PHOTO ESSAY: Never Again

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It has been a long journey for the Bangsamoro.

Before the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) was signed by government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in March 2014 and the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) was passed in 2018 and ratified in early 2019, a long list of historical injustices against the Moro people has been recorded across the decades.

The BARMM did not come without a price. It was paid for by the blood of the martyrs and civilians, by those who were displaced and lost their livelihood several times in their lifetime.  In the last two decades alone, three major wars had occurred – in 2000, 2003 and 2008.

Residents in the conflict zones are optimistic that the BARMM will bring peace, that they will never again experience war.

March 21, 2019 is exactly 19 years to the day President Joseph Estrada declared “all-out war” against the MILF in Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte, a few days after the rebel group, led by Abdullah Macapaar aka Kumander Bravo, occupied the Kauswagan municipal hall. The war then spread to Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and North Cotabato.

Macapaar is now a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the 80-member body that will govern the BARMM until June 30, 2022. Its Chief Minister, Ahod Balawag Ebrahim (aka MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim), was then Vice Chair for Military Affairs and Chief of Staff of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces.

Here are images from the 2000, 2003 and 2008 wars.

An armored personnel carrier (APC) stands guard in front of the Kauswagan municipal hall after it was recovered from occupying MILF rebels. MindaNews photo by BOBBY TIMONERA
A nipa hut in a Maranao community near a mosque in Kauswagan bursts in flames. MindaNews photo by BOBBY TIMONERA
Marines in Matanog, Maguindanao fire mortar rounds towards MILF lairs. MindaNews photo by GENE BOYD LUMAWAG
The 2000 war caused destruction of civilian properties, such as this house on fire along the Narciso Ramos Highway in Kapatagan, Lanao del Sur. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO
Rebel leader Janatti Mimbantas shares MILF strategy at a rebel base in Buadiposo-Buntong, Lanao del Sur. “Kumander Janatti,” whose real name is Basit Sarip Abbas, took his oath as member of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority. before President Rodrigo Duterte on February 22, 2019 in Malacanang. MindaNews photo by BOBBY TIMONERA
A policeman inspects the damage wrought by a bomb dropped by the Philippine Air Force in Facalundo, Baloi, Lanao del Norte. MindaNews photo by BOBBY TIMONERA
Portrait of a family fleeing the war for safer grounds in Maguindanao. MindaNews photo by GENE BOYD LUMAWAG
In Iligan City, government officials and journalists call for peace during a “Tabanog Festival Alang sa Kalinaw.” MindaNews photo by BOBBY TIMONERA
A Marine hoists the Philippine flag on top of a bombed out mosque following the capture of Camp Bushra in Butig, Lanao del Sur. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO
During the 2003 war, a haze of smoke wafts from this 105mm Howitzer fired at the military firebase atop a hill in the municipality of Pikit, North Cotabato. Four Howitzers are being fired from the firebase alternately, hitting targets at least 10 kilometers away. MindaNews photo by CARLOS H. CONDE
Meanwhile, in Pantao Ragat, Lanao del Norte, a soldier fires a Howitzer towards MILF positions in the mountains. The Armed Forces launched airstrikes and artillery fire at selected targets in this municipality and two other towns following an order by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. MindaNews photo by CHARLIE SACEDA
Children in Pikit, North Cotabato find a shade under a tent mounted on a carabao sledge in an evacuation camp. MindaNews photo by KEITH BACONGCO
An old man seeks refuge in a tent at an evacuation camp in Pikit, North Cotabato as thousands flee their homes with the renewed fighting between the military and the MILF. MindaNews photo by KEITH BACONGCO
An elderly Maguindanao woman and family walk into an evacuation camp in Pikit, North Cotabato under the watchful eye of the military. MindaNews photo by KEITH BACONGCO
A Manobo family displaced by the war in Carmen, North Cotabato. MindaNews photo by VICTOR KINTANAR
‘Bakwits’ join a long queue for relief goods in Batulawan, Pikit, North Cotabato. MindaNews photo by VICTOR KINTANAR
A rice bodega in Barangay Bago-Ingued, Pikit, North Cotabato is destroyed after being hit by military aircraft bombardment against MILF rebels. MindaNews photo by KEITH BACONGCO
A soldier inspects firearms and ammunition captured from an MILF camp overran by government troops in the hinterland municipality of Piagapo, Lanao del Norte. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO
In August 2008, war erupted anew after the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) barring the government’s peace negotiator and Presidential Peace Adviser from signing the already initialed Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) between the government and the MILF. Soldiers in Linamon, Lanao del Norte walk past an anti-MOA-AD streamer displayed along the highway. MindaNews photo by BOBBY TIMONERA
Brig. Gen. Antonio Supnet, commanding general of the 104th Infantry Brigade in charge of Lanao del Norte, leads soldiers in flushing out MILF rebels in Kauswagan town in Lanao del Norte. MindaNews photo by BOBBY TIMONERA
Soldiers take cover form MILF sniper fire in the boundary of Linamon and Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte. MindaNews photo by BOBBY TIMONERA
Residents of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte flee their homes using pump boats to the safety of neighboring Iligan City. MindaNews photo by BOBBY TIMONERA
Couple Basilan and Manangga Kamiro, in their late 70s, eat lunch together at an evacuation center in Datu Piang, Maguindanao. They are from the neighboring town of Aleosan, North Cotabato, displaced by the war. MindaNews photo by RUBY THURSDAY MORE
Moro women pray that good weather would prevail as there is no available tarpaulin yet to cover them at the Buisan evacuation center in Pikit, Cotabato. MindaNews photo by RENE B. LUMAWAG
Children sleep on the floor in an evacuation camp in Pikit, North Cotabato surrounded by belongings the family was able to carry as they left their homes. MindaNews photo by BJ PATIÑO
An old woman joins the queue to see a doctor at a temporary clinic set up for evacuees at the Linamon Central School in Lanao del Norte. MindaNews photo by BOBBY TIMONERA
Nayo Panday, 70, is just one of the 250 evacuees from Bualan village in Pikit, North Cotabato who left their homes when the fighting between the AFP and the MILF erupted. MindaNews photo by KEITH BACONGCO
‘Bakwits’ join a queue for relief goods at an evacuation camp in Pikit, Lanao del Norte. MindaNews photo by BJ PATIÑO
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