Maguindanao Massacre

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The Maguindanao Massacre refers to the election-related mass killing of at least 58 people on 23 November 2009. The victims, which included some of the clan's family members, as well as 32 journalists, lawyers and civilians were on their way to the town of Shariff Aguak to file a certificate of candidacy on behalf of Buluan, Maguindanao Vice Mayor Datu Ismail "Toto" Mangudadatu, who was running for governor in the province, when they were abducted and later killed by heavily armed men allegedly belonging to the Ampatuan Clan.

The Maguindanao Massacre is regarded by the Committee to Protect Journalists as the single deadliest attack against journalists in history. The date of the massacre, November 23, was recently declared as the International Day to End Impunity by the International Freedom of Expression Exchange.

197 are accused in the case, and 106 remain on trial before the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 221. One of the main suspects, Ampatuan clan patriarch Andal Ampatuan Sr, had already died in July 2015. To date, no one has been convicted over the massacre.

Time Line

Filing of Certificate of Candidacy

Believing that women would not be harmed in accordance with Islamic laws, Mangudadatu sent his wife and two sisters on Monday, 23 November 2009 to file his certificate of candidacy (COC) on his behalf. To further ensure their safety, he also encouraged several Mindanao journalists and lawyers to accompany them. At 9:00 a.m., together with some unarmed supporters and staff of the Mangudadatus, the convoy proceeded to the Comelec office in Shariff Aguak, a known turf of their rivals, the Ampatuans.

Flagged Down

The convoy was on its way to the COMELEC office to file the COC when it was flagged down at around 10:30 a.m. at a checkpoint on the Cotabato-Isulan Highway in Barangay Kauran, Ampatuan, Maguindanao, by some 100 heavily armed men allegedly led by Datu Unsay municipal mayor Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr.. The people were forcibly taken out of the vehicles and brought to Barangay Salman, still in Ampatuan, where they were presumably killed. Mangudadatu's wife, Genalyn Tiamzon-Mangudadatu, managed to call her husband to inform him that they were being flagged down by armed men before her call was cut off. At 11:30, Mangudadatu received news that six of the passengers had already been killed.

Confirmed Dead

As early as 11:30 p.m., news of the incident had already reached the military and local police officials, who immediately dispatched troops to rush to the site and control the area. Hours later, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Public Information Office chief Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner confirmed that ground troops had recovered 21 bodies—13 women and eight men—from a grave site in Barangay Saniag, Ampatuan. Three vehicles owned by the Mangudadatu’s were found abandoned and burned. According to some reports the victims were believed to be shot at random, and some were decapitated with chainsaws. The killers were also said to have used a backhoe to dig the mass graves where the victims were buried. Local officials were still uncertain if some were still being held hostage or had already been murdered.

Political Motivation

Hours later, Toto Mangudadatu accused Ampatuan Clan patriarch Andal Ampatuan, Sr. and son Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Zaldy Ampatuan as the brains behind the mass killing based on what his wife Genalyn Tiamzon-Mangudadatu, who was among those killed, had told him. Mangudadatu said that his wife had managed to call on his cellphone and had informed him that armed men from the Ampatuans had stopped their convoy and that their companions were being dragged out of the vehicles. The Ampatuans are a known political rivals of the Mangudadatus.


Mangudadatu later revealed that there were four survivors from the massacre whose names they would not divulge for safety reasons. He said that the survivors, who will testify as witnesses are under their care and protection. He claimed that the survivors had witnessed Datu Unsay municipal Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., another son of Ampatuan Sr. and Zaldy Ampatuan’s brother, approach the vehicle where his wife, Genalyn Tiamzon-Mangudadatu, was riding and made her get out.

On the second day of retrieval operation, police and military recovered at least 24 more bodies of the victims, bringing the number of casualties to 46, easily the worst pre-election violence in the country.

Media Organizations Condemn the Massacre

On 24 November 2009, after information about the massacre hit the news, media organizations condemned the brutal massacre in Maguindanao and demanded that government and its security forces move swiftly to resolve the crisis and ensure that no harm befall the other hostages. National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) stated that the taking hostage of journalists is already an assault on the Constitution itself and on the freedom of the press and of expression which it enshrines. International media watchdog Reporters Without Borders said that "never in the history of journalism have the news media suffered such a heavy loss of life in one day."

Malacañang Orders "Relentless Pursuit"

After a closed-door meeting with security officials in Malacañang, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo through Proclamation 1946 placed the entire provinces of Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and Cotabato City under a state of emergency on 24 November 2009. Arroyo also ordered the immediate arrest of the perpetrators and vowed that they would be brought to justice for their acts. Minutes later, the military launched air and ground operations around the provinces. The President assigned Presidential Adviser for Mindanao Jesus Dureza as head of the crisis team that would handle the investigation and contain the situation.

Meanwhile, Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) encouraged all media practitioners to wear black ribbons and armbands to highlight their outrage over the killing of their colleagues. KBP also sought this gesture as a show of solidarity with families of the slain media workers.

Most Dangerous Place

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has tagged the Philippines as the most dangerous place in the world for media workers. IFJ said that at least 74 journalists have been killed during the present administration's eight-year tenure, yet the government has not acted to end the culture of impunity. It said that at last count, only four convictions had been secured. At least 12 journalists were reported killed in the massacre.

Resolutions Filed

On 25 November 2009, Senators Benigno Simeon Aquino III and Mar Roxas filed a resolution urging the Senate to investigate and condemn in the strongest possible terms the massacre that happened in Maguindanao. The senators, who are also the presidential and vice presidential bet of the Liberal Party in the coming 2010 polls, also urged their colleagues to conduct an inquiry into the "unparalleled and gruesome" incident, so that the chamber could propose legislative measures to stop the violence in the provinces.

On the other hand, Maguindanao governor Zaldy Ampatuan appealed to both Christian and Muslim communities not to pre-judge their family based on speculations surrounding the massacre. In an emailed statement, Ampatuan said that people must instead allow authorities to finish their investigation and identify the culprits as well as the real motive for the attack.

List of Victims

Listed by the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates

  1. Benjie Adolfo (Gold Star Daily, Koronadal City)
  2. Henry Araneta (DZRH, General Santos City)
  3. McDelbert Arriola (UNTV, General Santos City)
  4. Rubello Bataluna (Gold Star Daily, Koronadal City)
  5. Arturo Betia (Periodico Ini, General Santos City)
  6. Romeo Jimmy Cabillo (Midland Review, Tacurong City)
  7. Marites Cablitas (News Focus, General Santos City)
  8. Hannibal Cachuela (Punto News, Koronadal City)
  9. Jepon Cadagdagon (Saksi News, General Santos City)
  10. John Caniban (Periodico Ini, General Santos City)
  11. Lea Dalmacio (Socsargen News, General Santos City)
  12. Noel Decina (Periodico Ini, General Santos City)
  13. Gina dela Cruz (Saksi News, General Santos City)
  14. Jhoy Duhay (Gold Star Daily, Tacurong City)
  15. Jolito Evardo (UNTV, General Santos City)
  16. Santos Gatchalian (DXGO, Davao City)
  17. Bienvenido Legarte, Jr. (Prontiera News, Koronadal City)
  18. Lindo Lupogan (Mindanao Daily Gazette, Davao City)
  19. Ernesto Maravilla (Bombo Radyo, Koronadal City)
  20. Rey Merisco (Periodico Ini, General Santos City)
  21. Marife Montano (Saksi News, General Santos City)
  22. Rosell Morales (News Focus, General Santos City)
  23. Victor Nunez (UNTV, General Santos City)
  24. Ronnie Perante (Gold Star Daily, Koronadal City)
  25. Joel Parcon (Prontiera News, Koronadal City)
  26. Fernando Razon (Periodico Ini, General Santos City)
  27. Alejandro Reblando (Manila Bulletin, General Santos City)
  28. Napoleon Salaysay (Mindanao Gazette, Cotabato City)
  29. Francisco Subang (Socsargen Today, General Santos City)
  30. Andres Teodoro (Central Mindanao Inquirer, Tacurong City)
  31. Daniel Tiamson (UNTV, General Santos City)
  32. Reynaldo Momay (Midland Review, Tacurong City)
  33. Eden Mangudadatu (former vice mayor of Mangudadatu, Maguindanao)
  34. Genalin Tiamson-Mangudadatu (wife of Maguindanao governor Esmael Mangudadatu)
  35. Memotabi Mangudadatu (member of the Mangudadatu clan)
  36. Rowena Ante Mangudadatu (cousin of Esmael Mangudadatu)
  37. Manguba Mangudadatu (aunt of Esmael Mangudadatu)
  38. Farina Mangudadatu (sister of Esmael Mangudadatu)
  39. Farida Mangudadatu (youngest sister of Esmael Mangudadatu)
  40. Farida Sabdullah (civilian)
  41. Suraida Beman (civilian)
  42. Raida Sapalon Abdul (civilian)
  43. Pinky Balayman (civilian)
  44. Ela Balayman (civilian)
  45. Rahima Puelo Palawan (civilian)
  46. Meriam Calimbol (civilian)
  47. Patricia Palapay (civilian)
  48. Cynthia Onquendo Ogare (lawyer of Esmael Mangudadatu)
  49. Concepcion Brizuela (lawyer of Esmael Mangudadatu)
  50. Catalino Onquendo (father of Cynthia Onquendo Ogare)
  51. Art Mascardo (civilian)
  52. John Caniban (civilian)
  53. A certain "Unto" (driver)
  54. Eugene Depillano (driver)
  55. Sidick Edza (driver)
  56. Patrick Pamansang (driver)
  57. A certain "Chito" (driver)
  58. Abdulla Hadji Dodong (driver)

War Spillover

On 25 November 2009, residents of Davao City expressed fear that the clan war between the Mangudadatus and the Ampatuans would be brought to the city. Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said the two rival clans had already sought assistance from him for protection of the members of their respective families. The Magudadatus and Ampatuans are from the neighboring provinces of Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao but both clans have houses and mansions in Davao City, some three to five hours away by car. Most of their children or grandchildren go to school in Davao City.

Death Toll Climbing

At the end of 25 November 2009, military and police retrieval teams discovered two more 15-foot deep mass graves which yielded 11 more bodies. Chief Supt. Josefino Cataluna, regional police chief, said two of the newly dug-up bodies were inside two vehicles. Another van was also recovered from the same grave. Officials believed that some bodies recovered were not associated to the convoy, proving earlier reports that some innocent civilians were killed, too.

Ampatuan Jr. Surrenders

In the morning of 26 November 2009 Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., the key suspect of the murder, surrendered to authorities. Ampatuan Jr., accompanied by Jesus Dureza, presidential adviser on Mindanao, arrived in General Santos at 12:25 p.m. and was handed over to Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera who would bring the local official to Manila.

Prosecutors filed 25 murder charges against Ampatuan in southern Cotabato City. The five prosecutors handling the murder case carried two boxloads of evidence and affidavits from witnesses from Manila to Cotabato city aboard two air force helicopters. They claimed that the evidence was strong, stating that at least 10 witnesses provided written testimonies linking Ampatuan to the killings. They, however, are expected to ask the court to try the case in Manila for security reasons. Prosecutors and other personnel involved has allegedly received death threats from unidentified people since the case was brought to them.

Militiamen admit roles in massacre

On 2 December 2009, Philippine National Police presented to the Department of Justice two militiamen who had admitted to taking part in the massacre. During inquest, Civilian Volunteers Organization members Esmael Canapia and Takpan Dilon said they took part in the killing of supporters and relatives of Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu and several journalists in Ampatuan, claiming they just followed the order of the Ampatuans.


On 3 December 2009, Zaldy Ampatuan asked the Supreme Court to declare State of Emergency unconstitutional which President Arroyo had declared a day after the gruesome massacre. He also called on the SC to declare as illegal the President’s order to suspend all ARMM officials. Ampatuan, who is represented by prominent lawyer Sigfrid Fortun, argued the presidential orders violated the constitutional provision that gives autonomy to local government units.

Security Reasons

Quezon City Regional Trial Court (QCRTC) Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of Branch 221 was picked to handle the case after QCRTC Branch 84 Presiding Judge Luisito Cortez immediately inhibited from handling the case for security reasons. Prior to his refusal, courts in Maguindanao had previously refused to take the case, citing the same reason.

Ampatuan Pleaded Not Guilty

At the arraignment, Andal Ampatuan Jr. pleaded not guilty to 41 counts of murder. Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes rejected the bid of lawyer Sigfrid Fortun, Ampatuan Jr.'s counsel, to have a preliminary conference of the case. As bail hearing proceeded, head of the National Bureau of Investigation’s counter-terrorism unit Ricardo Diaz took the witness stand, describing the procedures he took while in Maguindanao including taking the testimonies of five witnesses and photographing the crime scene, among others.

Massacre witness killed

Suwaib Upham, who claimes to be a triggerman during the November massacre, was killed sometime in June 2010 before he could be admitted to the Department of Justice witness protection program.

Legal proceedings

At least 198 suspects were charged with murder. In April 2010, the government dropped murder charges against Zaldy Ampatuan and Akhmad Ampatuan who had presented alibis. Thus, family members of the victims held protests.

On 1 June 2011, Andal Ampatuan, Sr. was arraigned in a special court inside a Manila maximum-security prison. As of November that same year, only Andal Sr. and his son Andal Jr. had been charged. Some 100 of the 197 persons listed on the charge sheet were still unaccounted for.

On 28 June 2012, the Court of Appeals dismissed Anwar Ampatuan's petition to have the murder charges against him quashed. Three months later, the QC Regional Trial Court deferred his arraignment pending resolution to determine if there is probable cause to prosecute him for the murder charges. In November 2012, the Supreme Court set guideline which disallowed the live media broadacst of the trial. However, the proceedings were filmed for real-life transmissions to specified viewing areas and for documentation.

On 4 March 2014, the prosecution rested its case against 28 suspects. In August 2014, private prosecutors alleged that state prosecutors receive bribes as large as Php 300 million. However, Supervising Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III and the DOJ Panel of Prosecutors handling the case denied the allegations. That same month, several teams of defense lawyers representing the accused withdrew from the case. The court assigned a public lawyer to represent them.

On 17 July 2015, Andal Ampatuan Sr., patriarch of the Ampatuan clan of Maguindanao province, passed away. He had been comatose at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute four days earlier after suffering a heart attack. The prime suspect in the worst case of election-related violence in Philippine history, the Maguindanao massacre, had been battling advanced stage liver cancer.

In August 2016, families of the Maguindanao massacre victims sought a dialogue with President Rodrigo Duterte and urged him to speed up the resolution of the case.

In October 2016, Duterte signed the administrative order which created the “Presidential Task Force on Violations of the Right to Life, Liberty and Security of the Members of the Media.” The task force is chaired by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II. It is mandated to ensure a safe environment for members of the media.


In August 2016, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno said the case may soon be up for decision as the trial reaches the tailend of the hearings.

In an update released by the Supreme Court (SC) in November 2016, 232 witnesses have been heard by the court, which involved 131 prosecution witnesses, 58 private complainants, and 43 defense witnesses.

All bail proceedings have been resolved except for Ampatuan Jr. whose formal offer of eveidence was deemed submitted for resolution in October 2016.

Only one of the 9 accused, who were subject of the first batch of defense FOEs resolved by the Court in June 2016, is still presenting defense evidence.

45 of the accused involved in the second batch of defense FOEs has been resolved in November 2016. The initial presentation of their defense evidence started in January 2017.

After resting their cases, these will be submitted for the decision of the court.




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