Yesterda,  I blogged about my work documenting human trafficking in The Philippines, and today I woke to news about a masacre in Mindanao. To say the least, I was saddened to hear about the recent violence there.

News agencies report that more than 45 people were killed in the remote town of Datu Abdullah Sanki in Maguindanao. According to reports,100 armed men believed to be supporters of the Vice-Mayor’s political opponent attacked a convoy on their way to register the candidacy of the Vice-Mayor for the gubernatorial post in the coming 2010 elections.

For decades, elections in Mindanao have been fraught with problems of violence and fraud. My recent assignment with the Asia Foundation was to document the work they are doing to help facilitate violence free elections.
While in Mindanao, I accompanied The Asia Foundation’s staff on a meeting with commanders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in their heavily guarded encampment, near Cotabato. The Asia Foundation is working with MILF to try to broker a peace agreement among the conflicting factions. (Today the MILF issued a statement condemning the recent killings).

I also documented several pre-election seminars, which The Asia Foundation was conducting, aimed at preemptively mitigating election violence.

The situation in Mindanao is complex, with many political and religious groups all vying for position and power.  Organizations like The Asia Foundation play a key role in helping to remedy this volatile situation by bringing key players together and encouraging dialog, but unfortunately, despite their best peace building efforts, tragedies like today’s incident, still occur.

With the international spotlight now temporarily on Mindanao, I hope that more international attention will be paid, and perhaps additional strides will be made to help this troubled region.

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