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Emergency declared in Mindanao; Speaker calls carnage ‘horrific’

By Antonio Figueroa     Nov 24, 2009 in Politics
MANILA - President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has declared a state of emergency in the provinces of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat after a poll-related violence erupted in the areas that led to the massacre of scores of civilians and journalists.
So far, the military had already dug 24 bodies, but were still digging for more after initial reports indicated that between 40 to 50 members of a convoy on the way to Shariff Aguak town, Maguindanao, were abducted, herded and hauled to a remote village in the municipality of
Four witnesses who escaped the carnage told law enforcement authorities that some 100 armed men allegedly identified with Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Jr. blocked the cars and brought the members of the entourage to a predetermined area where the victims were buried in shallow graves earlier excavated by a backhoe.
Among the victims so far recovered were those of two lady lawyers, the wife of Buluan vice mayor Ismail Mangudadatu and his four sisters, some supporters and the bodies of nine journalists who joined the convoy to witness the filing the certificate of candidacy of Ismail who is running for governor against Ampatuan.
The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, a global media organization, has called the mayhem the "largest single massacre of journalists ever."
The declaration of state of emergency was issued an hour after House Speaker Prospero C. Nograles condemned the carnage, the most brutal incident the country’s electoral history, as “horrific and beyond human comprehension.”
He strongly urged the national leadership to set aside all political considerations and arrest the people behind the killings, particularly the masterminds, at all cost, even if it takes the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to do it.
“This is already beyond political alliances. This horrific mass murder is just beyond human comprehension and the government should use everything in its power to apprehend and prosecute those responsible for this most atrocious incident in Maguindanao,” Nograles said.
“I share the grief of the victims' families,” he said, “and I pray to God that those who are responsible for this atrocity will give up voluntarily to our government security forces. I still cannot imagine how a man can be so brutal and cold-blooded in employing violence just to achieve one's political end. It is really unbelievable.”
Nograles said both the AFP and the PNP should step up efforts to disarm private armed groups (PAGs) in Mindanao, warning that the incident in Maguindanao could erupt into a full-blown rido, or clan war.
Alarmed by the possible implication of the gory incident in the 2010 elections, the Speaker has also encouraged the Commission on Elections to assess the situation in Maguindanao and determine if it is still viable to hold an election in the area even if the polls are still nearly six months away.
He also recommended that the electoral body to suspend elections in the area until tension has cooled down, adding that the volatile situation obtaining in Maguindanao may escalate if the appropriate safeguards are not immediately set in place.
More about Mindanao, Media killings, Election
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