TACURONG CITY, Sultan Kudarat, Philippines ? (UPDATE 3) At around 10 a.m. on Monday, vice mayor Ishmael Mangudadatu of Buluan town in Maguindanao received a call from his wife that at least 100 armed men were holding her and 50 others, including 34 journalists.
Mangudadatu?s wife Genalyn even complained that one of the armed men, whom she identified as ?Ampatuan?s men," slapped her.
That was the last time the vice mayor heard his wife?s voice. Late Monday afternoon, Genalyn?s body was among those found in the village of Masalay in Datu Abdullah Sangki town in Maguindanao.
?This is very painful but we trust God?s sense of justice. We leave everything to him,? he said.
Buluan town Mayor Ebrahim Mangudadatu, brother of Ishmael, said they got witnesses who claimed that his sister, Mayor Eden Mangudadatu of Mangudadatu town, was brave enough to stab Datu Unsay town Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., the man who wanted to succeed his father, Andal Sr., as Maguindanao governor and the man against whom Ishmael would run.
?Maybe sensing that all of them will be killed, she drew out a knife and stabbed Andal Jr. She?s brave,? the mayor said.
Presidential Adviser for Mindanao Jesus Dureza condemned the massacre.
?This is a gruesome massacre of civilians unequalled in recent history. Even women and working mediamen were not spared. I grieve for my friends in the media and all those killed while doing their job,? Dureza said in a statement.
?There must be a total stop to these senseless violence and carnage in the highest form. I strongly recommend that a state of emergency be imposed in the area and everyone be disarmed. Anything less would not work,? Dureza added.
Buluan town Mayor Ebrahim Mangudadatu said he saw at least 20 bodies in the village of Masalay earlier in the day.
?I saw around 20 bodies scattered on the ground. The cadavers were riddled with bullets. Some women were obviously raped. The vehicles used were ransacked and all valuables were taken away,? the mayor, who went to Masalay on a helicopter, said.
Masalay, which is near the national highway, is a village of corn and coconut farms.
Mayor Ebrahim Mangudadatu said some of the victims were buried. He said a backhoe, which was apparently used to dig the graves, was still in the area.
The backhoe is owned by the Provincial Government of Maguindanao and had Governor Andal Ampatuan?s name printed on it, the mayor said.
At least 34 journalists were with the group taken hostage by the armed men Monday morning.
The journalists were there to cover the filing of certificate of candidacy for gubernatorial position of Buluan Vice Mayor Ishmael "Toto" Mangudadatu.
The 34 journalists, aboard three vehicles, were part of the convoy led by vice mayor Eden Mangudadatu of Mangudadatu town in Maguindanao, who was tasked by his brother to file his COC with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) provincial office in Shariff Aguak town, Maguindanao.
Also taken hostage were the vice mayor?s youngest sister Bai Farina Mangudadatu, his two legal counsels Cynthia Joquindo and Connie Brizuela and about 30 other women supporters.
Mangudadatu sent his wife and two sisters and several other women supporters to formally file his COC with the Comelec to avoid creating tension.
?I was expecting they will not harm them because they were all women. No security escorts were sent to accompany them as I trust the police and military could protect them,? the vice mayor said.
Mangudadatu is running for a post long held by the Ampatuans. Datu Unsay town mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., is reportedly the one eyeing to replace his father, Andal Sr.
A total of 37 journalists were listed in the attendance sheet passed around by radio reporter Henry Araneta, among those taken hostage.
The convoy left Buluan town past 9 a.m. but three other newspaper reporters were left behind as they dropped by a hotel in Tacurong City where the journalists stayed overnight.
A hotel staff informed the trio that two motorcycle-riding men asked for the whereabouts of the media. They even tried to get the names of all journalists covering the scheduled filing of the COC of Mangudadatu. The hotel staff, however, did not give the names of journalists claiming they didn?t have the list.
Sensing danger ahead, the three journalists decided not to proceed to Shariff Aguak.
Early Monday morning, the Inquirer tried to contact the journalists who travelled with the convoy but they could no longer be reached.
A text message sent back by Bart Maravilla?s mobile phone number even said: ?cnung bart? Ala akong kila2ng ganun ee.?
No one from the Ampatuans could be contacted for reactions.
Even the mobile phone of provincial election supervisor Estelita Orbase at the provincial capitol could not be contacted.
The massacre happened while Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan were reportedly in Manila for an emergency meeting with presidential adviser on political affairs Gabriel Claudio.
Health workers in Maguindanao said some of them had to go home early to this city in trying to evade the very volatile situation.
On Monday afternoon, Cotabato City-based reporters dispatched to cover the hostage-taking had to return to base when told of the hazard waiting at the scene.
Told to back-off by government security troops were ABS-CBN and GMA television crew and other print and broadcast journalists.
Loreto Rosario of the Catholic-ran DXMS radio said "the situation is too hot and we were told to wait for it to cool off."
A correspondent of GMA-Cotabato said he was prevented from taking footage and ?soldiers and civilians told us not to proceed. Delikado raw (It?s dangerous)."
Lerio Bompat of ABS-CBN said journalists were limited to the Capitol premises and were advised not to go to the scene of the crime, about 5 kilometers away from the Comelec office.
Vice Mayor Mangudadatu said he had asked the military and police for security escorts but the request was ignored.
He also appealed to Malacañang to ?act and stop the excesses of the Ampatuans.?
?I?m determined to run no matter what happens. Change must take place in Maguindanao. I want to save the Bangsamoro people from this kind of leadership,? the vice mayor said.