A Brief History
On November 23, 2009, the Philippines were the scene of a travesty of failed democracy when in the town of Ampatuan in Maguindanao province on Mindanao, 58 people were slaughtered while on their way to formally file for a candidate for governor, including the wife and 2 sisters of the candidate. In late October of 2020, as this article is being written, the United States Presidential and General elections looming for November 3, 2020, seem to hold an almost certain level of distrust, dissatisfaction, and even potential violence in an election predicted to be plagued by accusations of voter suppression, vote tampering, and extraneous conspiracy theories. At least we do not have potential candidates being murdered wholesale! (Yet, as of yet…) With over 109 million people, the Philippines ranks 13th among the most populous nations on Earth, not exactly an insignificant place.
The target of the attack was the retinue of the vice mayor of Buluan, a man named Esmael Mangudadatu who intended to challenge the son of the current governor for that office, Andal Ampatuan, Jr., another local mayor. Ampatuan Sr. and Jr. were leading members of the provincial Muslim political apparatus.
The Mangudadatu campaign had invited journalists to accompany the campaign convoy as it traveled to file for the candidate, the invitation made as a preventative measure in light of threats against Mangudadatu, including a promise to “chop him into pieces.” 37 members of the press were with the convoy when it was attacked, obviously failing to prevent the blatant assault on the democratic process. The convoy consisted of 4 campaign vans and 2 media vans loaded with people. The convoy, along with at least a couple of vehicles not involved with the convoy, was stopped some miles short of their destination by about 100 armed men. Many members in the convoy were abducted and removed from the scene, later to be raped (the female journalists among them) and murdered. The females were further defiled by being shot in their genitals, and 2 of the victims, the sister and aunt of the candidate, had been pregnant. Mangudadatu’s wife managed to send a text to her husband, who was not with the convoy, telling him that not only were the perpetrators the henchmen of the Ampatuans, but that Ampatuan, Jr. himself had assaulted her. The kindnapper/murderers then buried the victims, 58 of them, in a mass grave. Ironically, the backhoe used to dig the mass grave was boldly marked with the Governor’s name, Ampatuan, Sr.
Among those killed were 32 journalists, the worst mass killing of journalists in history. After a convoluted legal process that saw 197 people charged with the murders, and a few years of court related back and forth allegations of misconduct and impropriety, Ampatuan, Jr. and his brother were convicted of 57 murders and given the equivalent sentence of life without parole. Another 28 accused co-murderers got sentences of 40 years and another 15 convicted men were sentenced to lesser terms. A total of 55 of the accused were acquitted, including another member of the Ampatuan family. In the meantime, the event had created chaos on Mindanao and resulted in martial law being declared. A crackdown on private armies was made, including a major raid of an Ampatuan owned warehouse that yielded a vast trove of weapons and ammunition.
Despite the allegations of voter suppression and vote tampering, manipulation of the postal service to suppress the mail in vote and other claims of cheating in the American Presidential and General election of 2020, we have not yet had a massacre of potential candidates! Civil unrest in the wake of a highly emotional national election in 2020 will probably take place, as our readers will know by the time this article is published either did or did not occur. We hope any post-election protests remain peaceful, but we are not optimistic. Question for students (and subscribers): What were you expecting this year? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Canoy, Ray. An Illustrated History of the Philippines. John Beaufoy Publishing, 2019.
Miller, Jonathan. Rodrigo Duterte: Fire and Fury in the Philippines. Tantor Audio, 2019.
The featured image in this article, a photograph by Ramon FVelasquez of a symbolic ‘Impuni-tree’ planted for the 3rd anniversary of the Maguindanao massacre at the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, UP Diliman, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.