By Kim Knibbe
Usually, the political violence in the Philippines does not make headlines in the European media. In preparation for the elections in May 2010, there have been occasional outbursts of violence, which one could label ‘politics as usual’; local big men shooting at each other, as well as the continuous killing of (unarmed) activists and journalists that has become normal (again) under the presidency of Gloria Arroyo (see also the previous posts on the death of Corazon Aquino and the candidacy for president of her son on this weblog). But last week an incident occurred which defies belief: a whole group of women and journalists were killed at a roadblock, on their way to file the candidacy of the husband of one of those women for governor (most recently, the number of people found dead in the field next to the roadblock has risen to 57).
The moving actor behind these killings is believed to be the ruling governor in Maguindanao and his clan (the Ampatuan family) with the help of local police and military officials, as well as civilian militia’s. This is the same political clan that was instrumental for Gloria Arroyo in securing her victory in 2004. In some districts, her opponents got not one single vote, a tribute to the skill in electoral rigging of this clan.
The incident has already generated its own entry in the wikipedia, which is regularly updated, and countless news and background articles. It is good to keep in mind that although the scale of this incident is unprecedented, sadly the violence itself is part of normal political dynamics in the provinces in the Philippines. But still, who is dumb enough to think he can get away with killing 34 journalists and a whole group of women? It is a miracle that there are still journalists willing to work in the Philippines and report on these subjects. And what is Arroyo going to do to prosecute the people behind these killings? The Ampatuan family can always threaten to tell all regarding the electoral fraud in 2004 by which Arroyo remained president… When will the international community step in to help guarantee fair elections?
see Philippine Centre for Investigative Journalism for more on this subject.
See www.inquirer.net for news updates and background stories
Kim Knibbe is a post-doctoral researcher at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology at VU University Amsterdam.