Maguindanao, Arroyo declares state of emergency in the wake of massacre
Manila (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has declared a state of emergency in the cities of Cotabato and in the provinces of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat in Mindanao. Meanwhile the death toll has increased to 22 people from yesterday’s attack in Maguindanao, which targeted the relatives and supporters of Ishmael "Toto" Mangudadatu, vice-mayor of Buluan and candidate for governor of the province.
Cerge Remonde, head of media relations for the presidential office, confirmed the "urgent need to prevent the recurrence of other similar incidents." The state of emergency allows the army and the police wide powers of arrest and prevention of crimes. Ronaldo Puno, the interior minister, stressed that the investigations will be closed within a couple of days and announced a series of arrests. "We have precise information on the names - he adds - not only those who gave the orders, but also those who carried out the massacre."
The death toll from the ambush on the clan of Ishmael "Toto" Mangudadatu has risen to 22 dead, including 14 women and 8 men. Among the victims was Genalyn Mangudadatu, wife of candidate for the seat of governor. Romeo Brawner, military spokesman, reported that the number is expected to rise further, because "today we expect to retrieve more corpses."
The brutality of the attack, believed orchestrated by Andalo Ampatuan, current governor of the province of Maguindanao and leader of a rival family, has shocked the Philippines. A photographer for Reuters reported seeing dead bodies with bullet wounds and cuts. One of the victims had their hands tied behind his back, a woman was pregnant. Eight of the victims were local reporters, following the convoy - about forty people in all – on their way to the offices of Provincial Election Commission Shariff Aguak.