MANILA, Philippines?Monday?s massacre in Ampatuan, Maguindanao, was well planned, with the gunmen waiting for their victims for days and the graves prepared in advance, the Philippine Daily Inquirer has learned.
?They waited for the victims for two days,? said one source, who has contacts in the area, of the some 100 armed followers of the Ampatuan clan.
The source said the graves were also dug days before Monday?s killing.
?The backhoe was already in the area days before Monday,? the source said.
But the source said Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu knew about the danger he was facing, the reason he delegated to his wife Genalyn, his sisters Eden, the mayor of Mangudadatu town, and Farina, two woman lawyers, a number of women supporters and journalists the filing of his certificate of candidacy for governor at the Commission of Election office in Shariff Aguak town.
Mangudadatu himself admitted receiving reports that the Ampatuans, whom he will challenge in the gubernatorial race in next year?s elections, had threatened to chop him into pieces once he filed his candidacy. So he sent an all-woman team and journalists.
?Under our tradition, Muslim women are being respected. They should not be harmed just like innocent children and the elders,? the vice mayor said on Monday before the group left for Shariff Aguak.
He was wrong.
Less than an hour after the group left Buluan town at around 9:30 a.m. Monday, the group was blocked in Ampatuan town by some 100 armed men, believed led by Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr.
Mangudadatu said that at around 10:15 a.m., he received a call from his wife saying that they were being held by at least 100 armed men.
He also said his wife even complained that one of the gunmen, whom she identified as ?Ampatuan?s men,? slapped her. That was the last time he heard his wife?s voice.
A military intelligence officer said the advance planning was evident in the presence of a backhoe of the Maguindanao provincial government in the area. The backhoe was supposedly used to dig the graves where the victims were dumped.
?There was no prior infrastructure project in the area that could have needed the heavy equipment,? said the officer, who requested anonymity for lack of authority to talk to reporters.
The source said the gunmen were to bury all the victims, including the vehicles, but failed to do so as a helicopter flew over the area.
Aboard the helicopter was Buluan Mayor Ebrahim Mangudadatu, who first learned about the massacre. He is the brother of the vice mayor. Nico Alconaba, Dennis Santos and Charlie Señase, Inquirer Mindanao