No time for apathy
Is nothing sacred?
During the Christmas Eve Mass at the Santo Niño Church in Midsayap, North Cotabato, just as members of the community were receiving communion, an explosion ripped through the air, wounding 16 and sending everyone scampering for safety.
Police have said that the grenade was thrown under a police car parked some 30 meters from the church entrance and that the cops nearby could have been the target. But the timing and place chosen for the explosion sent a clear message: No one is safe, no occasion is above civil strife. Whoever was behind the attack had no regard, only disdain, for the spirit of the season, and might in fact have chosen it to drive a wedge between the Christians celebrating Christmas and the Muslim majority in the province, both of whom have somehow managed to live peacefully in the community.
Although no group has yet claimed responsibility for the deed that was intended to kill, maim, and destroy, police said it could have been retaliation and warning from either the drug syndicates hurting from the administration’s war on illegal drugs, or the Maute terror group.
Two days before the bombing, five members of the Maute group were arrested in Barira, Maguindanao, and one of the five, a former policeman, had confessed to his involvement in the Sept. 2 bombing in Davao City that left 15 dead and more than 60 others injured.
Police in Midsayap said they had been on heightened alert since early this month because of threats of possible bombings by the Maute group and its ally, the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. The two extremist groups flaunt their allegiance to the Islamic State, a ruthless terrorist group known to plant bombs in public places where these can do maximum damage to civilians, while undermining local authorities, and advertising its capacity to kill without compunction.
In fact, the explosions in Midsayap on Dec. 24 and in Davao City on Sept. 2 have one distressing similarity: All the victims were ordinary folk going about routine, but special, activity: relaxing and eating out with loved ones in the Davao night market, and worshipping in a church in Midsayap, partaking of the celebration of a Mass as is the wont of folk celebrating the Christmas holidays. As in any war, undeclared or not, it is the innocent who must pay dearly and perversely for the horrors inflicted by hostile parties.
In Midsayap, members of the explosive and ordnance division of the Philippine Army had immediately responded and conducted a post-explosion investigation, while the local government released a statement vowing a thorough inquiry into the incident and the full force of the law against the perpetrators and masterminds. Though details from the police investigation are sketchy at best, the local government also urged citizens to be watchful, cautious and vigilant, as “violence and terror do not deserve a place in our peaceful community.”
Indeed, a swift and thorough inquiry is in order, with the results made public immediately lest the Midsayap bombing get forgotten in the yearend revelry. After all, at a time when the deaths of very young children caught in the crossfire of the administration’s ruthless and unrelenting war on drugs are cavalierly dismissed by so-called law enforcers and police officials as “collateral damage,” the Midsayap explosion could be as easily shrugged off—nobody was killed and no big group has owned up to the deed.
While the merrymaking of the holidays might have sidelined the attack in Midsayap, it is imperative that it be kept top of mind; indifference can very well be interpreted as allowing violence to become the new normal. With so many random extinctions, extrajudicial killings, and the proposed reimposition of the death penalty on the brink of being approved by a complicit Congress, a culture of death seems nascent as torrential waves of violence threaten to bury us all. This is no time for apathy.
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