Maguindanao massacre haunts Gilbert Teodoro
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2010-02-02

People who know administration presidential candidate Gilbert Teodoro wonder where his “screen name” GIBO came from. They never knew him to be GIBO – in fact the first time they ever heard him being called GIBO was when his infomercials were launched last year.

In a recent get together where folks who know Gilbert Teodoro were present, the consensus for the use of GIBO was that he wanted to have a handle that will make him more familiar to the masses. It was some sort of a communications tool to promote easy recognition and recall.

We were ready to accept that explanation until somebody in our group cracked that GIBO means GMA’s (Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s) Interests Before Others. And what may have been intended as a pun on GIBO is unfortunately, for Gilbert Teodoro, the very millstone that weighs heavily on his candidacy and keeps his ratings in low single digit. He is equated with more of GMA.

In last Friday’s ANC Youth Forum which was held at the De La Salle University campus along Taft Avenue in Manila, Teodoro was besieged for having been the lone speaker who saw nothing wrong with the GMA regime that deserved prosecution. While it may have been a noble gesture to remain loyal to his patroness, it nevertheless dooms Teodoro’s candidacy in an election where the majority of the voters are seeking to remove all vestiges of the GMA scandal-plagued regime.

Indeed, if Teodoro sees nothing wrong with the GMA regime — does that not suggest that he will maintain the same kind of an Ombudsman and Justice Department where the biggest fishes among the crooks are protected? Does that not suggest more extra-judicial killings, more election fraud, bigger plunder, extravagance and taxes?

Teodoro may not have realized it but this fealty of his to GMA puts his character and judgment under question. How can we expect reform and economic salvation from a man who sees nothing wrong with the GMA regime which ruined our democratic institutions and made the lives of our poor more miserable? How can we expect justice to resurrect in our country when the new president – should Teodoro be that new president – sees nothing wrong with the GMA regime’s justice apparatus and bad practices?

Vice Mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu’s emotional testimony last January 27 during the Maguindanao Massacre trial hearing was very damaging to Gilbert Teodoro. Toto Mangudadatu blamed the GMA regime for failing to prevent the murders and he even narrated how then National Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro tried to dissuade him from running for Governor in the province so as to avoid violence.

Teodoro cannot escape accountability for the monsters that the GMA regime coddled in Maguindanao and are now the massacre prime suspects. The fact that he warned Toto Mangudadatu of the threat of Ampatuan violence proves that Teodoro is aware of the capability of the Ampatuans owing to the arms and carte blanche the GMA regime gave them.

More than just warn the potential victim of the threat, Teodoro should have removed the threat. That was his mandate as Defense Secretary and he had the capability to do it as proved by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) after they arrested the Ampatuans, neutralized their private army and confiscated their huge arms cache.

Teodoro’s advertising projects his “galing at talino (competence and talent)” and so we wonder where his competence and talent were when he failed to remove the threat in Maguindanao. The Maguindanao Massacre not only raised questions on Teodoro’s competence and talent but also on his judgment and character.

Indeed, what good is a person’s competence and talent if these are focused on doing the wrong things? Adolf Hitler’s generals were competent and talented but look at what they unleashed in the world in terms of death and destruction.

During the De La Salle Youth Forum, Teodoro lamely defended the policy to arm the Ampatuans by citing the other threats in the region, specifically the MILF rebellion. That is precisely the big issue — arming those who could become the worse threat to the community. This is simply the surrender of AFP functions to dubious groups.

Many of us wonder if the government armed and sponsored warlords are being coddled for selfish political interests more than their announced role of countering local threats. We know by now the role the Ampatuans played during the controversial 2004 and 2007 elections.

It is also doubtful if the Ampatuans and their private army could have really deterred an MILF offensive if it came. After the Maguindanao Massacre, there were reports from the region that the Ampatuans and their minions were going to be attacked by the MILF, as reprisal for the murders.

The reports further stated that many of Ampatuan’s people sought to meet with the MILF leaders to explain their side and seek forgiveness. The government falsely announced this as Ampatuan people seeking to join the MILF, perhaps to heighten the threat and justify martial law in the province.

Those reports debunk the Ampatuan capability to neutralize the MILF threat in their area. What this Ampatuan armed force is most useful for is securing the political interests of its political patrons. Is that why Teodoro wanted to convince Toto Mangudadatu not to run instead of removing the Ampatuan threat to the Mangudadatus and their supporters?

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