The Maguindanao Massacre

On 23 November, the wife and two sisters of Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu went to the town of Ampatuan to register him for the 2010 elections for the province of Maguindanao in the Philippines. They were Genalyn Mangudadatu, Vice Mayor Eden Mangudadatu of Mangudadatu town and Bai Farinna Mangudadatu respectively. A recipient of death threats, Esmael Mangudadatu couldn’t register himself for fear of being killed, and the police and the army didn’t grant him protections such that he could. It was thought that women, holding a place of respect, would not be harmed. For extra protection, the three were accompanied by the two female lawyers of the family, Cynthia Oquendo-Ayon and Connie Brizuela, a number of other family members, drivers and supporters and, again for safety, journalists and their assistants. (Apologies, I can’t find a list of all their names. Wikipedia’s partial list of names is the best I can do.) Aquiles Zonio of the Philippine Daily Inquirer reports that Eden Mangudadatu was heard to say, ‘This is women power in action. Let’s help our men chart a better future for the province’.

On their way to the Comission on Elections, the group was stopped on the highway by about one hundred armed men. They and a number of nearby motorists were abducted, shot and buried in mass graves. It’s believed that the armed men were from the private militia of powerful political clan figure Andal Ampatuan, Jr., who was also to run in the gubernatorial election. Ampatuan has been charged with murder.

It’s being called the Maguindanao massacre. 64 bodies have been found so far, and most of them have been identified. The massacre is being reported as the largest-scale killing of journalists in history with thirty-four deaths. It was extreme and it was vicious.

And this came just two days before the International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women. The worst of it was reserved for the women, who comprised at least twenty-two of those killed. Reports are that most if not all of them were raped and/or sexually mutilated. Justice Minister Agnes Devanadera says (trigger warning on the blockquote):

Even the private parts of the women were shot at. It was horrible. It was not done to just one. It was done practically to all the women. The zippers of their pants were all undone. We have yet to determine whether they were raped. But it is certain that something bad was done to them.

I’ll not link to more graphic descriptions of the violations of these women.

These are yet more violent acts against women in a world in which sexual violence is used as a fighting tactic, a political tactic. Women are especially vulnerable. We have our special protections and our untouchability until suddenly we don’t. And death wasn’t enough for their killers to inflict on these women.

Further reading: The Philippines Star has some more information on the massacre and gender justice in the Philippines.

[Cross-posted at Zero at the Bone]

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19 comments for “The Maguindanao Massacre

  1. Noir
    November 30, 2009 at 1:09 am

    Thank you for talking about this. Here praying the victims find justice.

  2. November 30, 2009 at 7:58 am

    Oh my god. Is there anything we can do?

  3. November 30, 2009 at 8:58 am

    I’m a New Yorker who is studying in the Philippines, and this is the first I’ve heard of the sexual violence done against these women. I’m so glad you’ve brought this to light, and also so ashamed, angered and saddened to read this news.

  4. Jha
    November 30, 2009 at 9:18 am

    Echoiing Lauren =/

  5. November 30, 2009 at 11:35 am

    Thank you for writing on this.

    As a Filipino American activist, the atrocities in the Philippines, particularly violence against women, is grossly underreported. Under the GMA presidency, nearly 1000 activists, writers, professors, humanitarian workers have disappeared.

    I feel like there are a million unsaid things in my heart after reflecting upon this massacre and, tragically, the most heavy reaction I have is that I am not surprised.

    I am not surprised by this violence, the rapes, the unthinkable last moments of these lives. And I am not surprised by the lack of media covering this massacre.

    Thanks again for writing this.

  6. November 30, 2009 at 11:35 am

    Thank you for posting about this. I wanted to mention that the massacre has galvanized organized labor to resist the rampant warlordism plaguing the southern Philippines. Progressive labor groups diagnose this atrocity as a symptom of social inequality under which the government gives a privileged few the right to turn their private armies on everyone else.

    I’ve got a post on the workers’ resistance efforts coming up at Working In These Times, probably sometime this afternoon. Naturally, I’ve linked to Cally’s excellent news roundup.

  7. November 30, 2009 at 11:53 am

    Thank you everyone. @Lauren and @Jha: I’ll let you know if I find anything.

  8. November 30, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    Er, that should have been Chally’s excellent roundup, not Cally’s. Excuse the undercaffeinated bumbling.

  9. debbie
    November 30, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    Thanks for posting this. There was some coverage of this issue in the mainstream media where I live (a city with a fairly sizable Filipino community), but it’s dropped off the radar quickly (I’m sure you’re all shocked). I hadn’t heard anything about the sexual violence. The whole situation is just horrifying, and I hope to see more posts about it on feminist blogs.

  10. SueB
    November 30, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    This is a predominantly Catholic country (some 80% of the population) with one of the largest garbage dumps on the planet existing (in Payatas). When I was in Manila in the early 1980s, I was startled by the amount of poverty and desperation, and to know that it hasn’t changed much since then — and has gotten worse, in fact — rattles me to the core. Where is the Pope in all of this, and where is the international outcry?

  11. November 30, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    I had an interesting discussion about this story in my newsroom (I’m an online journo). The story came through from AFP, just a few lines with the quote Chally used, and I said I wasn’t going to put it in our breaking news feed because it was just graphic violence against women with no context, and therefore gratuitous. Luckily the news editor felt the same way and we held off until there was more information. It was a tough call though, as I was so horrified and disgusted by what those men did. The story hasn’t received a huge amount of coverage in Australia, which is odd, because journos love stories about journos, and online news editors love stories about women being hurt/killed.

  12. November 30, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    No problem, Lindsay. :)

    Re: help, my understanding is that the Filipino government is working to lessen the power of the Ampatuan group, and that there’s some reformation of the rules around private armies going on. I don’t know what you can do about this particular matter, though if anyone does, please leave a comment! But there are of course broader issues around women in the country, so I can offer a list of women’s organisations in the Philippines and the website of the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women.

  13. November 30, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    this is heart-breaking news. I’ve been reading about this since I first heard about it a week ago.

    may all their souls rest in peace.

  14. Katie
    November 30, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    No words. This is horrific.

  15. November 30, 2009 at 11:42 pm

    OMG, I did not even know that this happened… That’s not saying a lot because I don’t watch the news… but still, you think once word got around that I would hear about it but I didn’t. I have an article class tomorrow and may use this. People need to know.

  16. December 1, 2009 at 1:31 am

    Thank you for writing about this, Chally.

    The rampant warlordism in the southern Philippines could not be divorced from the militarization in the region, and it’s a militarization that continues to be supported by the United States under the guise of fighting the war against terror.

    Filipino activists from groups such as CONTEND and
    the Gabriela Women’s Party have been working for an end to militarization in the Philippines. For those who are in the U.S., thinking about what you can do and how to help. I suggest that campaigning against the US policy of militarization and strengthening the anti-war movement would be good starting points.

  17. Tlönista
    December 2, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    This is horrifying. Thank you for boosting the signal; this has received relatively little coverage.

  18. December 7, 2009 at 3:39 am

    Cant you see guys…. It is very disappointing to all of us because we have knowledege, freedom, and voluntariness we know what is right or wrong. why some people can do I affirmatively believe that thier is a justice for us and for them.

  19. December 7, 2009 at 3:41 am

    Sometimes, when I watching horror movie in our house I saw some kinds of monster that killing innocent people just to give their satisfaction or their needs. When I heard the news about on what happened in Maguindanao I said to myself, “what kind of human are they? Isn’t a monster too like in the horror movie?”. Actually, It is like a bomb that explode widely in the whole state. Speaking of state, I heard in the news that the foreign investors in the Philippines will not continue investing in our country because they want to secure first the stability of our economy. The big impact there is the dignity of Filipino citizenship especially working outside the country because the manners that we showed in the whole world. It is a very traumatic for the family of victims. It will affect mostly in our fellowship Muslim because some people will think that all Muslim can do that anyway everybody actually can do that.

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