ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / November 23, 2009) – At least 2 dozen people who were kidnapped on Monday were found dead, many of them beheaded, in the troubled province of Maguindanao in the southern Philippines, officials said.
Troops were still searching for at least a dozen more after about a hundred people seized them in the town of Ampatuan, said Army Colonel Jonathan Ponce, a spokesman for the 6th Infantry Division.
“Troops have recovered the bodies of at least 18 people and later today more bodies were found – many of them beheaded, including probably journalists. Troops are in the area and tracking down those responsible in these killings,” Ponce told the independent newspaper, the Mindanao Examiner.
Most of those killed were relatives and supporters of Pax Mangundadatu, who is running for governor in Maguindanao province in next year’s polls.
“What we learned is that at least 41 people were seized in Ampatuan town and many of there were reported killed, including women and probably journalists. We are still gathering more information about this gruesome incident,” said Eid Kabalu, a senior leader of the country’s largest Muslim rebel group the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Kabalu said politics could be behind the killing. Those seized were on their way to the poll office to file the candidacy of Buluan vice mayor Esmael Mangudadatu.
Ponce said among those seized were the wife of Buluan vice mayor Esmael Mangudadatu and his sister and other relatives.
ABS-CBN reported that the wife and relatives of the vice mayor of Buluan, along with several journalists, were kidnapped by over a hundred gunmen. It quoted the vice mayor as saying that his wife, Jenalyn, and some relatives were on their way to file a certificate of candidacy on his behalf when the group of unidentified men forcibly took them.
Presidential assistant for Mindanao, Secretary Jesus Dureza, condemned the killings.
“This is a gruesome massacre of civilians unequalled in recent history. Even women and working mediamen were not spared. I grieve for my friends in the mediaand all those killed while doing their job. There must be a total stop to this senseless violence and carnage in the highest form,” he said
Dureza said at least 13 journalists were among the group, but it was unknown whether all of them were killed or not.
Elections in the Philippines are traditionally bloody, especially in the southern Philippines. On May 14, about 45.5 million Filipinos will be called to choose among 87,000 candidates vying for 17,000 national and local positions, which include the 268 House of Representatives seats and half of the 24 in the Senate. (Mindanao Examiner)