TUKANALIPAO, Mamasapano, Maguindanao (MindaNews / 18 June) – As the month-long observance of Ramadhan starts today (Thursday), Muslims here can now pray more comfortably as soldiers and local residents rushed day in and day out the rehabilitation and beautification of a mosque right in the place where the infamous “Mamasapano Encounter” took place.
“A perfect gift for peace and healing,” said Tukanalipao barangay chairman Esmael Hashim.
Hashim, together with his constituents, were so thankful that despite the recent dark experience in their community, hope still exists.
Last January 25, this village became the focus of the country’s attention as a bloody encounter between elite police commandos out on a counterterrorism operation and local armed groups took place, almost breaking down the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
When the smoke cleared, 44 from the Philippine National Police’s Special Action Force, 17 MILF combatants and five civilians were killed. The incident triggered several investigations, including those in both houses of Congress.
Five months later, and two days before the start of Ramadhan, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the Province of Maguindanao and the Army’s 6th Infantry (Kampilan) Division inaugurated and turned over the rehabilitated mosque, which was already dilapidated before work began.
The mosque is situated near the highway, just 200 meters from the cornfields where the battle raged.
Major Gen. Edmundo R. Pangilinan, commander of the 6ID that provided military personnel to help in the construction work, was overwhelmed by the success of the project.
He pledged to continue working for peace and progress in the region in partnership with other stakeholders.
“It was indeed a very promising day which brought new light to the lives of the people of Tukanalipao. I hope that the scars of the wounds created by an unfortunate incident that occurred in the area five months ago will totally be healed so that the people of Tukanalipao can celebrate Ramadhan more meaningfully and peacefully,” Pangilinan said.
Pangilinan was the commander whose confirmation as major general was delayed after he was challenged before the bicameral Commission on Appointment on the issue of the Army’s alleged failure to reinforce the surrounded police commandos. But he eventually got his two stars after the lawmakers were convinced of his decision.
ARMM Gov. Mujiv S. Hataman, who was one of the guest of honors during the inauguration, described the effort as a military-civilian collaboration on a bayanihan spirit.
“This is what we need to mend fences and differences, a unity that would promote peace, harmony and coexistence, he said.
Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, who was also present at the activity, expressed gratitude for the opportunity of becoming a part of the project.
“We are all out supportive of this very touching effort. Let love, respect and forgiveness reign from there on,” he said.