CAMP DARAPANAN, Maguindanao (MindaNews / 12 March) – Farmer Tot Pananggulon clasped tightly on the white envelope he and the others received from Moro Islamic Liberation Front Chair Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim last March 8.
Pananggulon lost his eight-year-daughter Sarah during the clash between the MILF and PNP Special Action Force commandos in Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano town last Jan. 25.
The envelope contained some money from the MILF for Sarah’s death but Pananggulon said the financial assistance cannot bring back his daughter and the simple future he had dreamt for her.
“Pero matutuwa si Sarah nito (But Sarah will be happy with this),” Pananggulon said.
Talking through an interpreter, Pananggulon narrated he, his wife and two children were sleeping in a small nipa hut when the firefight between the PNP SAF commandos and the MILF took place.
He said his family was already awake for the morning Muslim prayers when gunshots were heard everywhere.
“We ran outside. We just ran and hid. Ran again. I did not even realize that I was running naked. The gunfire was very frightening,” Pananggulon narrated.
Pananggulon said that as he was running, he held on to Sarah, who had a deaf-mute disability.
“I wanted Sarah to have a bright future, but that night, that dream died,” he said.
Pananggulon said their family hid in the edge of the river in an effort to escape from the hail of flying bullets.
He said he left his family to get some help as the fighting continued.
“I do not know how it happened but I got separated from my family,” Pananggulon continued his narration.
When he and his family reunited that same day, he learned Sarah was hit by a stray bullet and died.
“Sarah died that day but my younger son will not accept his sister is already gone,” Pananggulon said.
He was also wounded when a bullet grazed his right shoulder.
Last March 8, MILF officials led by Chair Murad Ebrahim gathered the widows of the 18 fighters killed in the Jan. 25 Mamasapano clash in Camp Darapanan, Simuay, Sultan Kudarat town.
Sammy Al-Mansoor , the chief of staff of the MILF armed wing , Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), said they gave P70,000 each for the 18 widows of the MILF fighters who died.
Mansoor said they also gave P40,000 financial assistance to the 25 of their combatants who were wounded in the clash.
He said they did not also forget to give assistance to the families of Sarah and three other civilians who were killed in the crossfire at P40,000 each, and to the five civilians who were wounded, at P20,000 each.
“They are Bangsamoro and they are part of our struggle,” Mansoor said.
The total amount distributed was P2.5 million.
Mansoor said the money came from contributions of supporters like those in Marawi City who collected P50,000 for “our Shasheed (martyrs)” during a pro-Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) rally last Feb. 10.
Murad told the widows, the wounded and the relatives of the slain civilians and wounded that the MILF consoled itself that those who died attained an honorable death.
“Death is a certainty. But as human beings, it is but natural to still grieve for the loss of loved ones. However, for those of us who struggle for a cause, we console ourselves in the thought that they attained an honorable death in defense of their communities,” Murad said.
“We envy them for we are uncertain if we will be gifted with an honorable death; one that is in defense of our communities and in pursuit of the principles that we are fighting for,” he said.
The Maguindanao dialect was spoken throughout the ceremony in Camp Darapanan.