A convoy of politicians and media men were ambushed, kidnapped and killed yesterday in the Mindanao province of Maguindanao—considered as the first blood drawn in connection to the 2010 elections.
As of the latest reports from authorities in Maguindanao, at least 46 people had been found dead a day after a group of armed men rained bullets on a convoy of media men and the family members and supporters of Buluan Vice-mayor Ismael Toto Mangudadatu on their way to filing his certificate of candidacy with the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
Maguindanao police discovered the bullet-ridden bodies from shallow graves in a remote farming area in the Mindanao island—a result of what is considered the most savage political massacre since the lifting of martial law in 1986 and the worst violence against journalists in the history of the modern world.
Some of the bodies, according to Regional police commander Chief Superintendent Josefino Cataluna, said that some of the victims were beheaded while some were defaced. He also said that the bodies were described in shallow graves that looked like they had been hurriedly dug up. He also said that their search yielded 17 bodies in just one grave.
Among the casualties are Mangudadatu’s wife, two female lawyers, and a number of journalists.
The massacre in Ampatuan town is allegedly the result of a clan war between Mangudadatu and Maguindanao government Datu Andal Ampatuan.
Mangudadatu allegedly asked his wife, along with some of their supporters, to file his certificate of candidacy with the Comelec with the intention of following later. However, the party was not able to make it to their destination after they were ambushed by gunmen who shot them to at close-range.
Speculations that the massacre is politically-motivated floated because Mangudadatu is planning to challenge Ampatuan for the gubernatorial seat in the province.
Ampatuan was also linked to the massacre after a provincial backhoe was found in the site where the bodies were discovered.
The Philippine national government has already declared the province a state of emergency, and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has directed authorities to solve the pre-election violence.
“No effort will be spared to bring justice to the victims and hold the perpetrators accountable to the full limit of the law,” Arroyo said on national television.