The Massacre of Maguindinao

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.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “The Massacre of Maguindinao

  1. Geez. This is unbelievable. Sometimes, with all the political fighting here, we absolutely forget how good we have it.

  2. I remember when this happened, it was covered by the NYT and I think a couple of other outlets. I read the rest of your article over on Sofrep.com, but I came over here to comment on it, as it appears there’s a bit less traffic.

    Is this a glimpse into the future of your writing, because this better not be taking you away from finishing Target Deck!!!! On a serious note, the article appears a bit disjointed. Are you still fleshing it out? Issues like this, in developing countries struggling to find their way into democracy (like the Philippines are) deserve coverage they often do not get, and I think you are the type of writer who can speak truth to power on such matters. Just seems like it’s not really your voice.

    • Thanks for reading. It is a bit disjointed, perhaps because this is such a huge sprawling issue. I think that is one reason why it hasn’t been covered very well. It is extremely complex, involves so many players, and frankly it goes straight to the top. I will be writing more on this topic because this is just the tip of the iceberg so to speak. I’m about halfway through editing Target Deck so that is coming along slowly but surely!

  3. If you plan on writing non-fiction in the future, this is the kind of topic I think you could really sink your teeth into, and build a whole book around. In the same vein that Mark Bowden takes events and stories and builds a story around it, I think with your background and research you could do that here. But not at the cost of Target Deck! Not to keep harping on that or anything…

    • You could write several books about this incident but I’m probably not the guy to do it. I’m trying to raise awareness in hopes that real journalists will take up the issue but I don’t think that is going to happen…

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