Oct 032014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/11/09MANILA2448.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA2448
2009-11-24 09:01
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

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FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
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INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 002448

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/24/2019
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM KCRM KJUS ASEC RP
SUBJECT: PHILIPPINE CLAN VIOLENCE LEAVES OVER 20 DEAD

Classified By: Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney, reason: 1.4 (b and d).

SUMMARY
——-

¶1. (C) Assailants in the southern Philippines November 23
killed a group of women from a prominent Muslim clan, their
staff members, and accompanying journalists en route to
register one of the clan’s leading members for a provincial
gubernatorial election. Family members of the dead have
alleged that the massacre was the work of another influential
Muslim family that wields political control of two
Muslim-majority regions in Mindanao, but few hard facts are
available. In an effort to prevent further violence and
facilitate the investigation, President Arroyo on November 24
declared a state of emergency in the provinces of Maguindanao
and neighboring Sultan Kudarat province, and Cotabato City.
The Philippine Secretary of National Defense traveled to the
South to launch an inquiry, and an additional 900 military
and police forces were deployed to bolster security in an
area that also harbors a long-running Muslim insurgency.
Most observers suspect that long-running clan rivalries lie
behind the attack, but election violence is also endemic
throughout the Philippines and particularly in Mindanao.
Post is recommending an update to the current travel warning
for portions of Mindanao (septel). End Summary.

GRISLY MASSACRE
—————

¶2. (C) On November 23, residents of the southern province of
Maguindanao discovered the corpses of over 20 victims of a
grisly massacre that took place between the towns of Shariff
Aguak and Ampatuan. Details of the attack remain imprecise.
Reports claimed between 21 and 43 persons were killed,
primarily by gunfire; some 25 bodies had been recovered by
police as of the afternoon of November 24. Police sources
told Embassy contacts that so far they could not verify
widespread media reports that the assailants decapitated or
raped some of the victims (nearly half in the group were
women). Embassy RSO staff received from contacts in
Maguindanao a list of 35 named members of the group that was
attacked, broken down as follows:

– 12 members of the politically prominent Mangudadatu family,
including the Vice Mayor of Mangudadatu municipality and the
wife of the Vice Mayor of Buluan municipality. The list of
names indicates all of the Mangudadatu family members likely
were women.

– 11 staff members accompanying the Mangudadatu family
members.

– 12 Filipino journalists, including four associated with
public television outlet UNTV and one associated with the
national newspaper Manila Bulletin.

¶3. (SBU) The group was en route from Buluan to Shariff Aguak
in order to register Ishmael Mangudadatu, currently Bualan
municipality Vice Mayor, to compete in the Maguindanao
province gubernatorial election. Vice Mayor Mangudadatu
intends to compete for the governorship against a member of
the highly influential Ampatuan clan, who control the post of
governer of both Maguindanao and the overarching Autonomous
Region of Muslim Mindanao. Mangudadatu allegedly received
warnings that he would be in danger if he filed his election
registration papers in person, and he therefore sent women —
accompanied by journalists — to do the job, on the premise
that they would be less likely to be targeted for violence.

¶4. (SBU) Vice Mayor Mangudadatu, whose wife and two sisters
died in the attack, claimed that, prior to her death, his
wife informed him by cell phone that a large armed group had
confronted her and her companions. This armed group
allegedly made reference to Vice Mayor Mangudadatu’s election
registration papers, according to press reports. Mangudadatu
claimed publicly that Andal Ampatuan, Jr. (son of the current
Maguindanao governor) was part of the armed group.

¶5. (C) There have been rumors that some uniformed police
officials were included in the armed group that confronted
the Mangudadatus near Shariff Aguak. Embassy contacts and
open sources have claimed that the perpetrators began
shooting their victims after an altercation began.

BAD BLOOD
———

MANILA 00002448 002 OF 002

¶6. (SBU) The Mangudadatus and Ampatuans are prominent Muslim
clans in Mindanao. The patriarch of the Ampatuan clan is
Andal Ampatuan, Sr., current Governor of Maguindanao. One of
Governor Ampatuan’s sons, Zaldy Ampatuan, is serving as
Governor of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM),
which encompasses Maguindanao and other provinces in the
region.

¶7. (SBU) The Mangudadatus are not as wealthy or powerful as
the Ampatuans (with whom they have some family ties), but
they have significant influence in Maguindanao, particularly
in Buluan municipality. The current Governor of adjacent
Sultan Kudarat province is Suharto Mangudadatu, son of clan
patriarch Pax Mangudadatu.

¶8. (SBU) Both the Ampatuans and the Mangudadatus are
affiliated with the Lakas-Kampi-CMD ruling party, and they
have at times cooperated in political matters. Both maintain
well-armed militias. The Ampatuans are staunch allies of
President Arroyo, having helped her and her allies to prevail
decisively in the ARMM in 2004 and 2007 elections. Both the
Ampatuans and the Mangudadatus are predominantly of the
Islamic faith.

TENSE AFTERMATH
—————

¶9. (SBU) Prominent members of the Ampatuan clan have not
issued any public statement on the massacre. Embassy
contacts, including at least one member of the Mangudadatu
clan, have told us that the Mangudadatus will wait to see how
the investigation into the slaying proceeds, rather than
launching an immediate counterattack. President Arroyo on
November 24 declared a state of emergency in Maguindanao and
Sultan Kudarat provinces, as well as nearby Cotabato City, in
order to prevent further violence.

¶10. (SBU) In response to the attack, Secretary of National
Defense Gonzales traveled to Cotabato City. (The Armed
Forces of the Philippines is assisting in the investigation.)
In a previously scheduled meeting, the Undersecretary of
National Defense for Plans and Programs, Antonio Santos,
discussed the Maguindanao incident with CODEL Filner and the
DCM. Santos said that the reports he received tracked with
media information. The Undersecretary added that while the
Ampatuan family is allied politically with the Arroyo
administration, “We have to enforce the law,” and noted that
the administration has tasked NBI with investigating the case
to avoid any conflict of interest in the pursuit of possible
charges against Philippine National Police (PNP) officials.

¶11. (SBU) The DCM asked whether the scale of the attack was
surprising, given the history of political violence in
Mindanao. Santos initially replied that the only surprising
aspect of the attack was that it occurred so early in the
election season, but then corrected himself and noted the
troubling large number of victims and targeting of reporters.
There is “deep-seated hatred between the clans. This
(attack) is crazy. Unthinkable.”

COMMENT
——-

¶12. (C) In many parts of the Philippines, the competition for
political influence remains brutal and primordial. Even by
those standards, however, the November 23 massacre stands out
for its barbarism. We will encourage the national government
to launch a credible and effective investigation to bring the
perpetrators to justice and help to keep the conflict between
the Ampatuan and Mangudadatu clans from escalating further.
KENNEY

   

 

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