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Maguindanao Massacre

Mangudadatu files COC for Maguindanao gov

November 27, 2009 11:56am

(Updated 4:43 p.m.) AMPATUAN, Philippines — A politician whose wife and relatives were among 57 people massacred in the southern Philippines this week in an apparent bid to stop him from running for governor has filed his candidacy for the election.

"Only death can stop me from running," Ismael "Toto" Mangudadatu said as he was escorted by soldiers, a police commander and a senior army general.

His caravan of more than 50 vehicles took the same road where his wife, two sisters, supporters and journalists were stopped and killed Monday and their bodies dumped in mass graves.

A local television report said Mangudadatu will be running under the banner of the ruling Lakas-Kampi-CMD party, which recently expelled Datu Unsay town Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., his brother Zaldy Ampatuan, and their father Andal Ampatuan Sr. from its ranks due to the massacre. Zaldy is the governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, while Andal Sr. is the governor of Maguindanao. [Site: 3 Ampatuans kicked out of Lakas-Kampi]

Mangudadatu was accompanied by Lakas-Kampi-CMD standard bearer Gilberto Teodoro Jr. in filing his COC for governor. "Chairman Teodoro decided to accompany Mangudadatu in the filing of his COC to ensure his safety," party president and Sarangani Governor Miguel Dominguez said in a statement.

Last Monday, Mangudadatu's wife, two sisters, and supporters were blocked by around 100 men allegedly under the orders of Andal Jr. who was believed to be the one being groomed by his father to take over the post in 2010.

The convoy was on its way to Shariff Aguak to file Mangudadatu's certificate of candidacy, and were accompanied by more than 20 journalists out to cover the event. At least 57 bodies were later discovered by authorities in Ampatuan town, many of them buried in a mass grave dug by a government-owned backhoe.

Andal Jr. turned himself in to authorities Thursday for investigation. The Justice Department is expected to come out with its resolution on the inquest proceedings Friday; Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera said all witnesses' testimonies and evidence so far point to Andal Jr. as the one who ordered the mass slaughter. [See: 'Killing of journalists, nature of massacre prompted witness to come out']

The Datu Unsay mayor, however, is claiming he's innocent, pointing instead to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) faction led by rogue commander Ameril Umbra Kato as the one behind the gruesome massacre. [See: Andal Jr. blames MILF for massacre]

Both the DOJ and the MILF leadership have dismissed Andal Jr.'s claim. MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu said Kato does not operate in Ampatuan town where the massacre occurred, as the rogue faction operates mainly in Datu Piang and Kabuntalan in Maguindanao, and in Libungan, Midsayap and Aleosan in North Cotabato. [See: 'No evidence linking MILF to massacre'] - Johanna Camille Sisante with AP/RSJ, GMANews.TV
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