Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Philippines Massacre

With mass killings in Maguindanao, Philippines now ranks as world’s most dangerous country for journalists. Photographs by Jes Aznar (27-Nov-09).
By IWPR Reporters
  • 1. A soldier covers with banana leaves some of the bodies of at least 57 victims of the November 23 massacre in a remote village in Ampatuan, Maguindanao. Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr is the prime suspect in the case that shocked the country and international community. He denies responsibility.
    1. A soldier covers with banana leaves some of the bodies of at least 57 victims of the November 23 massacre in a remote village in Ampatuan, Maguindanao. Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr is the prime suspect in the case that shocked the country and international community. He denies responsibility.
  • 2. Another body recovered from the massacre site, which also had several freshly dug mass graves and a backhoe, bolstering suspicions that perpetrators tried to cover up the crime.
    2. Another body recovered from the massacre site, which also had several freshly dug mass graves and a backhoe, bolstering suspicions that perpetrators tried to cover up the crime.
  • 3. Investigators check on one of the bodies recovered under layers of soil and vehicles. As of press time, 26 of the 57 victims were identified to be local journalists who would cover the filing of candidacy of Buluan vice mayor Toto Mangudadatu by his wife and relatives, mostly women.
    3. Investigators check on one of the bodies recovered under layers of soil and vehicles. As of press time, 26 of the 57 victims were identified to be local journalists who would cover the filing of candidacy of Buluan vice mayor Toto Mangudadatu by his wife and relatives, mostly women.
  • 4. Health workers check on the victims’ bodies, ready for transport to a local morgue in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao.
    4. Health workers check on the victims’ bodies, ready for transport to a local morgue in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao.
  • 5. Even vehicles, such as this one, were also recovered from the mass graves in Ampatuan, Maguindanao. Apart from the Mangudadatu relatives and journalists, two known human rights lawyers and motorists were also killed.
    5. Even vehicles, such as this one, were also recovered from the mass graves in Ampatuan, Maguindanao. Apart from the Mangudadatu relatives and journalists, two known human rights lawyers and motorists were also killed.
  • <p>
	6. Investigators cover their noses from the stench of the bodies recovered from the November 23 massacre, which the United Nations, among many national and international groups, called a "heinous crime".</p>
    <p> 6. Investigators cover their noses from the stench of the bodies recovered from the November 23 massacre, which the United Nations, among many national and international groups, called a "heinous crime".</p>
  • <p>
	7. Local journalists check on the remains of their colleagues who were among those massacred. The carnage meant that the Philippines has overtaken Iraq as the most dangerous place to work for journalists, said the International Federation of Journalists.</p>
    <p> 7. Local journalists check on the remains of their colleagues who were among those massacred. The carnage meant that the Philippines has overtaken Iraq as the most dangerous place to work for journalists, said the International Federation of Journalists.</p>

The bodies of 57 political activists, lawyers, journalists and local government employees have been found by the authorities in Maguindanao Province in the southern Philippines. An armed militia of up to 100 people reportedly abducted and massacred the civilians on November 23 as they were traveling in a convoy to register a candidate for next year’s local and national elections.

Twenty-six of the dead were journalists who had joined Evelyn Mangudadatu, the wife of Buluan vice mayor Toto Mangudadatu who was traveling along with several female relatives and female lawyers to file candidacy papers on behalf of her husband who had decided to stand in the elections. Evelyn was raped and her body very severely mutilated, according to her husband. The authorities confirmed that several of the women were heavily pregnant. The Mangudadatu family had reportedly been warned against trying to contest the elections.

Fearful of attacks against any male members of the extended Mangudadatu family while trying to file papers, they decided only to send female members. Local media representatives and lawyers were invited to join the convoy in a bid to ensure its safety.

A suspect in the case, Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr, surrendered to the authorities and was flown to Manila on November 26 but denies all responsibility for the killings – the worst incident of its kind in recent Philippines history. The Philippines now ranks as the world’s most dangerous country for journalists.