Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Emergency Declared in Philippines After Violence

The president of the Philippines on Tuesday declared a state of emergency in the southern region where gunmen kidnapped and killed at least 46 people, military officials and news agencies reported.
In one of the worst episodes of election-related violence in the Philippines, about 50 lawyers, journalists and relatives of a local politician were kidnapped Monday in Maguindanao, a province on the southern island of Mindanao.
Josefino Cataluna, the chief superintendent of the national police, said 22 bodies had been recovered from mass graves on Tuesday, The Associated Press reported. Searchers earlier had found the bodies of 24 other victims.
Fourteen of the dead were women, according to the military.
Relatives of some of the victims said many of them had been beheaded by a group of about 100 men.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo sent military and national police units to the area and promised a full investigation to hunt down the killers.
Jesus Dureza, her adviser on Mindanao, had recommended the state of emergency, saying that “everyone should be disarmed” in the region, which has often been wracked by election violence.
“Anything less will not work,” he said.
The filing of candidacy documents for local and national elections, scheduled for next May, began Friday. The victims were stopped on their way to an election office to file papers for Esmael Mangudadatu, the deputy mayor of the town of Buluan, who plans to run for governor of Maguindanao.
Mr. Mangudadatu said on ABS-CBN television that his wife, his sister and several other female relatives had been in the group. He said they had been filing his candidacy documents in the hope that women would not be attacked.
Ten journalists were reportedly among the group, and two of the victims were identified by the national police on Tuesday as reporters.
“Never in the history of journalism have the news media suffered such a heavy loss of life in one day,” the advocacy group Reporters Without Borders said in a statement from Paris.
“We have often condemned the culture of impunity and violence in the Philippines, especially Mindanao. This time, the frenzied violence of thugs working for corrupt politicians has resulted in an incomprehensible bloodbath. We call for a strong reaction from the local and national authorities.”
Attacks on candidates and supporters during campaign periods are common throughout the Philippines. In the 2007 local elections, nearly 100 people were killed in such attacks.
Election violence can be extreme in Maguindanao, where an Islamist insurgency and longstanding clan wars complicate the security situation. Access to firearms by criminal groups and political warlords has worsened the situation in this and other areas.
Mr. Mangudadatu’s uncle, Pax Mangudadatu, the governor of Sultan Kudarat Province, said the deputy mayor’s supporters had been attacked by backers of Andal Ampatuan, the current governor of Maguindanao. The families, from rival Muslim clans, are bitter political enemies.
Colonel Brawner, the military spokesman, told the Philippines Inquirer on Tuesday that the Ampatuans and their associates would be investigated.
“The suspects are bodyguards of Ampatuan, local police aides and certain lawless elements,” he said.

No comments :

Post a Comment