on Mamasapano and Mindanao
We remember with grieving the tragic event that took the lives of 5 civilians, 44 members of the PNP Special Action Forces (SAF) and 18 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and other armed Moro combatants. Each life so suddenly ended and leaving families, communities, and our nation in lingering pain.
Despite investigations by both Houses of Congress and the Department of Justice, as well as by the PNP Board of Inquiry, the MILF, and the International Monitoring Team among others, the truth of the tragic event still has to be fully known. Unfortunately, the variations in the initial reports of these bodies indicate that the way to this truth will never be easy, and may not be helped by further investigation at this time when the electoral season has begun.
Sadly, looking back at the long history of conflict in Mindanao, there have been many incidents that still cry for truth and justice. These include the Jabidah massacre of 1968 that occurred on the eve of the Martial Law declared by the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, the massacre of 1,500 Moros in Tacbil Mosque in Malisbong, Palembang in September 1974, the killing of 124 soldiers on Pata Island in February 1981, with retaliation brought to bear on more than a thousand civilian victims, and the ‘burning of Jolo City’ in February 1974 wherein almost 10,000 were killed – Muslims, Christians and Chinese alike due to the ensuing armed hostilities. As a people, we still need to learn and understand the history of the peoples of Mindanao and undertake the necessary healing task of transitional justice.
Let us however strive to bring this healing now where we can, even as our efforts for justice need to continue. The families of the victims of Mamasapano should be supported in their basic and psycho-social needs. They should exemplify our efforts at healing, not division. We hope that small discreet initiatives for dialogue and reconciliation among these torn and suffering families and communities bear fruit and be allowed to grow.
Let us also realize that Mindanao and the country have had many stories, not just of conflict, but also of interfaith and intercultural dialogue and peacebuilding. Let us continue to nurture these national and local efforts to bring healing, restorative justice and reconciliation to individuals and communities affected by conflict and violence in Mindanao.
These countless decades of peace efforts and small steps taken collectively by a multitude of actors and communities, both here and around the world, have led us to celebrating the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), not too long ago.
We therefore appeal to all Filipinos, and especially our legislators, to find the will and the peace of heart, to support and pass a Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) faithful to the peace agreement and the aspirations it is founded upon.
For those who have fallen, and especially for the bereaved who face the future, let us grasp the peace that is at hand!