What happened? On the afternoon of November 23, the family and friends of Buluan, Maguindanao Vice Mayor Ismael “Toto” Mangudadatu, together with local journalists, went to the local COMELEC Office there to file the Vice Mayor’s CoC for Governor of the province.
Suddenly, unknown persons blocked their convoys in the middle of the road at Saniag town and carried out a brutal massacre, the first reported election-related violence on the proverbial road to the 2010 Elections.
Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared today (Wednesday, Nov. 25) a National Day of Mourning to remember the victims of the so-called “Maguindanao Massacre”.
The gruesome killings in Maguindanao constitute a most heinous crime. What makes it particularly so is the fact that it counts among its victims, lawyers, media reporters and other defenseless and innocent civilians. Like many others, I am appalled and outraged by it, and I join the rising chorus of indignation against it.
– Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, in a statement
Consequently, Pres. Arroyo put the provinces of Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and Cotabato City under a state of emergency to prevent a “spillover” of a clan war that has brewed for a long time. The Ampatuans reign in most of Maguindanao, while the Mangudadatus in most of Sultan Kudarat, according to a news report.
The death toll of the massacre has now reached 52, according to the head of Task Force Alpha. A partial list of victims can be viewed at Inquirer.net. Even innocent motorists behind the convoy were not spared.
Local police have tagged Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr. as the prime suspect in the massacre. Ampatuan Jr. is the son of Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr., and a relative of ARMM Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan.
However, Malacañang is quick to assert that no arrest can be done until formal cases are filed against him so as not to disturb due process of the law.
ARMM Gov. Ampatuan appealed to the masses not to speculate and not to let their emotions shape the course of the investigation. So far, the police admitted that no evidence has surfaced yet to link the Ampatuans to the massacre.
This incident has put the country in a bad light, especially at a time of major political changes leading to an all-important election.
The International Federation of Journalists reports that the Philippines has now surpassed Iraq as the most dangerous place for journalists. At least twelve mediamen wo joined the convoy of the Mangudadatus were among the victims of the massacre.
IFJ indirectly blamed Pres. GMA and her administration for “allowing a culture of impunity directed towards journalists. Under her rule, at least 74 journalists have been slayed, reports IFJ.
The incident has also highlighted the criminal, judicial and electoral systems in the country, and how it has led and inadvertedly allowed this to happen. An opinion of Rep. Roilo Golez regarding this can be read here.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Prospero Nograles encouraged all in government to set aside differences and avoid political solutions, help solve this massacre, lead the victims to justice and correct the flaws in the current systems.
This is already beyond political alliances. This horrific mass murder is just beyond human comprehension and the government should use everything in its power to arrest and prosecute those responsible for this most atrocious incident in Maguindanao.
– House Speaker Prospero Nograles
Other articles regarding the incident:
* A meeting among the Ampatuans and Presidential Adviser on Mindanao Jesus Dureza on Tuesday was questioned by a lawyer