On November 23rd, 2009 over 100 armed men descended on a convoy belonging to Filipino political candidate Esmael Mangudadatu. The candidate was not traveling with his entourage, which consisted of dozens of people including family members and journalists. With a bounty put on Mangudadatu’s head, gunmen consisting of private bodyguards, off duty soldiers, policemen, police auxiliaries, a civilian armed forces group, and hired assassins converged on the convoy simultaneously.
Mangudadtu had been warned by his political rivals of what would happen if he chose to run for governor, and stayed behind when he sent his convoy ahead to register his candidacy. Previously, a group of armed Ampatuans showed up at his residence to deliver the message in no uncertain terms.
Esmael’s convoy was halted on the way to file Mangudadtu’s Certificate of Candidacy by the Filipino National Police and Auxiliary. What followed was the ruthless slaughter of 58 civilians, including the rape and murder of women as well as the mutilation of their bodies. Additionally, 34 journalists traveling with the convoy were also executed.
Both Ampatuan and Mangundatatu are powerful families in the Muslim-dominated Mindinao Island of the Philippines. They have to be courted by the political establishment in order to be elected to office. Both families essentially constitute private Armies, the heads of each acting as shoguns over their personal fiefdoms. Perhaps the Western comparison is between medieval feuding family clans such as in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. As news of the massacre spread, the surrounding area was placed under martial law on December 5th, 2009.
The Filipino security forces who participated in the massacre have been released, as they are innocent until proven guilty, but it is believed that the bulk of the killing was done by Ampatuan hitmen and goons, the Ampatuan private militia as it were.