by Ed Lingao
Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism – PCIJ

It is the seat of Bangsamoro pride and the heartland of the Moro Sultanate. But as authorities slowly unearth the events that unfolded along a remote stretch of highway Monday morning, November 23, Maguindanao province now holds the distinction of having the worst single case of election violence in recent Philippine history.

mindanaomassacre
APPEAL TO GOVERNMENT. Ruby Padilla Sison, Gabriela North Cotabato head, urges the dismantling of political dynasties during a protest rally held Wednesday to denounce the Maguindanao massacre. ORLANDO B. DINOY / INQUIRER MINDANAO

As of Monday night, authorities have found at least 21 mutilated bodies in Masalay, Datu Abdullah Sangki town in Maguindanao. They are believed to belong to a group of 50 people, including 30 local journalists, that departed Buluan town earlier in the day to witness the filing of the certificate of candidacy of gubernatorial hopeful Ishmael Mangudadatu at the Comelec office in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao.

Authorities say the convoy was waylaid by a large group of armed men; Mangudadatu insists that the men were led by his political rival, Andal Ampatuan. Ishmael himself avoided filing his certificate of candidacy in person because of political tensions between him and Ampatuan. Instead, he sent his wife Genalyn and other female relatives, hoping that the females and the accompanying journalists would defuse the tension.

As of press time however, authorities have still not found the other members of the convoy. Instead, army officials say they recovered the mutilated bodies of 13 women and eight men. Some of the bodies have already been identified as belonging to people from the ill-fated convoy. Their vehicles were recovered by the highway, the contents ransacked of all valuables.

Media groups also fear for the lives of the missing journalists who accompanied the convoy. The Philippine Daily Inquirer says that some 37 journalists signed an attendance sheet just before the convoy left Buluan town at 9am. It would be the single largest group of journalists captured or held hostage in the world.

While Moros have always been proud of both their long history of resistance and a rich and colorful culture, politics in many areas in Muslim Mindanao are still overshadowed by the influence of powerful clans that dictate both affiliations and allegiances, especially in long-running blood feuds called rido. These clans hold sway over their areas much like feudal overlords of old, with the power of life or death over their subjects at their fingertips.

The private armies of these ruling clans are, for all intents and purposes, also funded through government coffers. Since the local government code allows local officials to choose their local police chiefs, many local policemen are ineffectual at best, or act as bodyguards of the local mayor or congressman. In addition, local officials have also effectively used the threat of the Moro secessionist movement in the area to deputize and arm their own men using taxpayers’ money. These deputies or militiamen are called civilian volunteer officers, or CVOs, who join occasional military operations, but for the most part merely take orders from local officials.

ampatuan-candidates
AMPATUAN candidates in the May 2007 elections [photo by Jaileen Jimeno]

In the wake of Monday’s incident in Maguindanao, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism revisits several stories the Center has published on Maguindanao’s culture and politics, and its culture of politics.

Our former deputy executive director Jaileen Jimeno wrote a series of stories in 2008 that focused on the province. “Amid the fighting, the clan rules in Maguindanao” looked at the influential Ampatuan clan and its close ties to Malacanang: “(Analysts) note that no less than the Palace made it legal for the Ampatuans to have hundreds of armed men and women under their employ. The 1987 Constitution bans private armed groups. In July 2006, however, the Arroyo administration issued Executive Order 546, allowing local officials and the PNP to deputize barangay tanods as ‘force multipliers’ in the fight against insurgents. In practice, the EO allows local officials to convert their private armed groups into legal entities with a fancy name: civilian volunteer organizations (CVO).”

A sidebar, “Young guns, young terror” focused on how private armies in Maguindanao are filled by young recruits. Meanwhile, “Maguindanao, RP fall behind key indicators for education” examined how the province has been falling behind Millennium Development Goals for education, a situation exacerbated by armed conflict in the region.

In 2006, journalist Samira Gutoc penned a first-person piece about being a journalist in Mindanao, and the challenges idealistic young Moros face as they struggle to bring about change to the region.

Gutoc was part of a documentary project with Howie Severino in 2002 that focused on the conflict in Mindanao as well as efforts of the people there to move beyond the conflict. In a story for the PCIJ, Severino noted how, while the conflict between the government and various rebel groups hog the headlines, minor wars between feuding families generally went unreported.

Recently, the PCIJ also published a photo essay by Nonoy Espina on mostly-forgotten refugees in Maguindanao, which underscores the role journalists play to bring to light the plight of people in the conflict-ridden area.

Maguindanao, as one of the five poorest provinces in the country, is also part of Suriin ang Kahirapan, a PCIJ crowdsourcing project that aims to audit the poverty in these places.

The Maguindanao Massacre: a map and timeline – GMANews.tv

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15 COMMENTS

  1. My wishful thinking, if i borrow someone’s words:

    I wish what happen in Maguindanao will not happen again

    anywhere in PI especially in Biliran.

    Let us put a stop a blogger using alias advertising about

    KILLING! The word alone encourages violence, and I

    hope those Maguindanao murderous dynasty polticians(mga

    kara-an na sila ha?sobra 12 anyos… dili bag-o…unya bisag

    konsehal ilaha pa jud)…….wala ma-influence dire sa Biliran

    kay dihay gipatay nga politician, ang triggerman ra man

    ang napreso, ang nag-encourage hayahay pa sa bombero

    …..og unya na-ay blogger dire nga

    maayo kaayo mo-atake personal kang GC or uban

    mga inosenteng bloggers dire,

    ok ra man ang ngalan nga “REYNA SA PINATYANAY”….

    I hope the admin will put a stop to that kind of nickname …

    request or molohod nga palihug usba ang alias

    basta dili lang glorification of killing or insult

    of other gender….or mo-generate og hatred.

    That should not be tolerated in the first place….

    kay mogara….or na-a unya copycats…peligro!

    that’s dangerous!…nga mo-take sa word

    seriously!

    God helps us!

  2. klaro kaayo sa picture, it says,” bungkagon ang political dynasty”.

    unsaon man pagbungkag kung ang mismo kuno against sa dynasty musuporta man pud ug another dynasty! it really does not make sense at all.

    klaro kaayo nga its about time to put an end to all, i repeat all political dynasty.

    klaro kaayo nga ang pinatyanay is not about aliases! its about political dynasty trying to outdo each other.

  3. One question by one blogger and one possible answer

    bearing the blogger’s name also……

    How to put an end to all dynasty? KILLING THEM?

    What a violent barbaric mentality!

    In Maguindanao, there are 2 political dynasties are involved,

    if i am not mistaken…One is very bad kay nag-encourage

    sa massacre….and the second one, nalo-oy ko sa usa ka

    dynasty kay gipamatay sila!…Get the gist?

    Now in Biliran kinsa man tong tawo nagpatay ni Danny

    Parilla? Dili sa uma-abot nga would be dynasty, right or
    wrong?

    Changing the political dynastic mentality in PI cannot

    done in 1, 2,3 or 4 elections,

    I REPEAT, Changing the political dynastic mentality in PI

    cannot

    done in 1, 2,3 or 4 elections.

    I REPEAT

    Changing the political dynastic mentality in PI cannot

    done in 1, 2,3 or 4 elections…

    Get my gist?

    Samot na ang options karon sa Biliran province

    way zure oi…..

    Ang akong nahibaloa-an kini ra man mga ED nga

    4 or 5 ka posisyon? Sobra pa sa mga Ampatuan!

    Chong – 2…..just two, baby! and should be enough!

    that’s new dynasty if you call it and nothing wrong with that..

    kantigo pa mo-blog ang usa….ang UBANG kandidato…kanta

    og SILENT NIGHT…

    Raffy – bagong solpot pero wala may HUMILITY.. hambog ra!

    gusto dayon graduate elementary…vote for him means more

    vote for the ED+12

    JDR – ok ko niya kay kantigo mopa-ubos.

    Chan -? how long in politics? any remarkable achievements?

    Kinsa pa?

    Mga Ampatuan?

    So before telling me pag-zure, tell me who are the

    candidates out there and let’s discusss each personality,

    qualifications, achievements, dili kay akong IDEALISM

    maoy i-question….am not running for any position and

    and am not advertising killing and i did NOT abuse, repeat,

    NOT ABUSE my freedom of expression by espousing

    violent mentality….if word KILLER…. doesn’t meant anything

    to anybody, ambot nalang ….how INSENSITIVE!

    Yo, REYNA SA PINATYANAY, has all the freedom

    you want to express your opinions but please give

    us PEACEFUL OPTIONS….

    Who are the OPTIONS for the ESPINA DYNASTY?(ED+12).

    Is that a dangerous question?

  4. new anri0dynasty:

    It’s not those people with pseudonyms like killerqueen that are dangerous, it’s those people who wish to poision the minds of other people who may be more dangerous.

    Killerqueen is right , let’s put an end to dynasty once and for all. You see I just hope that what happened in Mindanao will not happen here in Biliran.

    As I see it, tensions are heightening and made more so delicate with people who believe that the best way to stop violence is through violence too. This is made worse by persons who wish to ignite tensions by making fun of othersd and provoking other people. this is not healthy for Biliran.

    As for Raffy, why will you say hambog. Everybody has the right to run in the elections. That is democracy. It is the main reason why we think raffy will be good for Biliran, because with him as governor, he shall be the “EQUALIZER” and finally put a stop to violence and promote peace and harmony in the province. Raffy firmly beleives in achieveing progress with peace.

    That is why Raffy’s platform is “KALINAW, KAUSWAGAN, KABAG-OHAN, KAUGMAON.”

    By the way, with the graces of the Almighty Father, Raffy is set to file his candidacy for Governor under the Liberal Party.

    Good day and daghang salamat kaninyo.

  5. ANG NAHITABO DIDTO SA MAGUINDANAO KUNG NAHITABO PA SIMBAKO DINHI SA BILIRAN, SERURO INGNAON NA SAD NA NGA DRAMA… MANGHINAOT AKO KITANG TANAN MAGTINABANGAY UNTA PARA MASULBAD ANG MGA PATAY NGA NAHITABO SA ATONG LUGAR…

    MANGAYO NALA TA UG GUIYA SA GINOO NGA TAGAAN LA TA UG HAPSAY NGA ELECTION KARONG 2010..

  6. Take note of the brilliant political strategic pattern here.

    Two same views opposing the Chongs.

    In other words, aside from the Espina Dynasty, we have Raffy,

    to oppose the Chongs.

    The end result?

    Espina Dynasty will win with Raffy’s and their

    Almighty Father’s(who is the real daddy?) help.

    That means the controversial issues surrounding

    the Espina Dynasty rule will continue for more than 15 years.

    I just PRAY our real GOD will help the people of

    BILIRAN….not the ambitious politicians.

    Mga Biliranon – ayaw himo-a inyong kaugalingong

    ‘LKK” – LOOY KAAYO KA!

    Now my views are described as “igniting tensions”…? WTF!

    Just trying to express my freedom of expressions in a

    funny way aron makuha-an og problema,

    not ABUSE OF IT, or propagating violence,

    dangerous na hinoon?

    Gibaliktad na pod….

    Just because I am willing to sacrifice my IDEALISM

    for this election, or maybe the next one, or the next one,

    ako na hino-on ang nag-POISON sa mga mind sa mga

    tao?

    Am I losing my mind or they called gist?

    Nope?

    It’s the so-called “intellectual elite” like madlangbayan

    and killerqueen kay ako being a regular blogger lang

    nga dili graduate og UP dili ko nila taga-an

    og RESPECT: instead they label me of all sorts

    just because of my opinion.

    Is that FAIR?

    I wll leave that up to you folks to decide by 2010!

    I hope everyone had a nice and peaceful

    “Thanksgiving Day”!

    ps: just to rebut nga dili ko dangerous, lingaw-lingaw sa ta:

    click link ubos aron kiay-kiay ta:

  7. Serious time.

    Click link below about more Maguindanao massacre stories

    and relevance in our backyard.

    Let’s ask ourselves:

    Do we have to unite or divide to bring down similar clan

    that allow permeating the acts of violence in Biliran?

    Who started the proliferation/encouragement of gun

    ownership?

    Is it the old clan in politics or the new one?

    Again, do we have to disunite to give a winning chance

    for the old clan?

    I will leave the answers to yourself.

    http://www.youtube.com/user/AlJazeeraEnglish#p/u/2/xKfofAPLRlA

  8. Kaniadto vocal kaayo ug very articulate si anti-dinastiya sa iyang idealism, opposing political dynasty.

    Ug nakadayeg ko niana nga idealism.

    Pero akong nakita nga kana nga idealism nag-anam kahilis, ug milutaw ang tinuoray nga kolor niining maong blogger as a true supporter of GC.

    Sa question ni anti-dinastiya, “Who started the proliferation/encouragement of gun
    ownership?”

    Is he again implicating the Espina’s as the ones who STARTED it?

    Buot ba ingnon nga walay armas ang mga politiko kaniadto before the time of the Espinas?

    Uy, hinumduman kuno nato sila si Tefilo Sabonsolin, Atty. Jose Gonzales, ug si Wayne Jaro.

    Sa ila bang pag-gunit ug poder, wala silay mga bodyguards?

    Ang Espina clan ba ang nagsugod ug bodyguard system with the “armas” dinhi sa Biliran?

    Again you are giving the wrong notion that it was the Espinas who started the ownership of guns in Biliran.

    Para naku dili importante ang pagkahibalo natu kung kinsa ang una naghupot ug armas de fuego dinhi sa Biliran. Ang importante natu mahibaw-an, kinsa sa pagkakaron ang dunay superior firepower dinhi sa Biliran, kay mao kini ang delikado.

    Kinsa karon ang daghan ug bodyguards?

    Bodyguards nga giswelduhan sa BUHIS SA KATAWHAN?

    Bodyguards nga lukatan ug ticket sa eroplano ginamit ang BUHIS SA KATAWHAN?

    Bodyguards nga dili .38 caliber ang dala, kondili baby armalites ug mother armalites ug mga automatic pistols?

    Superior firepower…MAKALILISANG.

  9. UNSAON MAN GUD FLINT NGA NA-ENLIGHTENED MAN GUD NI SIYA SA IYANG NABASAHAN SA DICTIONARY. THIS BLOGGER ALLOWED HIS UNDERSTANDING TO BE LIMITED BY WHAT HE READ FROM THE DICTIONARY. CAN YOU IMAGINE THE IDEALISM (DAW) OF CRUSHING DOWN A DYNASTY AND YET SUPPORTING ANOTHER DYNASTY? DOES IT MAKE SENSE TO YOU FLINT?

    SPEAKING OF BODYGUARDS, MAKARIMADIMA LIWAT ANG MGA BODYGUARDS NI REP CHONG AS IF THEY COULD SPELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LIFE AND DEATH NI REP CHONG. IBA LIWAT AN STYLE HADTO NI FORMER REP ESPINA Jr HADTO HAN IYA TIME, DIRE SUGAD KADAMO AN IYA MGA BODYGUARDS PERO SUSMARYOSEP LIWAT AN MGA DURUDILAIN NGA MGA HIGH END NGA ARMAS HA SULOD HAN IYA NISSAN URVAN.

  10. killerquen: Kung ikaw hapit na ma ambush d pa kaha ka magdugang ug bodyguard? ang pagtoo nimo sa sila Espina kaniari unsa man ang ilang mga armas? diba mga high caliber? unya pila pod kasakyanan ang ilang mga bodyguards? Daghan man gani ang ilang mga bodyguards ug mga high caliber nga mga armas kaniari nga wala man unta sila mga kontra kaayo.
    Karun lng sila nag pa show-up show-up kunuhay nga dili sila mapalibutan ug mga bodyguards kay arun ingnon pod nga si Cong. kadaghan lng kaayo ug mga bodyguards.. NATURAL lng nga dugangan ni Cong. ang iyang mga bodyguards kay dli man FAIR ang mga ESPINA… Diba daghan ang mga nahitabo sa biliran katong naa nay mulaban sa ila Espina? Katong naa nay musukol sa ilang mga pamakak sa katawhan?

    Cong:
    Mas maayo unta kung dili nimo padaganun imong amahan diha sa pagka gobernador, much better kung dili anha sulod sa inyong pamilya. Anha si Mr.Raffy Salazar, I know nga deserving ni cya kaayo nga magdumala sa atong probinsya. I only seen him one’s in our seminar in school, he’s been our speaker. I know he has the capability to overcome the recent political crisis here in Biliran. I know nga may risk sa inyong negosyo kung mapildi ka. But we all know that faith in GOD never puts you in vain……….

  11. bai flint,

    salamat kay ing-rebut ka in a decent way sa akong gi-post

    sa taas.

    ako lang dugangan….

    nakapangutana ko ana kay dihay mga politicians

    nga gipamusil/gipamatay sa panahon nga ang

    Biliran controlled by one dynasty….

    tan-awa tung interview ni Espina Sr. bahin

    sa kamatayon ni Danny? ang link

    na-a sa ubos….

    Tungod kay gisumbag si killer/triggerman sa

    usa ka higayon, ug unya kahibalo nga buang to,

    igo lang mo-worry(with a smile) sa maong panahona?….

    are they(the killer and the sr) really related?

    just askin’ bai the reality…….

  12. KILLER QUEEN;

    EWAN KO SAYO! BASTA AKO THE TIME GERRY BOY WAS STILL THE MAYOR OF NAVAL, TILL HE BECAME CONG., I KNOW HIM AND HIS BODY GUARDS.

    ABUSADO, PATI BODY GUARDS. KILALA KO ISA SA BODY GUARD NYA. MASAHISTA PA NGA NYA EH. DAHIL KADIKIT LANG NG BAHAY NAMIN. ADDICT SA DROGA THAT TIME. PATI KAPATID KONG BUNSONG BABAE EH NAPARIWARA, GUSTO PANG IBENTA KATAWAN PARA LANG SA KAPIRASONG DROGA, NARINIG NG TATAY KO KAYA NASAMPAL SA HARAP NG ABUSADONG BODYGUARD.
    MADALAS DIN AKO SA MUNISIPYO THAT TIME NA MAYOR PA SI GERRY BOY.

    OO MADALI SYANG LAPITAN AT HINGAN NG KONTENG ABULOY, PERO MAS MALAKI ANG NAGAGAMIT NYA PARA SA PAGSUSUGAL, SA SABONG. SA INYONG LAHAT, KAHIT ITANONG NYO PA SA MGA KAALYADO NYA. MALAKAS TUMAYA SA SABOING YAN. ALAM KO DAHIL ISANG TIYUHIN KO ANG KASAMA NYA SA SABONG.

    SA ISANG KATULAD KONG NAKITA NG HARAP HARAPAN ANG PANLOLOKO NG PAMILYANG ED SA BILIRAN, NEVER NA MADIKTAHAN AKO NG MGA TULAD NYONG HINDI NYO YATA ALAM KUNG ANO ANG KAIBAHAN NG “TAMA” SA “MALI”.

    EWAN KO LANG, PURO MGA BULAG ANG MGA BLOGGERS DITO NA SINASABING MABAIT ANG MGA ESPINA O MGA WALANG ALAM SA TINATAWAG NA “KONSENSYA”

  13. HUH? WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL THIS TIME EWAN KO LANG?

    HAVE YOU READ ALMOST ALL OF MY BLOGS HERE? HAVE YOU? WHY DONT YOU SPEND A LITTLE MORE TIME AND READ PREVIOUS BLOGS BEFORE YOU MAKE COMMENTS LIKE THAT!

    AKING PAYO SAYO, MAGBASA KA NGA MUNA AT INTINDIHIN MO ANG NILALAMAN NG IYONG BINASA NA MGA BLOGS KO AT PAGKATAPOS MONG MABASA AT MAINTINDI, SABIHIN MO SA AKIN SAANG PARTE NG MGA BLOGS KO NA SINABI KONG MABABAIT SILA OR TO THAT EFFECT. I DARE YOU! SIGE NGA, IPAKITA MO SA AKIN!

  14. Grabe talaga ang ginawang mass killing sa maguindanao.. Just today, I received photos from the said masacre. and to my surprise, “Nanindig ang mga balahibo ko at nanginig buong katawan ko” sa nakitang mga pics.

    VERY INHUMAN,

    ONLY EVILS CAN DO THAT!!!

    ONLY EVILS CAN FOLLOW ORDERS FROM EVILS…

    UNG MGA KRIMINAL BA, WALA BA SILANG INA NA nagpalaki sa Kanila?? Or Pinalaki silang kriminal ng Pamilya nila?

    WE Hope that through us (Wise and awakened Biliran citizen), dli kini nato tagaan og higayon nga mga krimen.

    I remember, nung elementary pa ako, meron ding pinatay na kandidato sa Municipality namin 7 days before the election.

    Enjoy2 lang muna yang mga evils na yan dito sa EArth pero c GOD lang tlga pde mgjudge sa kanila.

    kung totoong ang mga Ampatuans ang gumawa nun… DApat PArusahan na clang LAhat..

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