COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/23 January) — An interfaith prayer on Sunday and a ritual for the dead offered by relatives of the slain members of the Special Action Force (SAF) from Cordillera on Monday will highlight the commemoration of the first anniversary of the January 25, 2015 Mamasapano Tragedy that left 66 persons dead – 44 from the Philippine National Police’s SAF, 17 from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and five civilians
Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division said relatives of the slain SAF members from Cordillera will be in Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao early Monday morning for the ritual.
The interfaith prayer, scheduled originally for Monday, will be held on Sunday instead.
ABANDONED. A foot bridge near the deadly encounter between members of the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police and the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) of the Moro Isalmic Liberation Front (MILF) on January 25, 2015 is left to rot. Residents use the newly-built steel and lumber bridge not far from the foot bridge. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO
Pangilinan said they wanted the activity to be solemn and not politicized as they received information that several national and local candidates have signified they would visit Tukanalipao on Monday.
“We wanted to give a solemn time for prayers for those who lost their lives, as much as possible we have to keep this event from being politicized,” he said.
There will be wreath-laying, tree-planting near the mosque where the first encounter took place and showering of flowers in the Tukanalipao river.
Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Toto Mangudadatu will also lead a medical outreach program to serve relatives of slain non-combatants and inhabitants of Barangay Tukanalipao.
Elite police commandos belonging to the SAF launched an operation on January 25, 2015 to arrest Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir aka Marwan, allegedly a member of the Jemaah Islamiyah, and Abdul Basit Usman, allegedly of the Abu Sayyaf. The operation, however, was not coordinated with the military and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) with whom government had signed a peace agreement.
Both parties had earlier set up ceasefire mechanisms that required coordination through their respective Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities.
The United States’ National Counterterrorism Center in its website said the 49-year old Marwan, an engineer trained in the United States, was believed head of the Kumpulun Mujahidin Malaysia (MM) allegedly a terror group, and a member of the Jemaah Islamiyah’s central command.
Marwan, who had been reported killed several times in the past, carried a $5million (220 million pesos at the January 2015 exchange rate of 44 pesos to a dollar) bounty for information leading to his arrest and Usman a million dollars (44 million pesos).
Pangilinan told reporters security arrangements have been made.
He said coordination with the MILF through the ceasefire mechanism has been made.
NEW BRIDGE. A tricycle passes through a newly constructed bridge in Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao province. The bridge makes it easier for residents to ferry their goods to the poblacion. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO
Pangilinan was informed belatedly by then SAF director Getulio Napenas, about their operations against Marwan in Mamasapano, when the SAF operatives had clashed with the MILF and other armed groups in the area.
Pangilinan testified before the Senate Committee probe last year that the SAF did not coordinate with them.
Even the Local Government Secretary then, Mar Roxas, and the acting chief of the Philippine National Police Leonardo Espina, did not know about the operations. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera / MindaNews)