COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/02 February) – The clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on Jan. 25 also claimed the lives of four civilians, Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao emphasized in his message Monday to officials and employees of the regional government.
Speaking during the flag-raising ceremony, Hataman lamented that public attention has focused only on the 44 PNP Special Action Force operatives and 18 Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerrillas who died in the clash.
The encounter also killed four civilians, including a five-year old girl, injured six other civilians and displaced over 6,000 residents in six barangays of Mamasapano, ARMM’s Humanitarian Emergency Action Response Team (HEART) said.
Classes in 13 schools have been suspended affecting over 6,000 students, HEART added.
Hataman read his solidarity message for the civilian victims whose families, he said, have to endure psychological and emotional pain.
The governor and all employees wore black t-shirts with the words “Truth, Justice, Peace”, and all offices inside the ARMM complex had their flags flown at half-mast to honor all those who died in the clash that “could have been avoided”.
At one point in his speech, Hataman paused, wiped his tears and offered prayers for all the victims and the attainment of genuine peace in Mindanao.
He said he felt the stigma hurled against Muslims as a result of the bloody Mamasapano encounter.
“As if the Mamasapano incident was entirely our fault, as if we do not have the right to demand justice,” he said in Filipino.
“While we honor the death of the combatants, we also honor the innocent civilians who also perished.
“They know nothing about the conflict. I could feel how they feel right now. I was once a child living in conflict zone. I can feel it, that is why we should call for peace, justice and truth.”
Hataman cautioned those who are calling for the abandonment of peace talks with the MILF and for an all-out war in Mindanao.
“We should know the truth first before making judgments. It is not peace if it is not based on justice,” he said in Filipino.
Close to 400 SAF members swooped on Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano on Jan. 25 to serve arrest warrants for suspected Malaysian bomber Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and local bomb expert Abdul Basit Usman.
The operation, however, resulted in a firefight with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the MILF.
The clash has created uncertainties on the future of the peace process between the government and the MILF. In March last year, both parties signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the political entity that will replace the ARMM.
ARMM Executive Secretary Laisa Alamia said P10,000 financial assistance was given to each of the six residents who were injured in the clash and P25,000 to each of the families of the four who died.
Hataman said a fundraising will be launched for the civilian victims.
He said the Mamasapano incident should not be made a reason to stop the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
“There’s no other solution to the Mindanao issue but peace. War is not the answer. Only peace based on truth and justice can unite all of us. Through it we will not experience the cruelty and horrors of war,” he said.
“I appeal to our leaders, lawmakers and all Filipinos, let us unite and support BBL because I believe it will prevent war from happening in Mindanao,” he said. (Ferdinand B. Cabrera/MindaNews)