ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews / 21 August) – Eleven years after the tragedy, residents of Kolambugan town in Lanao del Norte still feel the pain but are now working “for the unity among Muslims and Christians,” Mayor Lorenzo Manegos said.
To recall, on August 17, 2008, a few days after the Supreme Court stopped the August 5 signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) by government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), four soldiers and three militiamen were killed in an ambush of a four-vehicle Army convoy by suspected MILF members in Mulondo, Lanao del Sur. Eleven others were wounded.
The convoy was moving along the highway in Mulondo at around 8 a.m. on their way to deliver cash allowances to militiamen in neighboring Lumba-Bayabao town. They were fired upon by around 100 armed men who were positioned on higher ground, Brigadier General Hilario Atendido, chief of the 102nd Infantry Brigade, said.
On August 18, 2008, the MILF led by Abdullah Macapaar alias Commander Bravo attacked the coastal villages of Tacub and Libertad in Kauswagan and Kolambugan towns, leaving a number of civilians dead and sending thousands of evacuees to neighboring cities of Ozamiz and Iligan. In Kolambugan alone, 14 civilians and a military officer were killed while 60 were taken hostage and later released in Tangkal town as the MILF was retreating.
Mayor Manegos, who was vice mayor during the Kolambugan siege, acknowledged that it pains them to remember what happened, “apan ang nangagi nga kasaysayan isipon nga usa ka pag-tulun-an ang nahitabo ug mag padayon ang kahiusahan sa Muslim ug Christian sa Kolambugan” (but let us learn lessons from the past and let us continue working for unity among Muslims and Christians in Kolambugan).
“Nag tuo kami nga diha sa interfaith dialogue masulbad ang suliran sa komunidad ug ma kab-ot ang kahusay ug kalinaw and lig-on nga relasyon” (we believe that through interfaith dialogue, we can solve the problems in the community and we will achieve justice and peace and strengthen our relationship), the mayor said in an interview after the mass.
He said every first Friday of the month, Muslim and Christian religious leaders meet to discuss the situation in the community and to resolve whatever problems there may be.
He said they believe that the success of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) bring about lasting peace in the area
In the mass to commemorate the tragedy on Sunday morning, Father Abet de Lara, parish priest of Kolambugan, said they are offering prayers for those who died in 2008 and for lasting peace and unity among Muslims and Christians in Kolambugan.
The priest read the names of the 15 civilians and a military officer who were killed and the damages to property during the siege.
He said the parish teamed up with the local government unit and joined their Muslim brothers and sisters in celebrating Eid’l Fitr, the end of Ramadan.
“Hand in hand, we shared with the people the value of forgiveness, peace, acceptance and unity,” the priest said.
For Melanie Avelis, barangay chair of Tacub in Kauswagan, “amo nang gidawat ang nahitabo ug dili mi gusto nga dumdumon pa ang nangaging hitabo ug ipadayun namo ang kalambuan sa Tacub” (we have accepted what happened but we do not want to remember what happened but we will work for the progress of Tacub).
Tacub and Libertad are the recipient communities of a 552-megawatt coal-fired power plant which is expected to provide direct socio-economic benefits to the community.
The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process is preparing for the decommissioning of MILF combatants under the normalization track, which includes alternative livelihood opportunities for MILF community members.
Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr., and military officials joined the MILF’s Abdullah Macapaar, now member of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, during the celebration of Eid’l Adha on August 12 in Camp Bilal in Tamparan, Munai, Lanao del Norte. (Richel V. Umel / MindaNews)