November 26, 2009
By Carlos H. Conde
MANILA — The death toll in Monday’s election violence rose to 57 on Wednesday, the Philippine authorities said, as 11 more bodies were recovered.
The regional police commander in Maguindanao Province, Josefino Cataluna, said the bodies were dug out from a shallow pit near a grassy hilltop where police officers and troops had found 46 others after Monday’s attack, The Associated Press reported. He said the victims included the family of a gubernatorial candidate and 18 Filipino journalists who accompanied his relatives in filing his election papers.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Tuesday declared a state of emergency in the contiguous provinces of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat and in the city of Cotabato on the southern island of Mindanao. The measure gives the police and army the authority to apprehend and detain those who carried out the slaughter.
The southern Philippines has been plagued for years by secessionist and Islamist insurgencies. The United States sends $1.6 billion annually in military and economic aid to the Philippines, with much of it aimed at a shadowy Islamist group, Abu Sayyaf, which has ties to Al Qaeda.
The authorities said that this week’s election violence had nothing to do with those groups, but that it was rooted in rivalries among local clans that the government had empowered as a way of combating the insurgents. One clan, the Ampatuans, is considered the closest political ally of Mrs. Arroyo in that part of the southern Philippines.
November 23, 2009
The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) condemns in the strongest terms the recent election-related violence in Maguindanao province which claimed the lives of 36 people, including members of the Mangundadatu family, their supporters and staff, 2 lawyers and several journalists. The abduction and killings were so brazen that it has shocked everyone, even those in Malacanang. The massacre was indiscriminate and was carried out with utter disregard for the law by apparently powerful and influential forces. We condemn in particular the killing of women, lawyers and journalists.
A swift and impartial probe must now be conducted and the perpetrators of this heinous crime must be brought to justice. The full force of the law must be made to bear on the killers.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo must not let her political association with the Ampatuan family stand in the way of a speedy and impartial investigation into the incident. The national government must step in and enforce the law since the local police is not likely capable of conducting an impartial probe or may be vulnerable to pressure by the powerful political families in the province.
We support the call for the disarmament and dismantling of private militias in the area which have long existed but have been seemingly tolerated by the government. The national government can no longer turn a blind eye to the long-standing problem of warlordism and violence in the province.
Those public officials being linked to the killings must now be relieved or must take a leave of absence in order to give way to an impartial probe. The Philippine National Police leadership in the province should also be relieved.
Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner was quoted as saying the 100 men who staged the abduction were allegedly led by Mayor Datu Unsay Ampatuan and one Police Senior Inspector Dicay of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Shariff Aguak. This serious allegation involving local government and police officials should also be looked into.