Emergency rule declared after Philippine political massacre claims 46 lives

08:13, November 25, 2009      

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The Philippine government placed part of the restive southern region under emergency rule on Tuesday as police and soldiers dug up more bodies in a hilly mass grave, bringing the death toll of one of the country's worst election-related killings to 46.

As night fell in remote Maguindanao province, security forces wrapped up a day's digging with shovels, excavators and -- in some cases -- bare hands, only to find 25 extra bodies of journalists, lawyers and supporters of a local politician, who irked the region's most powerful clan. Authorities are still verifying if there is any survivor from Monday's gruesome massacre which targeted more than 50 civilians. Twenty-one bodies were recovered on the first day.

Dead bodies lie on the ground near their vehicles at the crime scene of a massacre of a political clan that included several journalists in the outskirts of Ampatuan, Maguindanao in southern Philippines Nov. 24, 2009.(Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

A Xinhua stringer saw bullet-riddled bodies piling one upon another being unearthed from the mass grave. Soldiers covered the victims' bodies -- some have become unrecognizable -- with banana leaves as loved ones who managed to arrive cried at the brink of the grave.

By 6 p.m. local time Tuesday, 46 people were confirmed dead, including 21 women and 13 local journalists, said Col. Janathan Ponce, a regional army spokesman. The retrieval will resume on Wednesday.

The victims were on a convoy through the Amputuan town on Monday to register Esmail Mangudadatu as governor candidate for next year's provincial election. They were stopped by around 100 militiamen and were herded away from the main road before being shot in front, at close range, by M-16 rifles, said Commander Felicisimo Khu, who heads the task force to deal with the case. Machete wounds were also found on victims' bodies.

A shallow grave of victims is dug at the scene of a massacre of a political clan, which included several journalists, on the outskirts of Ampatuan, Maguindanao in southern Philippines Nov. 24, 2009.(Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

Genalyn Tiamzon-Mangudadatu, who planned to file the candidacy papers on behalf of her husband, was among the dead.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Tuesday placed Maguindanao, the neighboring province of Sultan Kudarat and Cotabato city under the state of emergency, which gives police and military liberty to arrest and detain suspects.

"I order all units to pursue the perpetrators, to restore order and secure affected areas in Maguindanao," Arroyo told Tuesday's cabinet meeting, which was held in Manila instead of Boracay, the country's tourist island, because of the killing.
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