11/25/2009, 00.00
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Massacre in Maguindanao: The number one suspect is ally of Arroyo

Andamal Ampatuan Jr., mayor of Datu Unsay and son of the provincial governor, apparently led the group that carried out the massacre. The updated toll is 52 dead. Filipino Journalist: many areas of the country run by "warlords" created and supported by the government to "guarantee votes."

Manila (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The number one suspect for the massacre occurred on November 23 in the province of Maguindanao, Mindanao Island is a political ally of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Meanwhile, the death toll from the massacre is increasingly heavy: 52 dead, after the discovery of six bodies in a mass grave.  

A police report points to Andamal Ampatuan Jr., mayor of Datu Unsay and son of provincial governor, as the commander of the group that attacked supporters and relatives of Ishmael "Toto" Mangudadatu, vice-mayor of Buluan and candidate for governor of the province . Ampatuan is a member of the Lakas -Kampi-CMD coalition, which supports the Arroyo government. During the past elections the father, Andalo Ampatuan Sr., an influential politician in the area, assured votes for the election of the president.

To raise suspicions towards the Ampatuan clan, the fact that the massacre occurred in a village not far from a town that bears their own name. The head of the family has led  the provincial government for three mandates and, for the next election, he had appointed his son as successor. The candidacy of Ishmael Mangudadatu constituted a danger to the maintenance of power. Among the victims there is also the wife Genalyn Mangudadatu, some 14 women and 18 journalists accompanying the group.  

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, condemned the "despicable crime" committed "in the context of a local election campaign." He calls for "every effort" to ensure "those responsible are brought to justice."

Marites Vitug, editor of NewsBreak and author of several books on Mindanao, said the "Philippines is still run by clans and warlords," and these people are “monsters created and fuelled by President Arroyo and previous governments".  The central government is weak in many areas and buy votes "by ensuring local support to the patriarchs”.  

Yesterday, the government declared a state of emergency in the cities of Cotabato and in the provinces of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat in Mindanao. The authorities have also arrested Abusana Maguid, provincial police chief, and have allocated more than a thousand soldiers in the area. The fear is that the massacre on Monday is only the first of a long series ahead of the national and local elections scheduled in May 2010.

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See also
Maguindanao, Arroyo declares state of emergency in the wake of massacre
Massacre in Maguindanao: Andale Ampatuan Jr. accused of multiple homicide
Maguindanao slaughter: arrest warrant for Ampatuan Sr. and 196 members of his clan
The Philippine Church condemns the massacre of Maguindanao
Martial law for the province of Maguindanao


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