Friday, November 27, 2009

Meeting Ronnie Zamora and a glimpse of the life of a self-proclaimed Sultan of Maguindanao

I just had the pleasure of meeting an extraordinary man yesterday, and it is no other than former Erap Executive secretary and now Minority floor leader Ronnie Zamora. Actually, the meeting was unexpected for me since I never anticipated this and it was never calendared. Yet, seems that God really finds a way for such mere mortals like me to converse with giants such as Zamora.

Zamora is a living repository of Philippine political history. You find Zamora's indelible mark of great genius from Marcos era to Arroyo's. If I am to write Philippine history, expect some great anecdotes from this guy who is a living witness of how politicos behave and is, himself, the architect of our present political life.

One of the things that fascinated me is his ever-expanding memory. He seems to remember every fine detail of his engagements with the Powers-That-Be, and knows every aspect of the political system like the back of his hand. I dare say that should the time comes when we all face the inevitability of re-imagining this system of ours, Zamora is one of the best consultants for its re-engineering. The rise and fall of regimes, I dare say, depends on how Zamora remembers the behaviors of critical actors in our times and he holds the key also on how to weaken and neutralize them.

And yes, Zamora's reputation as a trapo is evident before me. He is the consummate politician. He understands the dynamics of Philippine politics pretty well and even the nuances of New Technology and how it applies to present-day political acts that Zamora's ideas deserve a place in the New Society. Unfortunate though that like others whom I conversed with, Zamora seemed tired and already thinking of retirement instead of pushing on.

And pushing on, I think, he will. Zamora is now Manny Villar's Campaign Point man, the best man for the job. A campaign manager should be flexible, and Zamora is "It".

Two months ago, he narrates, Zamora was invited to a wedding which witnessed the formal "marriage" of Cong. Dilangalen's family and the Ampatuans. Zamora was invited as one of the principal sponsors for the wedding.

Zamora shares how he arrived in Maguindanao. He flew there with his private plane and arrived at the airport like royalty. The Ampatuans gave him their new car as his limousine and drove past hundreds even thousands of fully armed men posted in every corner.

When he arrived at the reception area, the place was crawling with political heavyweights and armed men. What surprised him though was every armed militia holds sophisticated weaponry, guns that the AFP do not have in its arsenal. Ampatuan's army is a modern one, equipped with state-of-the-art guns never seen before. Obviously, those were not the guns surrendered recently by the militia to the military, those old and unserviceable firearms that the AFP showed to the media just recently.

Anyway, Zamora felt like royalty before a self-proclaimed 'Sultan' of Maguindanao. The Ampatuans also felt like they own not just a province but a country. And they behaved like monarchs.

While listening to Zamora, I suddenly thought that the Ampatuans actually are prime models of how Mindanao would look like post-peace nego, when government hands over self-autonomy to them. If the peace process wins and power transfered from the national to the local politicians running the show there, imagine how many more Ampatuans would sprout there. It would be a disaster.

Mindanao would be embroiled in an endless political power struggle, with local warlords ranged against new and emerging powers. If the government gives the MILF the power to govern and police themselves, just imagine how many warlords and civilian militias they need to neutralize before they achieve normalcy. That would be total anarchy.

Hence, the liberation of Mindanao would not happen overnight. Even after a successful peace negotiations, Bangsamoros would really have to fight each other to achieve lasting peace.