria did not disarm the clans. She did not even replace the provincial military and police forces with units not associated with either clan.

The massacre showed that Gloria Arroyo lost control the situation. She failed to govern and yet she feigns governance.

“I will be firmly in control of our national government until my last day in office. I will keep a steady hand on the tiller of the ship of state.”

She said that days after Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita admitted her government was inept.

“Too bad this thing had to happen. We don’t have full control of the situation on the ground, mortals as we are. Because we are only humans, we cannot stop these things from happening, but we will just do whatever is legally possible within human limits to be able to stop [them] and improve on our performance as a government and as a country.”

June 30, 2010. So near and yet so far away.