Pointing To Authority

A response to “Breakdown of authority” by Carmen Pedrosa.

John F. Kennedy once wrote that voters elect officials on the premise of trust and confidence: “They had confidence in our judgement and our ability to exercise that judgement from a position where we could determine what were their own best interest, as a part of the nation’s interest.”

Yet Miss Pedrosa does the exact opposite.  To her, the Maguindanao Massacre is not the fault of the Arroyo administration.  Surely, it wasn’t Gloria herself who ordered the massacre, and it wasn’t her who loaded up the guns, shot the victims, and buried them in a most undignified, most animalistic manner.  It is wrong, she says, to blame the Arroyo administration for that brutal slaughter down south.

A breakdown of authority.  The massacre happened under Gloria’s watch.  It happened under her Administration, during her Presidency, when she is supposed to be our leader.  Yet Miss Pedrosa insists that it is not the fault of GMA at all.

My quill is dull compared to that of Miss Pedrosa, and I have always admired her writing, but in this case, I think she’s wrong.

If we’re blaming the Arroyo administration for loading the guns up themselves, then we shouldn’t.  We should, however, blame them for the Maguindanao massacre because it happened under their watch.  It happened under their governance.  When they could have disbanded the private armies, when they could have secured victory and a mandate without the aid of warlords and warring clans and the threat of violence, they kept it alive because it was convenient for them.  It was an assurance, among many assurances, that they would be in power.  A compromise, all at the expense of peace and genuine democracy.

Yet in any situation that follows a chain of command, where responsibilities are delegated from any rung of the ladder, the one on top should be the first to assume responsibility.  Not because she did it, but because as the steward of this country’s democracy, as the President of the Philippines, a very direct, violent affront to the institutions and ideals of democracy and humanity happened under her watch, when peace and a genuine resolution to conflict and warlordism in Mindanao is and was part of her administration’s agenda.

In the best of times, Government should be granted credit where it is due; if necessary, platitudes should be heaped upon it.  In the worst of times, Government should receive blame where it is due; if necessary, criticism should be heaped upon it.  Government cannot be detached from praise, and it cannot be exonerated from blame.  As Miss Pedrosa herself writes: “Only government can apply a framework of standards, rights, benefits and duties consistently across the country, regardless of postal code.”

Those very standards, rights, benefits and duties were not consistent in the massacre.  Gloria, as President, was not in control over Maguindanao when she should have been, the grave oversight (excuse the pun) being that of a compromise with her allies, granting permission to warlords and free rein to governance, that in the end, 52 people were massacred because of that omission.  Not because GMA fired the gun – she didn’t do that – but what did do is to tolerate, permit, allow, and even encourage a culture of political violence because the prime suspect in this sickening tragedy is her ally, and that this Administration treats that ally with the softest of kid gloves, as anything but a suspect in this case.

From the very top of the ladder, she ran down every rung and somehow, escapes the responsibilities of being the President of the country where Maguindanao is found.  Great job, Madam President: to paraphrase JFK, the murderer’s fault must truly be your own.

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