Even as more questions are being raised on who called the shots in the deadly Mamasapano operation by elite cops, reports of civilian casualties are coming in.
By DEE AYROSO
As the country observes a National Day of Mourning on Jan. 30 for the 44 elite police troops slain in the Mamasapano operation, reports are coming in about civilian casualties, suspected to be victims of human rights violations.
Suara Bangsamoro reported that they have documented the killing of a farmer and a child in Tukanalipao village on Jan. 25. Jerome Aba, Suara Bangsamoro spokesperson said that an initial fact-finding mission by the group documented cases of extrajudicial killing, indiscriminate firing, and forced evacuation of 1,500 individuals.
Meanwhile, progressive lawmakers are calling for a deeper probe on the fatal operation by elite cops in the Moro rebel territory.
The Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) led an operation in the Moro rebel stronghold of Tukanalipao village, Mamasapano town on January 24 to capture two Jemaah Islamiyah bomb experts, Malaysian Zulkipli bin Hir alias “Marwan” and Filipino Basit Usman. The offensive resulted in a clash with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), with 44 slain and 14 wounded on the PNP-SAF, 11 killed and nine wounded on the side of the MILF, and two BIFF killed.
A child named Sarah Panangulon was killed when members of the PNP-SAF entered Tukanalipao in the morning of Jan. 25 and fired indiscriminately at their house, which was suspected to be where the target terror suspects were hiding. Her parents, Tots and Samrah were injured, Aba said.
“A farmer, Badrudin Langalan, was found hogtied and dead at the wooden bridge of Tukanalipao, his body riddled with bullets, his eyes gouged out,” Aba said. Langalan’s body was found in the morning of Jan. 25, before the heavy gunfighting near the river between the PNP-SAF blocking orce and the MILF.
He added that the victim’s wife Sarah Lawani Langalan, said her husband passed through the wooden bridge to go the Tukanalipao village crossing “to have his cellphone charged. The wife suspected that he was chanced upon by the SAF,” said Aba.
While they expressed sympathy with the bereaved families of the slain elite police men, progressive groups called for a “a thorough investigation” on President Aquino, suspended Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima, and the US government for their role in the Mamasapano operation.
“On the part of the Filipino youth, we join the nation in mourning for the untimely death of our countrymen in the gruesome encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao,” said Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon in a statement. “Our heartfelt condolences and prayers go to the families and friends of each and every victim of the tragedy.”
“As more details come in, it is becoming clearer that the tragedy can be rooted from the botched planning and command during the operation. What is not clear, however, is if the PNP top brass and the commander-in-chief, President Aquino, will ever admit responsibility for the bungled operation,” Ridon said.
Bayan Muna Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate called for a congressional investigation, even as the senate has scheduled one next week.
“What is sad about this is that the US was involved in planning, and they put the SAF at risk. After their men were used as cannon fodder, they even put the blame on the SAF,” said Colmenares.
“President Aquino is accountable for ordering the operation and defying the Ombudsman order of suspension on Purisima,” he said.
Tony Liongson of the Moro Christian Peoples’ Alliance (MCPA) said that whoever was calling the shots on the Mamasapano operations is accountable for the lives lost.
“We think that President Aquino should be accountable because it was clear that he was well informed about the operations, and he was consulting with Purisima.
“It should be investigated. It’s not possible that they did not know what will be the possible outcome of the operations, given that the area is a territory of the MILF and the BIFF, and cannot be easily entered. They knew that there will be lives sacrificed,” Liongson said.
Liongson said Marwan is a top target of the US War on terror, and US troops would have a primary role in the intelligence-gathering, since they have sophisticated equipment for the task. The PNP-SAF are also trained by US troops.
Liongson also cited that US troops were immediately at the scene. “Which shows that they were well-informed of the operations,” he said.
Zarate said that “it appears that there was breakdown in the established mechanisms agreed upon by the GPH and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as well as to see the veracity of reports that US agents or troops were also in the area after the incident.”
Colmenares said the Mamasapano operation gives even more weight on their calls for the scrapping of treaties with the US.
“This is one of our fears when the Philippines entered the Visiting Forces Agreements (VFA) and now the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) we are dragged into their fights and battle plans under the heading Target of US enemies. Filipinos are the ones dying for the US to get what they want. Worse because we are now seen as part of US military operations against its enemies, we also become a target of attacks by the enemies of the US,” Colmenares said.