The Ampatuan family has controlled Maguindanao, a province on Mindanao in the Philippines, since 2001. One family member, Zaldy, was the regional governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), and is the former chairman of the ARMM's branch of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats, a major ruling party in the Philippines. Eighteen of Maguindanao's mayors are members of the clan, which maintained its own private army.
Esmael Mangudadatu, vice mayor of Buluan and a member of the same political party as the Ampatuans, was going to declare his candidacy for governor, thus challenging Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr., son of the incumbent Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan, Sr., during this 2010 (May) election cycle. Mangudadatu invited a large number of people to witness this event.
On the morning of November 23, 2009, Mangudadatu's family, some attorneys and members of the media - at least 57 people in six vehicles - were on their way to join Mangudadatu when they were stopped by approximately 100 armed men.
In the ensuing slaughter, everyone in Mangudadatu's group was believed to have been killed. At least four of the women in the group were raped; nearly all of the women had been shot in the genitals. Mangudadatu's wife had her genitals slashed, her breasts shot, her eyes speared, her feet cut off, and had been shot inside her mouth.
This incident was exceptional for its brutality, and with estimates of dead journalists as high as 34, may be the world's worst atrocity against journalists.
Mangudadatu ultimately edged the other candidates who remained in the race by getting over 40% of the vote.
But, there remains the issue of the massacre.
And witnesses to that massacre have a way of dying violently.
From Massacre witness shot dead, June 25, 2010:
A key witness in the trial of a powerful Muslim clan accused of orchestrating the worst political massacre in the Philippines has been shot dead, a prosecutor said on Thursday. The witness, Suwaib Upham, claimed to have taken part in the November 2009 killings of 57 people, including 31 journalists, in a crime allegedly planned by his former employers, the Ampatuan clan.
"He was supposed to be one of our strongest witnesses," prosecutor Harry Roque told Agence France-Presse. "He saw, and participated in, the killings and could have directly named in court those involved."
Roque and acting Justice Secretary Alberto Agra blamed each other for the murder of Upham.
The prosecutor, during a radio interview, said that the witness would have still been alive today had the Justice department granted him protection.
He added that Upham was killed on June 14 by an unidentified gunman in Parang town in Maguindanao.
Roque is one of the private prosecutors in the multiple-murder charges filed against Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. of Datu Unsay, former Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. of Maguindanao, suspended Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and 194 others.
He represents 14 of the slain journalists.
Roque said that Upham, also known as Jessie, personally went to Manila in March to apply as state witness under the Justice department's Witness Protection Program (WPP).
You know, the Philippines is a major outpost of the jihad to spread radical Islam; it is one of Al Qaeda's favorite hangouts.
It is here that Terry Nichols learned his bomb-making skills, which proved so deadly in Oklahoma City.
Furthermore, since much of the jihad is financed through organized crime, especially the sale of drugs (heroin from Afghanistan, for example), the Philippines is a major distribution center for moving Afghan heroin around the Pacific basin.
It's funny how, until this massacre, the Ampatuan clan was part of the Philippine government "in" crowd.
It's also funny how the Philippine government has failed to protect some very key witnesses to the massacre.
From Calls To Investigate Killing Of Philippines Massacre Witness , June 24, 2010:
"Massacre witnesses are dying while the government sits on its hands," said Elaine Pearson, acting Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "Suwaib Upham took enormous personal risks by agreeing to testify against Ampatuan family members, yet the government, knowing full well he was in danger, did nothing. This sends the worst possible message to other witnesses thinking of coming forward."
The whole situation makes me wonder if we're not seeing the Philippine Deep State here: corrupt politicians, mujahideen from South Asia, and heroin - always a potent mix.