SOMEONE ELSE’S WINDOWS: War in our hearts

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/01 February) – Is it grief for the death of the 44 members of the PNP Special Action Force or deep-running revulsion for the Moro people in general that ignited the calls for all-out war in Mindanao? There is nothing wrong with calling for justice and accountability except that the emerging subtext is the desire for revenge.

Honor the fallen troops. Of course, the nation should be grateful for their sacrifice. But at the cost of fanning anti-Moro sentiments?

Just a week before the clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao we awed Pope Francis and the world with our collective display of piety. Filipinos – Catholics and non-Catholics alike – lined the streets of Manila and Tacloban City and filled Luneta to hear the Pope’s message of peace. Why, he even shared his hopes for lasting peace in this troubled island of ours.

Unfortunately, Mamasapano happened no thanks to the indiscretion of the President of the republic no less. And when media showed the casualties of the botched operation a lust for vengeance eclipsed that show of religious ardor. Ignorance of history and prejudice blinded many of us to the bigger issues at stake.

Sadly, media is feeding such desire for retributive justice by highlighting only the anguish of the comrades, families and loved ones of the slain police commandos. The nation’s ability to count subsequently suffered. National TV made sure the number of casualties stopped at 44. It’s as if the conflict only happened in Mamasapano. It’s as if mourning has become an exclusive ritual.

And whatever happened to objectivity in news reporting with judgmental terms like “massacre” and “butchers”? Close to 400 SAF operatives joined the operation. Both sides were armed. Eighteen members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front died in the clash and several others were wounded. I don’t know how that can be called a massacre. If the SAF suffered more casualties, it was because of factors other than being hapless.

Tears for the fallen 44? I won’t argue with that. But what about the fears and worries of Mamasapano residents who were displaced by the clash on January 25? What about the families and loved ones of the rebels who died? What about the wife and children of that non-combatant who was found dead with his hands hog-tied?

Yes, why not include in the count the thousands of other victims (mostly civilians, mostly Moro people) who were killed in the wars in Mindanao? What about the crimes of wars past for which we are yet to account? For instance, who remembers the burning of Jolo in February 1974 by government forces that killed around 20,000 Muslim, Christian and Chinese residents?

Indeed, an accounting may be needed especially for those who are either ignorant of history or too young to know the ugly past that they wish to resurrect by agitating for war from a safe distance. Many of these people have neither seen blood nor smelled the stench of death. They thirst for blood but I doubt if they’d be willing to be sent to the frontlines first. Not as combatants who do the fighting. Maybe not even as journalists who record the narratives of human agony and suffering.

The pope is back in Vatican. Time to start another war, if not in the battleground, then in our hearts. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at