ARMM Gov replaces bike boy lost to SAF commando

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/18 April) – Nine-year old Marop Mokadas has not been reported to be a victim of the January 25, 2015 Mamasapano Tragedy until Thursday when ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman replaced his bicycle that was taken by the lone survivor from the 55th Special Action Company of the Philippine National Police’s Special Action Force (PNP-SAF).

Marop, who used the bike in his daily activities in Barangay Tukanalipao, in going to school and in running errands, has been living with his grandmother and three other siblings in Barangay Tukanalipao since his parents searated.

Grandma’s house is located around a hundred meters from the now iconic wooden bridge that links the cornfields of Sitio Amilil with the residential area. They left the bike when they fled for safer grounds early morning of Sunday, January 25.

Thirty five of the 36 SAF commandoes from the 55th SAC were killed in the cornfields in Sitio Amilil.
A total of 66 persons were killed in Tukanalipao on January 25: 44 from the SAF, 17 from the MILF and five civilians.

The January 25 tragedy drew thousands of visitors and investigators to Mamasapano, particularly Barangay Tukanalipao.

ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman and nine year old Marop Mokadas, with the ew bike Hataman gave him to replace the bike he lost a day after the Mamasapano tragedy. Photo courtesy of ARMM-HEART
ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman and nine year old Marop Mokadas, with the ew bike Hataman gave him to replace the bike he lost a day after the Mamasapano tragedy. Photo courtesy of ARMM-HEART

A month after the tragedy, the Armed Forces Chief of Staff declared an “all-out offensive” against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), triggering a mass evacuation that at its height reached 125,000 from nearly half of Maguindanao’s 36 towns, including Mamasapano.

When actor Robin Padilla and wife Mariel visited Tukanalipao on February 14, he saw Governor Mujiv Hataman. Marop wanted to tell the governor that he lost a very important thing the day after the cornfield clash.

But he wasn’t able to muster the courage to approach the governor, not until he met a team from the ARMM Humanitarian Emergency Action Response Team (HEART).

Disaster Risk officer Ramil Masukat listened to the boy and his wish to get back his bike. Marop was assured his message would reach the governor.

Thursday’s visit of Governor Hataman with food security czar former Senator Francis “ Kiko”Pangilinan in Mamasapano turned out to be the chance Marop was waiting for.

But he nearly missed the chance as there were so many people.

Jo Henry, ARMM-HEART’s information coordinator said,” even the governor was looking for Marop upon learning about his story, but he couldn’t find the boy,” she told MindaNews.

In the afternoon, when the visitors were about to leave, Marop was seen at the roadside

Because the convoy was leaving, ARMM-HEART personnel asked him to join them to Cotabato City’s Bangsamoro Peoples complex, the regional seat of ARMM.

Marop was surprised to be treated as a “special guest” when he arrived at the governor’s office.

“He said he wanted to go back school but his service vehicle was stolen by a SAF personnel then I asked him, I will replace your bike, if you promise to go to school and finish your study,” Hataman said.

The boy said he would.

Hataman first offered to replace the missing bike with his personal bicycle  but  realized it was too big for  Marop.

Soon, a new BMX bike arrived.

Henry said Marop’s face was “full of gladness,” making the audience, including Henry, teary-eyed.

The boy and the governor exchanged high fives. Marop then tested his brand new bike inside the governor’s office.

“Thank you, Shukran,” was all he could say.

Aside from the bicycle, Marop also received  a bag and school supplies and an undisclosed amount.

Late afternoon, he was brought back to Mamasapano, accompanied by HEART officials.

In his excitement, he immediately biked to his grandmother’s house, praying there would be no more armed clashes that would take his bike away from him, again. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera / MindaNews)