SEEPING OUT of the so-called “misencounter” last Jan. 25 are the troubling questions and apparent evasions and cover-ups: Who really are responsible for sending the PNP-SAF troops into a veritable death trap in a remote village in Mamasapano, Maguindanao? Why did this police operation flagrantly disregard the existing ceasefire mechanisms, including not notifying the Coordinating Committee on Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG)? What are the exact roles and how are is the accountability here of President Benigno Aquino III; his favorite PNP chief, the suspended Alan Purisima; his alter ego and executive secretary, Paquito Ochoa; and the shadowy US military-led Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines?
However, these are not the only ones that unfortunately cropped up in the Mamasapano incident. Impulsive hawks with their knee-jerk reaction and rightwing demagogues with their messianic blabbers are fanning the flames of Islamaphobia or indiscriminate hatred and distrust of anything Muslim, of Hollywood-inspired call to arms for an all-out war, of a distorted black and white worldview of good and evil, of wholesale anti-MILF stance, of reckless and sweeping call to terminate the peace process between the government and the MILF.
Centuries of attempts to violently subjugate and wantonly exploit the peoples in Mindanao (or anywhere else for that matter) – from the colonial invaders to Manila-based “imperial” government – have resulted only to interludes of fleeting “peace and order” but followed again and again by either scattered or organized uprisings. Indeed, a long lasting peace will be realized if genuine justice and freedom are ensured. On the other hand, sincerely talking and striving for peace, however difficult and painstaking, is also a very promising avenue for paving the way for this elusive “peace with justice” dream.
Thus, while actively seeking honest and unedited answers to the Mamasapano incident – from both the government and the MILF – we must consciously strive for an inclusive justice to ALL those who have fallen from this tragedy – the 44 PNP-SAF personnel, the 7 unnamed civilians and the 18 MILF fighters. Their respective families also lost a husband, father, brother, kin, comrade and friend.
This is why the DepEd directive – that during flag raising ceremonies, schoolchildren should offer one second of silence to every SAF operative killed “plus one more second for all other casualties” – is a half-baked tribute for justice and peace. Why not extend the same homage to every civilian and MILF fighters who were also killed in Mamasapano? What does such a “tribute” tell our kids? That the life of one PNP-SAF is equal to the lives of all the civilians and MILF who were killed?
We must continue to support the current peace process as it remains a viable, just and enduring solution to the never-ending armed conflict in Mindanao. At the same time, any form of religious or racial bigotry should be vigorously opposed as it has no place in human society and it would only further inflame anger, violence and mistrust.