Press Release
November 24, 2009

Press statement of Senator Loren Legarda


I condemn in the strongest possible terms the recent killing of at least 21 people, including a number of women and media personnel, by unidentified gunmen in Maguindanao province.

While the full details of the Maguindanao massacre have yet to come to light, news reports indicate that this could be the first major election-related violence in the country.

The victims are said to be on their way to the Provincial Capitol to file a certificate of candidacy with the Commission on Elections. They were accompanied by media people who were asked to cover the event. They were waylaid by about 100 armed men and subsequently killed in a brutal and barbaric manner, with some of the victims even decapitated. The casualty figures could rise even higher to more than 40, according to news reports.

I call on authorities to fully investigate this incident and to bring to justice not only the perpetrators but also the masterminds as soon as possible. No one should be above the law. This is a heinous and reprehensible crime that deserves the maximum penalty allowed by law.

At the same time, I urge the government to put in place adequate measures to ensure honest, orderly and peaceful elections in Maguindanao and other areas where intense political rivalries could erupt into violence and bloodshed. The proposal to impose a total gun ban during the election campaign period is fundamentally sound and should substantially reduce the number of election-related violent incidents in the months ahead.

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