The Maguindanao Massacre: 11 years later

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3 years ago

November 23, 2009. 58 were killed and buried on a mass grave that was supposed to file a candidacy to challenge a powerful political clan at the island of Mindanao, in the province of Maguindanao. I was studying at College during that time when I heard this news. 11 years later, was justice served to the perpetrators? Here's a little background of events that took place in this incident.

What happened?

Former Vice Mayor, then 2nd District Representative of Maguindanao Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu invited a group of journalists to cover his scheduled filing for his certificate of candidacy at the Commission of Elections (COMELEC) at the provincial office in Shariff Aguak. This is to challenge the ruling clan of Maguindanao, the Ampatuan clan. They were Andal Ampatuan Sr. and Andal Ampatuan Jr.

A convoy of 7 vehicles was en route to the COMELEC provincial office of Shariff Aguak until they were blocked by armed men. They were kidnapped and killed. Most of them were women, they were raped before being shot at, while the other women were shot in their genitals. Others were journalists that were about to cover Toto's certificate of candidacy. After the killings, they were buried on a mass grave using a backhoe including their vehicles.

Who were the victims?

The majority of them were members of the press, others were Mangudadatu's family, relatives, and supporters. Luckily, Toto did not ride along with the convoy since he received a lot of death threats by chopping him to pieces after filing his candidacy, but his wife, younger sister, and aunt lost their lives in the process.

Esmael Mangudadatu came also from a political clan, and his mission was to end the Ampatuan's rule of Maguindanao for 20 years. This is very clear that from our country, once you gain influence and close connections with someone higher, terms can be either monetary or other things in general. Money can buy things, even power.

The Aftermath?

The following day, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared a state of emergency in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, and Cotabato City. While the Ampatuans were members of the Lakas-Kampi-CMD political party and were stripped of their membership because they were involved in this incident. Weeks later, martial law has been declared in the province of Maguindanao to pave way for the arrest of all involved in the massacre. Raids were organized by the Philippine National Police and breached several of the family's homes, which they captured an Armored Personnel Carrier, assault rifles, machine guns, sub-machine guns, sniper rifles, shotguns, pistols, mortars, grenades, and a cache of ammunition.

The Verdict?

11 years later. Justice was served to the Ampatuan clan and their conspirators. Others remain at large. On December 19, 2019, Quezon City Regional Trial Court Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes makes her verdict at a secured court session at Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City. It was dubbed as the Trial of the Decade. Reyes makes her decision for the Ampatuan brothers: Andal & Zaldy were convicted of 57 counts of murder and sentenced to reclusion perpetua. 28 police officers were also given the same counts and sentenced to 40 years. 15 were sentenced from 6 to 10 years. 55 others were acquitted.

The Maguindanao Massacre is known to be the most gruesome act of violence against innocent lives. Our country is now part of the list of the most dangerous places for journalists, and this is not something to be proud of as a Filipino. This is how politics work in my country. But, why does it have to be this way? Bitter rivalry? These people want to maintain their position and influence across their territory. Instead of bloodshed, why don't we give way to the new generation of leaders to change and onward with progress to the future. Equal opportunity and support. In that way, I would see my motherland grow and prosper. And to make a better world for our children.


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