Philippines political violence on Mindanao leaves 35 dead
Philippines political violence claims 35 lives on the southern island of Mindanao. An adviser to President Gloria Arroyo calls it a "massacre... unequaled in recent history."
Philippines politics has often been marred by bloodshed. From the 1983 assassination of Senator Benigno Aquino on the tarmac of the Manila airport by agents of the country's then dictator Ferdinand Marcos to the hundreds of lesser known regional candidates and their supporters murdered in the provinces over the years, the gun has frequently been an ingredient of Philippines politics.Skip to next paragraph
2011 Reflections: Suddenly, a new era in the Middle East
2011 Reflections: the end of a landmark year for Latin America
2011 Reflections: Africa rises, taking charge of its affairs
How the 'Year of the Protester' played out in Europe
In Prague, a tale of communism past
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
But the kidnapping and murders of 35 supporters (according to the Philippines Inquirer) of a candidate for governor in the southern province of Maguindanao on Monday has shocked even jaded Filipinos. The kidnapping occurred as supporters of wealthy businessman Ishmael Mangudadatu of Buluan town were traveling to the provincial capital accompanied by a number of local journalists. They planned to file papers for Mr. Mangudadatu's run for governor of Maguindanao province on the island of Mindanao.
Mr. Mangudadatu was not in the convoy but his wife Genalyn was murdered, along with about nine journalists and assorted supporters. Buluan town Mayor Ebrahim Mangudadatu, Ishmael's brother, blamed the assault on Governor Datu Andal Ampatuan, who recently stepped down at the end of his third term in charge of the restive region. Mr. Ampatuan, a hereditary clan leader whose family is the most powerful in the area, had always been elected unopposed in the past. His son Andal Jr. is expected to run for his father's slot.
"Datu" is a Malay-derived honorific that usually refers to hereditary princes or chiefs. The mostly-Muslim population of the Southern Philippines has strong Malay and Indonesian cultural influence.
Ebrahim Mangudadatu alleged that Andal Jr. led the assault, according to the Philippines Inquirer. “This is a gruesome massacre of civilians unequaled in recent history,” Jesus Dureza, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's adviser for Mindanao, said in a statement. "I strongly recommend that a state of emergency be imposed in the area and everyone be disarmed. Anything less would not work."
Many of the victims from the convoy were women, apparently sent in the mistaken hope that their presence would deter any possible attack. The Manila Times reported that a number of the victims were beheaded and buried in a mass grave. The attack began as the convoy moved through the town of Ampatuan, the clan's local stronghold. President Arroyo ordered the Philippines National Police and the military to pursue the perpetrators.