3 Maguindanao massacre victims sexually assaulted, court says

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 20) — Female relatives and supporters of Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu were sent to file his candidacy for Maguindanao's gubernatorial race in November 23, 2009, believing that his political rivals would respect women — as practiced in Muslim faith. But on that fateful day, three women were mutilated and sexually assaulted, the court found.

Traces of semen were found on the bodies of Rahima Palawan, Leah Dalmacio, and Cecil Lechonsito.

In the 761-page decision of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes on the Maguindanao massacre case, she cited the findings of Dr. Dean Cabrera, a medico-legal officer from the PNP Crime Laboratory who conducted genital examinations.

It said Rahima Palawan, Mangudadatu's supporter, "yielded positive for the presence of semen. This leads to the conclusion that there was sexual abuse or sexual contact." She was shot four times.

Semen was also found on the body of journalist Leah Dalmacio. She was shot nine times and "suffered from extreme pain" when the suspects cut off her ring finger before she died, the judge said, quoting Cabrera.

"For him, there was basis to conclude that the victim experienced sexual abuse or sexual contact," the judge said, citing the medical report.

Passerby Cecil Lechonsito was with her husband Eduardo during the assault. She was bringing him to the hospital when they were involved in the incident. She was shot seven times, some of them shot close range — one of which hit her tongue. The judge said semen was also found on her body.

Solis-Reyes said the women were still wearing pants and underwear, but they were "somehow pushed down due to the distention of the abdomen, and the slippage of the skin."

The wife of Mangudadatu, Bai Genalin or Gigi, suffered 17 gunshot wounds inflicted with a high-powered firearm. The court found that Datu Andal "Unsay" Ampatuan Jr. shot her between her legs, pulled her, and boarded her in a vehicle. The medical report quoted in the ruling said she was not sexually assaulted.

"From the various gunshot wounds, it is evident that the victim died in a cruel, brutal and treacherous manner. The shots were intended to kill her, and she suffered the most painful death," the decision read. 

Mangudadatu's sister Bai Eden, who was also shot in her genitals, tested negative for sperm. No sperm was also found on the body of his other sister Bai Farina, who was five months pregnant.

The court convicted 43 suspects, including Unsay and seven other members of the powerful Ampatuan clan, for the mass killing of 57 people — including 31 media workers. Another 56 people were acquitted of the crime that stands as the worst election-related violence in the country and the deadliest attack on journalists in the world.