COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/23 January) — January 25, 2016 marks the first death anniversary of the victims of the infamous Mamasapano encounter between the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police on the one hand against some elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (MILF-BIAF), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and “private armed groups” on the other hand. In the incident, 44 members of the SAF and 18 BIAF and 4 civilians died. Unfortunately the mindset is that when the Mamasapano incident is mentioned, the media simply refers only to the death and the heroism of the SAF 44 and the other victims are not at all accounted for or recognized.
Who are the victims? Who are the perpetrators?
Are not the SAF 44 and the BIAF 18 all victims of the unfortunate incident? In the first place, who would like the tragic incident to have happened? Is it the government when it was pushing hard to end the violence and bring peace in the Bangsamoro? Is it the MILF who are all hell-bent to strengthening their political party to participate in the democratic governance through elections? Is it the MILF who are willing and ready to decommission their men and weapons in the name of peace? Is it the civilians who were living peacefully in the area after having been displaced several times in the past? Certainly, none of these three entities would like the incident to happen. But it happened. That is why it is unfortunate. And after everything is told, peace ends up the number one victim.
But who did it? Who encroached in whose area? The ants in your own backyard will definitely bite you if you touch them. The bees in your own mango tree will definite run after you if you disturb them. The satan will hurt you if you don’t invoke the name of God.
As if the first investigation was not enough, a renewed investigation is going to be opened “to seek justice for the victims” and find the real culprits. Speaking of justice, most of the families of the SAF 44 had received tremendous support both from government and private citizens. They received substantial assistance, except the return to life of their loved ones. Following is a report on the assistance extended to the families of the SAF 44 from PNP Senior Supt. Manuel Abu, chief of the Morale and Welfare Division:
- P250,000 for each family from the President’s Social Fund
- 6 million from the PNP Special Financial Assistance
- 6 million in commutation of accumulated leaves
- 4 million burial and gratuity assistance from the National Police Commission (Napolcom)
- 1 million from the back earned pension of the Napolcom
- 5 million from the independent Public Safety Mutual Benefit Fund Inc.
- A total of P1.016 million released monthly as pension benefits which have been credited to the beneficiaries’ ATM accounts monthly since April 2015
- 32 housing units with 24 more undergoing construction (the total is 56 as this is the number of families who attended a meeting with the President and had been promised a housing unit)
- A total of P26.8 million received as donations from the Senate, Congress, and LGUs
- P20,000 funeral benefits for each family from the GSIS
- Insurance plans and health cards sponsored by San Miguel Foundation
- P10,000 for each family from the DOJ Board of Claims
Furthermore, Rep. Jeffrey P. Ferrer, Chair of the House Committee on Public Order and Safety, said that P38 million (out of the total PNP budget of P88.5 billion) was allocated from the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for financial assistance to the SAF survivors of the Mamasapano clash and the families of the SAF 44. The funding is to be administered by the PNP, whether through allotment, assistance, or benefit.
But in the case of the families of BIAF 18 and the civilian-victims of the same incident, they only received token assistance from the government compared to the SAF. Are they less Filipinos than the SAF 44? Or is it because they are considered the “villains” in the incident? This reminds us of the old practice of Moro-Moro show in the church, where the Moros are always portrayed as the villains to project them as the bad guys and as enemies.
If for the sake of justice, the Mamasapano incident shall be opened for re-investigation, we fully support it. If this is the demand of the majority Filipinos through their congress-representatives, so be it. We all seek justice. But for justice to be inclusive, we also need to re-open investigations to all the massacres that happened in the past. This is the only way we can all seek inclusive justice.
We, the Bangsamoro, demand that a Truth Commission shall be put in place immediately to investigate the massacres in Bud Daju, Kulong-kulong, Wao, the Marcos-initiated Jabidah massacre, Manili and hundreds of massacres perpetrated against the Bangsamoro.
We also demand that the loss of the Bangsamoro lands and their marginalization through landgrabbing and other means by Filipino settlers shall be re-investigated by Congress. We also demand that all the victims of human rights violation in the Marcos-Enrile instigated Martial Law shall be compensated.
We strongly support the re-investigation of the Mamasapano incident in as much as we strongly demand the re-investigations of all the historical injustices, human rights violation committed against the Bangsamoro. This is the only way we can appreciate inclusive justice and not a double-standard and selective justice. This is the only we can convince ourselves that indeed, we the Bangsamoro, are treated fairly like any Filipino. Without this we can only entertain the reality that we are discriminated against, we are treated lower class Filipinos and that our rights are denied us.
The re-investigation of the Mamasapano incident is only relevant when it is in aid of justice. But it can be more relevant if all other inadequately investigated cases of massacres like those perpetrated against the Bangsamoro shall also be re-investigated. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Guiamel Alim is a member of the Council of Elders of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society and Executive Director of the Kadtuntaya Foundation)
[Editor’s note: The MILF initially reported 18 killed from the BIAF but in its investigation report, listed only 17 names of the BIAF. The number of slain civilians is five]