On November 23, 2009, 58 people were murdered by a local warlord from Maguindanao in the worst case of election violence in Philippine history. Police have charged members of members of the powerful and wealthy Ampatuan clan for the murder of the 58, who were in a convoy to the local election office to file the candidacy papers of a challenger to the incumbent political family.
Among the victims were 32 journalists, mostly from Central Mindanao. The incident marks the largest number of journalists killed in a single incident in the world, making the Philippines the most dangerous place for journalists in 2009. A year later, hope still flickers for the families of the victims, but the path to justice has been unbearably slow.
This report exposes what population experts call a statistical anomaly with grave implications on the conduct and results of the May 10, 2010 elections the inexplicable sharp spike in the population growth rate of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
A RECENT conference of the Philippine Population Association had none of the media frenzy that usually attends the ongoing bail hearing for ex-Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., the prime suspect in the massacre of 57 people, including 32 media workers, in Maguindanao last November 23.
HEARINGS on the petition for bail filed by the accused in the Maguindanao massacre began 5 January 5, 2010 before Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 221.
DAVAO CITY – Only two of the 12 prominent Ampatuans implicated in the November 23, 2009 massacre in Maguindanao are not running for any posts in this year’s elections: Datu Unsay mayor Datu Andal “Unsay” Ampatuan, Jr., and ARMM governor Datu Zaldy Ampatuan. Just as well, their wives and a daughter are running, records of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) show.
MAGUINDANAO — The sound of sirens precedes the passing of a long convoy of 4×4 sport utility vehicles. As if on cue, jeepneys and private vehicles begin moving to the right side of the street, where they all then ground to halt.
“Kailangan tumabi ka, kasi babanggain ka nila. Palalabasin nilang kaaway ka (You have to get out of their way, otherwise they’ll hit your car. And then they’ll make it appear you’re one of their enemies),” explains an old man watching the scene by the roadside.
KAHIKUKUK, BANGUIGUI, SULU — Asaali Muhalli is no ancient mariner, but there was a time when his lament was practically an echo of that of the protagonist in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous poem: “Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink.”
LAWYER FRANCES Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi talks to distraught “dead” teachers all the time, but she makes it a point to crack jokes when they call her on her cell phone at night.
“I appeal to them, please don’t call me at night,” she says. “I’m afraid of you, you’re already dead.”
Guiani-Sayadi is the Solicitor General of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). She has been given the horrendous task of putting order to the chaotic records of teaching personnel in the ARMM.
A TOWN IN MAGUINDANAO — Ten-year-old Dino and two younger boys were harassing a hapless chicken under a neighbor’s nipa house. Covered with dust, the boys obviously hadn’t had a bath just yet that day, and had chosen to go after the chicken while other children in this village trooped to a nearby river to soak and to play.
It looked like a typical village scene — only that it was the middle of a school day and Dino (not his real name) and many of the children should have been in class. But the classrooms in Dino’s school were shuttered because its four teachers were attending a meeting in the capital.