BULUAN, Maguindanao (MindaNews/13 February)—Maguindanao Gov. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu challenged Friday his fellow Maguindanaoans to help locate Filipino terror suspect Abdul Basit Usman, whom the official claimed was wounded in the January 25 Mamasapano operation.
Mangudadatu’s challenge was indirectly addressed to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and private armed groups, (PAGS), which the authorities believed have knowledge about Usman.
Citing a “reliable source,” the governor said Usman was allegedly wounded in his arms and “was bleeding profusely” while moving from one place to another in Maguindanao after the January 25 Mamasapano carnage.
“It has to stop, the agents of terrorism must be stopped, we have to do something to put an end to these terrorist activities. Maguindanao has suffered so much from these terrorist activities,” Mangudadatu said.
“For those who have been coddling Usman, now is the time for you to let go of him,” he said. “I am [asking] communities in Maguindanao [that] may have information about Usman to please help.”
“We must do it if we want peace in our community,” he said.
The governor said that aside from the fatalities in the Mamasapano debacle, the civilians and the province “also suffered the most.”
“Even the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) has been affected, our legislators appear to be showing lukewarm treatment on the draft law,” he said.
Mangudadatu said he fears violence will return to Maguindanao if the peace process will collapse in the aftermath of the Mamasapano incident.
“God forbids that war will erupt and the cycle of violence will again hound us in Maguindanao,” the visibly worried Mangudadatu said.
He admitted the development of Maguindanao as compared to other provinces in Mindanao has been affected by the cycle of violence.
“The terrorists are making our life difficult, we should help to put an end to this, our children have been suffering,” he said.
Addressing the country’s lawmakers, Mangudadatu urged them to push with the peace process.
“Maguindanao is the casualty here, our ordinary people are suffering. From my heart I appeal and beg you to continue discussing the draft BBL,” Mangudadatu said.
Despite the Mamasapano carnage that left 44 elite policemen, 18 Moro rebels and four civilians dead, Mangudadatu appeared optimistic and believed that the province should move on.
Malaysian terror suspect Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, was killed during the police operation.
To prove peace is still possible, the provincial government pushed with the Sagayan Festival, a week-long celebration which was preceded by the Mamasapano incident.
“Amid all these violence, our celebration must continue,” he said, adding that the Sangguniang Panlalawigan is coming up with a resolution urging Congress to push through with the passage of the draft Bangsamoro law.
Mangudadatu said he and the local government executives of 36 municipalities are one in saying that the BBL “is the answer to all these peace and order problems hounding Maguindanao.”
On Valentine’s Day, Maguindanao will host the Army’s “Bangsamoro Bike for Love” or BBL to be participated by thousands of peace advocates, soldiers, police and MILF members.
The “Bangsamoro Bike for Love” aims to drum up support for the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro law.