DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 02 February) – Given the challenges brought about by the recent bombings of Jolo’s cathedral and a mosque in Barangay Talon-talon in Zamboanga City, former Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel on Saturday called on Muslims, Christians and Lumads (Indigenous Peoples) in Mindanao to “keep on with our collective effort to establish a lasting peace that can lead to the development of our peoples and the progress of our country.”“Respect the culture and traditions of our Muslim and IP brethren and in due time, adopt the Federal System for the governance of our Republic,” Pimentel said in an e-mail to MindaNews.
Pimentel urged Mindanawons to “use methods of peace to settle your differences” and to “resort to the Rule of Law, not the Rule of the Gun, to resolve whenever and whatever conflicts beset our communities.”
He also urged incoming Bangsamoro officials to “remember and implement the meaning of public service: to serve the people” and remember that “we all are creatures of the same Almighty God who has ordained our belonging to ONE nation.”
Twenty-four persons were were killed three days apart due to bombings – 22 inside and outside the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu on January 27 and two inside the mosque in Barangay Talon-talon in Zamboanga City on January 30. A hundred others were also injured – 101 in the cathedral, four in the mosque.
A group of Tausugs on Saturday started an online petition via change.org for an independent probe on the January 27 bombing of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, “for truth (and) justice for all.”
The petition, started by Warina Sushil Bint Ismuraji, said that while they are not the direct victims, “we, too, have suffered and agonized over this sudden kind of atrocity-the 1st ever of its kind in Jolo committed against a cathedral/place of worship-in terms of magnitude and proportion counting the numbers of dead (22) including more than a hundred casualties.”
“We cannot afford to be silent amidst this dhulm (oppression / injustice) and oppressive conditions where our human security is at stake and put to risk despite the presence of our ‘delegated’ Parens Patriae,” the petition read.
It added that every Tausug in Mindanao or elsewhere in diaspora ought to “speak up and implore” President Rodrigo Duterte and other national and local officials and agencies, civil society and faith-based organizations to “collaborate and co-own the issue” so that an “independent neutral investigation” can be conducted immediately to make those responsible answer for their crimes.
“Without a thorough investigation, no clear and rational action can be done to ensure justice for all victims and to ensure that it shall not happen again Bi Idhnillaah,” the petition read.
The petition asked why taxpayers’ money is being poured for peace and security in Sulu but “it cannot preempt a terroristic act inside a relatively small place of worship.”
It said the cannot bring back the lives of those who perished “but we can certainly bring back Peace and Security in Lupah Sug if we strive and work for it as one body with our elected leaders at the forefront in our united and sincere call to preserve and sustain peace and unity in our beloved Lupah Sug.”
Also on Saturday, Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the 6th Infantry Division based in Maguindanao, directed all units under his command to “strictly heighten the alert level and secure all places of worships and public places and/or areas of convergence.”
“We will also further intensify our intelligence efforts and initiate pro-active security measures to thwart possible hostile plans. Likewise, we appeal to the public not to spread annoying messages unless verified to be true,” Sobejano said in a statement, as he noted how the “very volatile situation” is made even more so because of messages on social media warning the public of more bombings.
“I am appealing for sobriety and request everyone to stop .. spreading unverified stories and reports that could aggravate the current situations in the affected areas,”Sobejana said.
He also urged the public to be “watchful and extra vigilant at all times” and to report any security-related concerns because “peace and security is everybody’s responsibility.”
He said the cathedral and mosque bombings were “unfortunate events that terrorized the minds of the people.”
He assured the public that they are “on top of the situation and we have enough forces to protect the people and secure the area.”
“Rest assured that in public service, we are never above you, we are never below but always beside you,” he said.
“We will not give up”
In a statement, the Cagayan de Oro-based Balay Mindanaw called on Mindanawons not to give up.
“We are Mindanawans. We are Filipinos. We are Christians. We are Moros. We are Lumad. We refuse fear. We refuse hatred. We refuse violence. We refuse to be victims. As Mindanawans, we will not give up. We will continue to work with even greater resolve to help build lasting peace. We remain committed to our dream of building a Mindanao that is truly a home for all of us,” it said.
Balay Mindanaw said it is “shocked and appalled by this madness,’’ particularly as the recent bombings happened in “most sacred places” and the ongoing airstrikes in Sulu and the consequent displacement of families there are reminiscent of what happened in Marawi in 2017.
“This is difficult to understand, much more accept. As peace workers, we have been made to understand that violence could just be an explosion (and implosion) of a deeper conflict. This is a jolting reminder of the deep historical, structural and cultural problems that we have to face,” it said.
But Balay Mindanaw added that “as we seek to analyze and understand this impunity and cruelty,” Divine Guidance must be sought as well to avoid falling into the trap of anger and despair.
“More than ever, we are called to love and understand, really love and really understand each other,” even as there are forces who would like the public to be afraid, to distrust each other, fear each other, hate each other, destroy each other.
Balay Mindanaw called for “real justice for the victims and their families” and “greater accountability especially from among those who are vested with power and authority” and urged the public to “remain strong in unity and in our shared vision and hope for just peace.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)