TUKANALIPAO. Mamasapano, Maguindanao (MindaNews/26 Feb) – Twenty-nine year old Zayna Kiang wants to know when the promised compensation for civilian victims of the Mamasapano tragedy would be given since it’s been a month since they lost their means of livelihood — a carabao and a cow killed in the crossfire on January 25 between the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Sixty seven persons – 44 from the SAF, 18 from the MILF and five civilians – were killed in Mamasapano that day, along with at least eight cows, an undetermined number of chickens and goats.
Zayna is afraid she will have to go abroad again so they can save up for another carabao and cow. Before the Mamasapano Tragedy, her husband was against her leaving because the youngest of their three children is only nine months old.
The last time she left for abroad, her eldest son, now 7, was still a year old.
After Mamasapano, however, Zayna told MindaNews on Tuesday, shortly before the arrival of the Board of Inquiry of the Philippine National Police, that she may have to make a decision if no compensation is given them.
The carabao costs P25,000 to P30,000 she said, while the cow costs P15,000.
Two weeks earlier, farmer Kusalim Cusain, on whose cornfields the clash happened, estimated his losses at some P40,000 worth of expected harvest.
Along the kilometer long, narrow road from the highway to the cornfields, residents wrote messages in dark green paint on the trunks of trees and on sack streamers, among them – “Yes to BBL, No to war,” “justice for civilian killed,” “justice for carabao and cow killed.”
BBL stands for the Bangsamoro Basic Law that would set up the new autonomous political entity called Bangsamoro and replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
According to a resident, the messages were put up on Monday, apparently in time for the visit Tuesday of the PNP’s Board of Inquiry.
Along the highway where the vehicles are parked, stores display buntings containing similar messages.
Zayna said officials who had earlier visited their village had promised compensation but a month later, they are still waiting. She cannot remember the names of those who promised. “Basta nag-promise sila” (but they promised).
Local, regional and national officials have visited the area, particularly Sitio Aliling, across the wooden bridge, where 35 of the 36 SAF members from the 55th Special Action Company were killed. From here, the area where the 84th SAF killed the Malaysian Zulkfli bin Hir, alias Marwan, is about two to three kilometers away.
Zayna was 13 when she first went abroad. In areas where birth registration was not strictly observed, like 16 years ago here, she claimed to be 23 years old when she applied for late birth registration, even if clearly she was a teenager. No, she did not use someone else’s name as others do (use the name of someone who is actually 23).
“Totoong pangalan po ginamit ko. Hindi po ako magnanakaw. Nagnakaw lang po ako ng idad kasi di pa pwede ang 13” (I used my real name. I am not a thief. I just cheated on age because they will not accept 13-year olds).
She begged those who processed her papers to allow her to leave because “gusto ko pong magtrabaho para makatulong sa pamilya” (I wanted to work because I wanted to help the family).
She worked in Mecca, Doha and Dubai, among other countries. Subsequently, she said, she had her passport corrected, using her actual age.
Zayna is not the only mother who has had to work abroad while their men till the land and ensure it is safe from anyone’s encroachment.
Takbo, dapa, takbo, dapa
Zayna, whose house is located near the bend leading to the wooden bridge, recalled they were awakened by gunshots early morning of Sunday, January 25. As the staccato of gunfire filled the air, all that she and her husband could do was to grab their terrified children – she took her nine-month old son while her husband carried their seven year old son and four year old daughter – and run.
They were not able to bring anything but the clothes on their back. In fact, her eldest son was naked, her daughter wearing only an underwear as the night was warm. But there was no time to grab clothes for the children.
“Takbo kami tapos dapa pag malakas ang putok. Takbo, dapa, takbo, dapa, hanggang makarating kami sa highway” about a kilometer away, Zayna narrated.
There, a fellow bakwit (evacuee) took pity on her children and gave them clothes.
It is not Zayna’s first evacuation. Or her neighbors. The last time she evacuated was in 2008 at the height of the skirmishes between government forces and disgruntled members of the MILF who protested the non-signing of the already initialed Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) supposedly on August 5 that year but the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order a day earlier, barring the government panel from signing.
Unlike Zayna, payong-payong driver Antang, 28, father of three, managed to bring a few clothes.
When they heard the gunshots, he and his wife rushed to put rice, kaldero (cooking pot), mineral water (for the milk of his two children) and a few clothes into a sack before moving out of the house for the highway.
Like Zayna, it is not Antang’s first evacuation. He said since birth, he has evacuated at least four times.
Antang’s payong-payong is number 4 on the waiting line of “authorize (sic) services to the incounter (sic) site,” which he said was distributed to them by barangay officials to ensure an orderly transport of visitors going to the encounter site on Tuesday, along with the PNP’s Board of Inquiry.
Fare to and from the encounter site depends on the negotiation of passenger and driver.
By the acacia tree where visitors and residents sought refuge before walking towards the field leading to the wooden bridge, Sarah Sayap, 48, brought along a plastic container of ice and softdrinks as well as mineral water, to sell. “Mobile store,” said Antang. About thirty minutes later, two women arrived on a payong-payong, bringing cookies to sell. Soonafter, an ice cream vendor arrived.
Sarah, who has two children, said, she cannot remember how many times she has had to evacuate. “Maliit pa ako, sige na kaming bakwit. Sana last na ito.” (We have been evacuating since I was a young girl. I hope this is the last). (Carolyn O. Arguillas /MindaNews)