GUEST EDITORIAL| MAGUINDANAO ONE YEAR AGO (DAY TWO)

(NOTE: Part 2 of a 4-day series recalling 4 critical days of the so-called Maguindanao massacre authored by Dureza , former presidential adviser for Mindanao. He is now back in government as Peace Secretary)

12 NOON – A teleconferencing call connected Bert and me to the Palace where the President was presiding over a hastily called cabinet security cluster meeting. They aborted the planned cabinet meeting in Boracay. This had been trademark President Arroyo. She personally would monitor crisis situations with her cabinet members providing inputs. Although I was “crisis manager”, she was always there through texts and calls. She was giving specific instructions to me, Sec Bert, PNP Chief Jess and AFP Vice CS Maclang.   Suggestions from the other cabinet members came. The main task was to do a swift investigation,   bring in Datu Unsay and the perpetrators, attend to the victims and assist their families, and do preemptive steps to prevent all-out fighting from erupting among the contending parties.

1:00 PM – The crisis management committee was activated. Assisting me were Eastmincom Gen Ferrer, PNP 12 Director Serapio. DOJ Usec Ric Blancaflor’s name was in the box to handle investigation through the NBI.

2:00 PM – Bert left to fly back to Manila. I set up base camp at the brigade HQ. A conference room (functional but hot) , a small room with a bed to sleep in, etc were provided by Col Geslani, the commander. Anticipating that I might be in for a long haul, we bought 2 aircon units so the staff would stand the heat.

It was at this time that I operationalized an action plan which I initially formulated that evening for the crisis. It was an old-fashioned plan from past experiences.

3:00PM – Having talked with the Mangudadatus, I decided to go see the Ampatuans in Shariff Aguak. I felt confident. Both families were my friends. And I had direct access to them. Some quiet arrangements were made for my visit. Only with my staff and without military escorts, except for one military officer as guide, I motored to the Ampatuan enclave in Shariff Aguak.   The media group which earlier wanted to join me did not follow my vehicle. I was relieved as I would not be able to help them in case something bad would happen along to way. I was not even sure of our own safety due to the tense situation with so many armed elements along the whole route.

3:45PM –I entered the Ampatuan fenced premises and the patriarch Gov. Andal Ampatuan, Sr was there waiting for me. It was my first visit to that house which was a bit interior in location unlike the big palatial house along the main highway in the center of town. With him seated in a native kiosk on the sprawling grounds were several ARMM and Maguindanao officials and relatives. Armed followers were everywhere in full battle gear with armored personnel carriers parked in strategic areas. (To be continued)

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