Kris-Crossing Mindanao

Aquino has betrayed us

Mamasapano is personal to me. Some years ago, I happened to visit that place. It was so typical of the vast plains that Cotabato was before it was gerrymandered into five provinces. That act of gerrymandering was in fact typical as well of how Manila has shaped this part of Mindanao since the colonial era.

It may be hard for many to believe that when the colonial government caused the migration to Mindanao from the north beginning in 1914, many of the Christian arrivals were welcomed not just with open arms but even with ceremonial gifts from the Moro people who, in that part, are ethnolinguistically called the Maguindanaos. The picture of genuine peaceful coexistence may be hard to imagine today. In fact, intermarriages between settlers and Moro people were as commonplace then as it is today.


The dynamics of that coexistence began to change when Manila politics saw the need to extend its political clout to Cotabato in the only way it knew—forming a pool of leaders shaped after Manila’s own image of traditional politicians. True, Manila developed a breed of educated Maguindanao leaders. But it also created local political lords with what the scholar Patricio

Abinales calls “Janus-faced personae.” As their political power and wealth grew, they became calloused to the concerns of the Moro masses.


Pole-vault into later decades, when Moro nationalist movements arose to fill an unfortunate vacuum—the lack of concrete measures addressing the needs of grassroots Moro society whose “space” was, by then, already being shared with settlers.

With this short discourse on the history of that part of Mindanao, we should be able to see the Mamasapano encounter in that light and how Manila characteristically responded to Moro concerns. President Aquino’s response is consistent with the Janus-faced treatment of Mindanao—using deception and treachery.

When the President went on national broadcast, it became clear he was using doublespeak. But in the fast world of social media where answers do not take long to go public, we are no longer a nation of idiots. Mr. Aquino was in fact on top of the operation and monitored the movements of the Special Action Force in real time from Zamboanga. Then the most bizarre element of the story began to unravel—the entire operation was directed by remote control from a shadow command at the White House of Camp Crame by the suspended chief of the Philippine National Police. That explained the deception—Alan Purisima was a chum of Mr. Aquino and it was clear Mr. Aquino was protecting him more than the “Fallen 44.” In just a matter of hours, the political landscape of the entire country changed.

The brutal way the Fallen 44 died will certainly continue to agonize our hearts in the days to come. What changed the political landscape was the realization that we have a commander in chief who dodges responsibility and dismisses 44 deaths as expendable. Each day we are deceived, we die with them.

To rush the Bangsamoro Basic Law now is to kill the prospects for truth and justice for the Fallen 44. A people betrayed have lost their dignity because betrayal is an affront to dignity. That dignity must first be restored in the only way possible—accountability. The question to ask is no longer why, but who.

A board of inquiry with ties that bind will be useless. The three generals named to sit in that board are reportedly classmates of Purisima. A whitewash may have already begun. Purisima has flown off to Saipan on the day the bodies arrived at Villamor Air Base.

Only an independent truth commission composed of credible Mindanao—not Manila—personalities can unravel the truth and then name names without fear or favor. It must be put in place soonest. Each day Aquino lies to the nation, the more he disrespects the Fallen 44.


We have seen video footage of the carnage: littered bodies looted of uniforms, boots, night

vision goggles, Ultimax weapons and even mobile phones; many mutilated, 16 beyond recognition; a skull pried open, stuffed with leaves; heads shot at close range, gangland style.

Barbarism in the most despicable way.

The prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) has left us with a Hadith—“to honor the dead is to bury them”—respect for a dead body is the enforceable norm. I ask my brother Muslims responsible for that butchery: Will you not honor the dead body of a non-Muslim in the same way you wish done to a fellow Muslim? Religious tolerance is a simple reciprocal act. The word “Islamic” should be removed from your name.

The truth commission must determine the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters’ accountability in the carnage. One writer described the encounter: not a firefight but a turkey shoot, with the MILF forces encircling the SAF troops, then a massacre when the policemen surrendered.

The Filipino people waits for answers from the MILF leadership, not by the glib excuse that it had no knowledge of a certified terrorist in their midst. Three MILF camps were just in the vicinity: Camp Omar ibn al-Khattab, Camp Abubakar as-Siddique and Camp Badre. Under the July 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities, the government and the MILF are to help each other, through a “joint ceasefire committee,” interdict criminals and terrorists.

Murad Ebrahim appears to have no control over his men. That is a staggering surprise, to say the least. I ask the same question: “How in Allah’s name could the MILF be trusted to run even an autonomous barangay?”

If 44 men were led to their graves just to pave the way for a glorious resurrection of a disgraced friend and then satisfy one’s salivation for the Nobel Peace Prize, we have to decry betrayal. There is no other choice.

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