Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms.This was published in the January 27, 2010 edition of the Business Mirror, page A6.

“The testimony of vice-mayor Toto Magundadato at the bail hearing of Andal Ampatuan Jr. showed that Gloria Arroyo was derelict in her duty to keep the peace in Maguindanao,” I told my balikbayan friend.


“You haven’t heard of Toto’s testimony on the events that led up to the massacre?” I asked.

“I just arrived, my friend,” he replied.

“Then I’ll update you.”


“Shooting came at the end, buddy. Anyway, the feud started in 2006 when Toto decided to run for governor against Ampatuan Sr.”

“The killings started in 2006?”

“No, Ampatuan was able to dissuade Toto from running.”


“He told Toto three new provinces would be created and one would be for him.”


“Unfortunately, Toto’s province never materialized.”

“And that’s when the killings started.”

“No, because Shariff Kabunsuan province was created and Toto’s brother, Freddie, would, by law, become vice-governor.”

“And Freddie lived happily ever after,” he smiled.

“No, Freddie was not allowed to assume office because Ampatuan preferred Toto.”

“And that’s when the killings started.”

“No, because two new municipalities were created specially for brothers Freddie and Sajib.”

“And peace reigned.”

“No, because in 2007, Toto was again thinking about running for governor.”

“And that’s when the killings started.”

“No, because Ampatuan, accompanied by Toto’s uncle, Congressman Pax Mangundadato, called on Toto. Uncle asked nephew not to challenge Ampatuan and nephew told uncle he wouldn’t.”

“And Ampatuan lived happily ever after.”

“No, because Toto changed his mind again.”

“What happened next?”

“Soon after Toto reneged on his word, the provincial police director of Maguindanao confiscated the guns of Toto’s municipal police, for inventory purposes.”

“Inventory as a precautionary measure, clever,” he said.

“Another precautionary measure followed. This time the Maguindanao police chief, backed by the 76th and 601st infantry battalions disarmed the police force of Pandan where Toto’s brother was mayor.”

“And that’s when the killings started.”

“No, because the next day, July 9, 2009, Toto went to Pampanga to personally report the incident to Gloria Arroyo. She immediately phoned AFP chief Ibrado and ordered the guns returned.”

“So she believes in a level playing field.”

“In a strange way, yes. But Gloria worried the situation would get out of hand. So 11 days after Toto’s visit to Pampanga, Gabby Claudio, her chief political adviser, tried to reconcile the feuding clans. But no ‘kissy-kissy’ took place. A second meeting on Aug.11 also failed.”

“And that’s when the killings started.”

“Not yet, because Toto asked then Defense Secretary Gibo Teodoro to relieve  Maguindanao police chief Dikay and Col. Medardo Geslani, head of the 601st IB, and Teodoro said he would look into it.”

“And Toto lived happily ever after.”

“No, because nothing happened. But Teodoro met with Toto again on Oct.10 and told Toto,  “Don’t run for governor. I care for you a lot, Toto. You know those people (Ampatuans) are prone to violence.’”

“That’s all Teodoro did?”

“Yes. But in early November, the month of the massacre, former congressman Prospero Pichay of Lakas-Kampi phoned Toto and repeated Teodoro’s warning.”

“So Toto was warned but he didn’t back off and so…”

“You’re blaming the victim.”

“Am I?” he taunted.

“Yes, like Gloria’s mouthpiece Gary Olivar.”


I quoted Olivar, “In terms of fair warning and due notice, it seems that we were not negligent. I’m not sure what else ought to have been done. At the end of the day, it was the decision of the candidate if he would proceed with his candidacy based on the information he had received.”

“He’s right,” my friend insisted.

“Gloria could do nothing beyond warning Toto?”

“What else could she do?”

“Plenty, read the riot act to both factions, replace the police and military units assigned there, disarm both sides …”

And that’s when my supposedly clueless friend suddenly quoted Teodoro.

“When I became defense secretary, there were threats from the MILF, a possibility that war could erupt, Christians were fighting, and kidnappings were happening all over the country, so we cannot disarm. We couldn’t sustain it and it could have led to more trouble.”

“Well, Gloria found the political will to disarm Maguindanao after the massacre, didn’t she?” I shot back.

“Obviously her newborn political will was the stepchild of her political won’t.”  He laughed.