War of the Clans: Maguindanao Massacre

The country is wrought with tension, as we bare witness to one of the most brutal killings we’ve seen in our modern history.

On Monday November 23rd, supporters of Vice Mayor Mangudadatu along with media practitioners covering the event, left their town of Buluan to journey to Shariff Aguak where his wife would have filed his candidacy for Governor of Maguinadanao Province. Despite their precautions, they did not make it to the provincial capital. In broad daylight, their convoy was intercepted by armed men (reported to be numbering upto 100). They were forced to a remote location (or locations) where the killings happened.

47 bodies found so far in shallow graves. Some of them beheaded, dismembered, even raped. Many of the reported 60-strong delegation who left Buluan were women and journalists.

I seldom read the papers these days. But today, I read all of the stories pertaining to the massacre, as told by correspondents of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. These are not fun, inspiring stories to read. But read them I must, for perhaps some of it might make sense to me. Since I heard the news, I could not comprehend what had happened. How could something this horrifying happen in these modern times? Perhaps, in our people’s long history it is no surprise to see word of tribal wars and clan wars. Of bloody feuds amongst people.

But one would think that such were a thing of the past. They belong in the history books. Not in present day Philippines. What happened in Maguindanao on Monday – that was merely a show of greed and cowardice.

Many point to the ruling clan, the Ampatuans, as the perpetrators of this barbaric crime. This clan holds many leadership political posts throughout the province, including the Governorship of Maguindanao and of the ARMM. They also secured GMA’s win against FPJ in 2004’s Presidential elections. It seems that to ensure their hold of the province beyond 2010, they’ve started early in terms of eliminating the competition. After all, if no one goes up against the elder Ampatuan for the gubernatorial race (just like last time), there’d be no reason for him to cheat.

The campaign season hasn’t even started and yet we already have these many casualties of election-related crimes. How many more lives will be lost in the run up to May 2010?

But this isn’t just an issue of election violence, is it?