Military suspends operations in Maguindanao for smooth graduation ceremonies

MAMASAPANO, Maguindanao (MindaNews / 27 March) – The Armed Forces has implemented a three-day suspension of military operations (SOMO) in Maguindanao to allow smooth graduation ceremonies for internally displace persons (IDPs), an Army official said.

Now on its second day, the unilateral SOMO is in effect in Maguindanao’s 13 municipalities, according to Col. Melquiades Feliciano, 601st Infantry Brigade commander.

Feliciano, who was guest of honor and speaker during the commencement exercises Thursday of Mamasapano National High School, said the SOMO shows that the military supports education and wants to ensure that the ceremonies will go well.

“This SOMO will last until Sunday,” he said.

Lawyer Jamar Kulayan, education secretary of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), lauded the military’s SOMO.

“It will allow safe and orderly graduation rites,” he said.

“Parents were overwhelmed by the graduation program that they appeared to have forgotten their difficult situation in the evacuation center,” Kulayan pointed out.

For pregnant Aina Camal, whose five-year-old daughter graduated Thursday in kindergarten at Dapiawan Elementary School in Datu Salibo town, said they will still prepare small thanksgiving or kanduli inside their tent together with relatives.

“It would have been better though had we celebrated in our house in Sitio Kapulan where we can cook our favorite local delicacies that we used to have during kandulis, but not this time. We have no harvest from the farm to cook. I hope peace will come soon,” she lamented.

Dapiawan Elementary School is hosting hundreds of evacuees, including Camal’s family.

Sakina Abdul Masukat, class valedictorian, said she would pursue an education course in college to help her fellow villagers.

“I want to be a teacher because I believe education is the key to peace and development, especially in our community where only few are educated,” she told MindaNews.

Mamasapano has been hitting the headlines since January 25 when police commandos killed Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias “Marwan.”

But after “Oplan Exodus” was successfully carried out, a clash between PNP Special Action Force and armed groups – Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) – left 44 SAF commandos, 18 MILF fighters and 4 civilians dead.