Philippines: Dark Secrets Will Be Revealed

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December 2, 2009: In the south, the investigation following the November 22 massacre has had problems because the provincial government is still controlled by the Ampatuan clan (which claims it is innocent). The federal government has arrested hundreds of local police and militiamen either as a precaution, or because those arrested refused to cooperate, or are suspects. The government has over twenty witnesses to the massacre, even though the killers tried to eliminate witnesses (including ten people in vehicles that were coming down the road at the same time the convoy was stopped and the victims were being led away to be killed.) Evidence collected at the massacre site, including shell casings, has linked many local gunmen with the killings.

The investigation is making many local leaders in the south nervous. The region has always been corrupt and ruled by armed, and short tempered, clans. This has more to do with local tribal culture than religion. Most of the 21 million people in Mindanao, and adjacent islands, are Christian, not Moslem. The south has always been the "wild west" and the recent massacre is a bloody reminder why. Now the spotlight will be on local politics. The slaughter of 27 journalists is bringing the mass media in (literally) with a vengeance. Dark secrets will be revealed, desperate, and dangerous, men will be cornered. Suddenly, there will be a perception that Islamic radicalism is not the biggest danger in the south.

November 27, 2009: Ismael Mangudadatu, the target of the November 22 massacre, filed his candidacy for the governor's race. Trying to prevent this (his wife was going to file for her husbands candidacy) was the object of the massacre.  Meanwhile, the two senior army officers (a division and a brigade commander) responsible for security in the area of the massacre, were relieved of command and recalled to the capital. The two officers declined a request to provide security for the convoy that was the victim of the massacre. The federal government also placed the Autonomous Region in Moslem Mindanao (ARMM, six of the Moslem majority provinces in or near Mindanao island) under federal control. National police was complete control over Maguindanao province, where the massacre took place. Maguindanao is one of 80 provinces, and has a population of 1.5 million.

November 26, 2009: In the south, troops disarmed the 350 man militia controlled by the Ampatuan clan (believed responsible for the recent political massacre). The chief suspect in the killing, Andal Ampatuan Jr, has been flown to Manila and imprisoned there.

 

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