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Opinion: Between the Lines: Two or More, Please

It’s pretty amazing how fast time can fly. Before you know it, it’s Christmas, and consequently, a new year. The year 2010 would herald a new set of leaders and possibly, a new government. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves— 2009 left a deep, if not downright terrifying, mark in the heart of every Filipino.

Last November 23, fifty-seven people were killed in an election-related massacre in the Maguindanaoan town of Ampatuan. Surprisingly, this wasn’t just a brainless killing or even the result of a suicide bombing, but an actual series of cold-blooded murders. Women, lawyers, and even reporters had been killed brutally—apparently, not even these kinds of people could deter murderers. In a statement, Joel Simon, Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), had said that the Ampatuan massacre was the deadliest single attack on the press ever documented by CPJ.
But that isn’t the point.

If, for a moment, we set aside our feelings of grief and anger over the incident, we might notice that the mass murder was a consequence of one man challenging the authority of the current governor. To be completely technical, Esmael Mangudadatu was merely trying to challenge the Ampatuans. In fact, the convoy was on its merry way to file the former’s Certificate of Candidacy when 100 armed men attacked them and killed them all, regardless of who or what they were. 

Looking back, for the previous elections wherein the Philippines has been under a multi-party system, in which not one party often has a chance of gaining power alone unless they work with each other to form coalition of governments. The major political parties in the country include Lakas-Kampi-CMD, Nationalist People's Coalition, Liberal Party, Nacionalista Party, and much more. Of course, these parties do not just involve the national government but also stretch to the various cities and provinces in the country. In fact, Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his two sons, Gov. Zaldy Uy Ampatuan of the ARMM and Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. were members of President Arroyo’s political party, Lakas-Kampi-CMD , until they were recently kicked out due to their alleged participation in the massacre.

And so, if the country is under a multi-party system since God-knows-when, wasn’t Mangudadatu allowed to even try for a gubernatorial position this coming election? Since when did Maguindanao become a monarchy? Granted, the Ampatuans had been in control of the said province since 2001, which is already pretty impressive in itself, but wouldn’t any sort of competition at least be tolerated? After all, with the amount of power and influence they have, they should be laughing and smirking at, and giving points to Mangudadatu for his hopeless attempts. Instead, innocent people are slain, Maguindanao is declared to be in a state of emergency, and the powerful Ampatuans are accomplishing their grand fall to disgrace—wonderfully. This series of events brings to mind the reason why Mangudadatu would want the gubernatorial position. Is it simply because he wanted to further his own career, and winning over Ampatuan Junior seemed plausible enough? Or, did he want to accomplish something that Gov. Ampatuan has failed to do? There are a lot of questions, and so few answers coming forth.

But the intricacies of national politics only serve to get on my nerves. Why? Because I feel helpless in the face of such blatant crimes being committed. In the end, there’s nothing left for us normal citizens to do but to wait for the decisions of the authorities, which are, hopefully, right and for the better. Instead, I would like to touch briefly on our very own election for the Nursing Council, which will be held before the end of this semester. 

Last school year, we witnessed the solo campaign of the BISIG party list. And unsurprisingly, they won, although it wasn’t too much of a sweep like most people expected. Last semester, I agreed to include my name in a list petitioning for the founding of the other party-list, SANDIGAN. I did that, not as a person with spite or grudge for the present authority, but as a fair and freedom-loving student of the College of Nursing, who would like to see a healthy competition in our own ruling body. In practice, one-party systems tend to promote executive domination of the legislature and reduce its autonomy. For that reason, I firmly believe that at least two parties are needed to ensure that there are real choices for citizens to decide on who should govern them.

After all, distribution of power will help prevent any communist-socialist form of government from occurring. And if we start on enforcing fairness and freedom in our own small election, who’s to say that it can’t happen in the large-scale government election as well?


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