The descriptions that follow may be triggering, but please read and watch. People have asked me, “What can I do?” and it will be in the context of this violence—including sexualized violence–that this call to action is situated.
Last November 23, fifty-seven people were massacred in the Southern Philippine province of Maguindanao. They were on their way to filing a certificate of candidacy for Esmael Mangudadatu, who was running against a powerful political dynasty with close ties to the Arroyo government. Because Esmael had received death threats, his wife Genalyn, two sisters Eden and Bai Farinna, and two female human rights lawyers Cynthia Oquendo-Ayon and Connie Brizuela went in his place. Also in the convoy were other family members and at least 35 journalists.
They expected that a convoy of civilians—women and journalists—would be granted safe passage. Instead, witnesses report that the convoy was gunned down by a private army of 100 men. On a national highway. In broad daylight.
The bodies were later found in shallow graves and scattered around bullet-ridden vehicles.The bodies of the women were also sexually mutilated. Reports state that the women’s pants had been pulled down and that they had been “shot in their private parts.”
Marga Ortigas of Al Jazeera has a good report that situates this massacre in a wider context of “lawlessness, the proliferation of illegal weapons, the impunity with which crimes are committed.”