In a deadly attack that is being seen as one of the worst incidents of election-related violence in the Philippines, 21 people have been killed after a group of about 100 gunmen took a group of 36 people hostage. Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner, a military spokesman in Manila, said 21 bodies had been recovered in Maguindanao, a province in the southern Philippines that has often been wracked by violence during elections. The gunmen are believed to be followers of a local politician, who wanted to prevent a rival from filing a nomination for upcoming elections. Authorities believe other bodies have been buried.
Sources said that Genalyn Tiamzon-Mangudadatu, wife of Esmael Mangudadatu, the deputy mayor of Buluan, was on her way to file nomination papers in lieu her husband, for the election of provincial governor. She was accompanied by and several journalists and lawyers, who were among those taken in a mountainous area in Maguindanao province on the southern island of Mindanao. While Maj. Gen. Alfredo Cayton, a security spokesman said that the abducted people were shot, relatives of the people killed in the incident said that many had been beheaded.
Mr. Mangudadatu said the female relatives including his wife and sister were filing his candidacy papers with hope that women would not be attacked. His uncle, Pax Mangudadatu, who is the governor of Sultan Kudarat Province, said the deputy mayor’s supporters had been targeted by backers of Andal Ampatuan, the current governor of Maguindanao. The families are reportedly bitter political enemies.
Philippines usually faces spates of violence during elections, especially in the southern parts of the nation, where security forces are battling communist rebels, Islamic radicals and the clan rivalries. Armed criminal groups and mercenaries hired by political warlords have worsened the situation. Elections are scheduled to be held for local and national elections in May' 2010 for which the filing of documents began Nov. 20.