Widows of MILF combatants receive cash assistance from MILF  

CAMP DARAPANAN, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao (MindaNews/11 March) — Unlike previous occasions in this multipurpose hall, the crowd on Sunday was predominantly female – widows of combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who were killed in that tragedy in Mamasapano on Sunday, January 25 — or wives or mothers of the wounded.

That it was International Women’s Day may have been coincidental for the predominantly male MILF leadership. The women were asked to be in the camp on Sunday to accept and sign receipt of the white envelops containing cash assistance from the MILF.

MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim told MindaNews they solicited money “from friends” so they could help the widows and the wounded members of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) and the civilians. He declined to say how much the widows were given. “It depends on the family situation, the number of children,” he said.

Their names were called one by one, as MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim handed them a white envelop each containing the MILF's cash assistance for the widows of MILF combatants killed in  Mamasapano on January 25. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO
Their names were called one by one, as MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim handed them a white envelop each containing the MILF’s cash assistance for the widows of MILF combatants killed in Mamasapano on January 25. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO

How much was the minimum amount then?

Sammy Al-Mansoor, BIAF Chief of Staff told MindaNews’ Froilan Gallardo that they gave at least Php 70,000 each to the 18 widows; Php 40,000 each for the 25 wounded combatants; Php 40,000 each for four slain civilians and P20,000 each for five injured civilians.

The amounts distributed totaled some P2.5 million.

Carabao and cow for the children

Norma Ismael, 29, one of the widows, told MindaNews she would use the amount as capital for a small business. Ismael has one child who is turning nine years old. Working abroad again is an option that she has considered.

Norhaima Angkay, 22 mother of two.  Norhaima tells MindaNews in a text message Wednesday that she bought a carabao and cow for their children from the financial assistance she received from the MILF. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO
Norhaima Angkay, 22 mother of two. Norhaima tells MindaNews in a text message Wednesday that she bought a carabao and cow for their children from the financial assistance she received from the MILF. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO

On Wednesday, Norhaima Angkay, 22, a widow with two children, the youngest at three months old, told MindaNews she used the money to buy her children a carabao and cow. Norhaima said on Sunday that she did think of going abroad to work but is worried about leaving her three-month old daughter.

The widows said this was only the second time they received financial assistance.

The first time was “galing sa mga Maranao” (from the Maranaos).

“Piso-piso lang’

At the February 10 rally in Banggolo, Marawi City pushing for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), participants shelled out money for the relatives of “our Shaheed (martyrs). They died for us and the Bangsamoro,” rally organizer Achmad Lao said.

Lao said they collected P50,000 and several thousands more in pledges during the three-hour rally and that a similar fund drive was simultaneously launched in the nearby town of Baloi, Lanao del Norte.

“Kahit piso-piso lang we can gather enough money to the families of the slain MILF fighters and civilians who died in the Mamasapano clash,” Lao said, pointing to a group of children giving their allowance for the cause.

Honorable deaths

“We cannot afford the millions that is given to the SAF 44 but we want to tell the families of our martyrs they are not forgotten,” he said.

Mamasapano's widows gathered at the multipurpose hall in the MILF's Camp Darapanan on Sunday to receive financial assistance from the MILF. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas
Mamasapano’s widows gathered at the multipurpose hall in the MILF’s Camp Darapanan on Sunday to receive financial assistance from the MILF. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

During the short ceremonies on Sunday – the entire rites rendered in Maguindanao language – Murad told the widows, the wounded, and relatives of the slain and wounded: “Death is a certainty. But as human beings, it is but natural to still grieve for the loss of loved ones. However, for those of us who struggle for a cause, we console ourselves in the thought that they attained an honorable death in defense of their communities.”

“We envy them for we are uncertain if we will be gifted with an honorable death; one that is in defense of our communities and in pursuit of the principles that we are fighting for,” Murad said in Maguindanao.

Hundreds of thousands

The families of the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos have received benefits amounting to PhP250,000 each from the Office of the President, aside from 25 percent of basic life insurance and special financial assistance from the PNP depending on the rank of the SAF member, Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo Jr., head of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Public Information Office (PIO) said on February 20.

Cerbo said the beneficiaries received a minimum of PhP 407,000 to a maximum of PhP 764,000.

Aside from these benefits, Cerbo said the PNP was in the process of computing the unused leave credits of the slain policemen which will be converted into cash to be deposited in their ATM accounts on or about Feb. 25.

He added that by March 16, the families of the slain SAF commandos will receive monthly pension from the PNP.

The amounts cited here do not include the assistance in cash and kind by the private sector for the widows of the SAF 44. (Carolyn O. Arguillas with a report from Froilan Gallardo/ MindaNews)