# NEW: Death toll rises to 46; dead include at least 12 journalists
# Governor candidate's wife, sister among those killed, family members say, women were raped and tortured. many were beheaded.
# Watchdog organization blames "frenzied violence of thugs" for deaths
# Kidnappings occurred in Philippines' Maguindanao province in Mindanao, a Muslim autonomous region out of the control of the central government.
Manila, Philippines (CNN) -- Search teams pulled 24 more bodies out of shallow graves in the Philippines Tuesday bringing the death toll to 46 in "a gruesome massacre" ahead of provincial elections, state-run media reported.
The Philippine government declared a state of emergency in southern parts of the country following Monday's shooting, which government officials called the worse pre-election violence in the country's history.
The military was deployed Tuesday in parts of Maguindanao to prevent more violence, according to the Philippines News Agency.
On Monday, the kidnapped group -- which included the wife of gubernatorial candidate Ismael "Toto" Mangudadatu -- was abducted while in a convoy to file his nomination papers for the May election. He had received threats that he would be kidnapped if he filed the papers himself.
The agency also said the government was placing survivors of the attack into witness protection.
A local police commander described the grisly search operation near an isolated village, telling reporters from ABS-CBN News that 17 bodies were pulled from a single grave.
"They were piled on top of each other," Chief Superintendent Josefino Cataluna said. "It looked as if they were buried hurriedly."
Some of the bodies were beheaded, according to Filipino media. The details suggest the daytime abductions were politically motivated, and the military said the gunmen were loyal to the province's incumbent governor.
Those killed include a gubernatorial candidate's wife and one of his sisters, according to two of his family members who spoke on local television. The death toll also included at least 12 journalists, according to Reporters Without Borders, a media freedom organization.
Ismael "Toto" Mangudadatu wanted to run for governor of Maguindanao province in May but had received threats he would be kidnapped if he filed the candidate nomination papers himself. He sent his wife and sisters to file the papers, thinking "that women would have some protection," journalist Maria Ressa told CNN.
"It was supposed to be a media event," Ressa said, "[to] let the public know that this politician would run for governor."
Army officials said 100 gunmen surrounded the group of about 40 people -- many local journalists and women among them -- and ordered them out of their vehicles. They took the hostages to a mountainous region, officials said.
Some of the women were raped and tortured, according to media reports.
The military confirmed finding 22 bodies, some of them reportedly beheaded.
"Never in the history of journalism have the news media suffered such a heavy loss of life in one day," Reporters Without Borders said of the 12 journalists reported dead.
The military has said the gunmen are loyal to Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan, who has held control of the area for the past decade and is a longtime ally of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Neither Ampatuan nor his advisers have commented on the allegation.
It was also the worst politically-motivated violence in the Philippines' recent history. Witnesses, local officials and analysts have blamed the attacks on Ampatuan, who has controlled the area for a decade and is a long-time ally of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Ampatuan, who is known locally as a warlord, reportedly commands a private army of nearly 500 men. Philippine military officials also said Monday that the gunmen who carried out the attack were loyal to Ampatuan.
Neither Ampatuan nor any of his advisers has commented on the allegations.
"It's not hard to determine the motive," according to Philippine analyst Kenneth E. Bauzon. "How dare this [Mangudadatu] challenge him when he knows that the governor is a position that is presumably reserved for [the Ampatuan] family."
Ampatuan reportedly wanted one of his sons to succeed him as governor of Maguindanao when he stepped down next year, according to ABS-CBN.
A government construction vehicle was found at the site of the hastily dug mass grave, fueling the belief that Ampatuan or his allies had a role in the massacre.
Both the Ampatuan and Mangudadatu clans have agreed to participate in the government's investigation into the killings, according to Arroyo's adviser on the Mindanao region, Jesus Dureza, who spoke to the Philippine media on Tuesday.
Neither Ampatuan nor his advisers have spoken publicly about the widespread allegations, and that is most likely because he is "weighing his options," Bauzon said.
Now, the region is bracing for a backlash of possible reprisal killings. The Philippine government has placed Maguindanao and its surrounding regions under a state of emergency and survivors of Monday's massacre have entered a government witness protection program, according to the state-run Philippines News Agency.
Arroyo has sent top level government officials to Maguindanao to "personally oversee military action against the perpetrators of the dastardly acts," she said Tuesday.
"No effort has been spared to bring justice to the victims and hold the perpetrators accountable to the full limit of the law," she said.
Long-running family disputes in the southern Philippines have spilled innocent blood before. Such blood feuds are known by the indigenous term, "rido." But Monday's massacre has broader implications, Bauzon said.
"I think that this is a culmination for many years of impunity on the part of any family or group for that matter because this has been tolerated by the Arroyo administration," said Bauzon, a political science associate professor at Saint Joseph's College in New York, who is from Mindanao and has authored several books on the region and its politics.
"So when the administration looks the other way when journalists report on military abuses [or] when the administration looks the other way when church workers are assassinated, when environmental workers are assassinated or abducted, you know, this [massacre] is just one or two steps away [from that]."
The killings could further damage the political reputation of Arroyo, whose administration has already been scarred by allegations of a tainted election in 2004 and criticism over her response to the recent typhoons to strike the country.
"It's a test as to what how far the Arroyo administration will go to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators," Bauzon said.
Arroyo's term ends in May 2010, and she cannot seek re-election although there has been speculation that she could seek another political office.
Maguindanao is a province in Mindanao, a Muslim autonomous region out of the control of the central government. The Philippines government said it increased security in the region after the attacks.
Jesus Dureza, an adviser to Macapagal-Arroyo, called the slayings "a gruesome massacre of civilians unequaled in recent history."
Dureza, Macapagal-Arroyo's adviser on Mindanao affairs, has asked the government to place Maguindanao province under a state of emergency.
Elections in the Philippines have long been marred by violence, but Monday's abductions and killings shocked the nation. Macapagal-Arroyo condemned the killings and ordered more Filipino troops to the region to bolster security, according to the Philippines News Agency.
She also ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines "to conduct immediate and relentless pursuit of the perpetrators [and] to secure the affected areas," the agency reported.
Military checkpoints are being set up as part of the security effort, state media reported.
Aid agencies operating in the region have long complained about a climate of fear in the region, where the government has little control and private armies operate freely.
Reporters Without Borders said it has been outspoken in criticizing "the culture of impunity and violence in the Philippines, especially Mindanao."
"This time, the frenzied violence of thugs working for corrupt politicians has resulted in an incomprehensible bloodbath," the organization said. "We call for a strong reaction from the local and national authorities."
Tags: journalists, candidates, family, kidnapped, murdered, beheaded
Location: Manila, Manila, Philippines (load item map)
Marked as: approved
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