“We share the pain of the widows of the 44 slain elements of SAF.”
By KILAB MULTIMEDIA
“My husband is gone.”
This was the lamentation of Rohaima Angkay, widow of Hadji Norhamid Angkay, one of the slain Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters during the January 25 botched operation of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (SAF) in Tukanalipao village, Mamasapano in Maguindanao.
“Now that he is dead, how will we be able to survive?” the mother of two small children — the youngest only three-month-old — asked members of the People’s fact-finding mission Feb. 9, Monday afternoon in Tukanalipao.
Still grieving over the death of her husband, Angkay recounted the events on that fateful Sunday morning when members of police elite commandos stormed their village at dawn.
She said the SAF fired the shots first. What the MILF did, she said, was an act of self-defense.
“Had they (SAF), before entering, coordinated with the LGU and the MILF, then bloodshed would have been avoided. Had they coordinated with the MILF, the capture of Marwan would have not been tragic.”
The police commandos intended to serve the warrant of arrest against Jemaah Islamiyah leader Zulkifli Bin Hamir, alias Marwan, and Filipino bomb-maker Basit Usman. The incident, however, resulted in the death of 44 elite members of the Police, 18 MILF members, and four civilians.
Not less than 1,500 individuals left Mamasapano because of fear of being caught in the crossfire, an exodus in the face of alleged human rights violations on civilians committed by the police commandos.
Another widow of slain MILF fighter Mamariza Sandigan, Lyn Lyn Sandigan, poured out her grief as she carries her youngest child.
“It hurts to lose a husband and be left alone with my children,” she said. “Our dream is simple: we only wanted peace, even if my husband was a rebel.”
She recalled hearing a staccato of gunfire at around 5 am, January 25.
“We woke up to gunshots and my husband immediately went out, took the banca, and paddled to where the battle was.”
Sarah Langalan, the wife of Badrudin, the 18-year-old farmer whose body was found close to the Tukanalipao bridge after the firefight subsided, alleged that the police commandos captured her husband who was on his way home.
Her husband’s body bore torture marks, his eyes gouged out. The wife only learned of his death at 6 pm.
“He suffered a terrible, painful death,” she said, noting that her husband was found hogtied in the cornfields close to the bridge.
Sarah never saw the corpse of her husband because the elders had it buried. It is in the Moro culture to bury their dead before nightfall.
The widows are now calling for justice as they join those who call for accountability.
Zaida Canidbar, a resident of Tukanalipao, said the community was peaceful before the SAF’s assault: “We also had our share of deaths,” she said. “We share the pain of the widows of the 44 slain elements of SAF.”
People’s Fact Finding Mission
Human rights lawyer Beverly Musni of Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) said the police operation apparently disregarded the possible impact it would have on the civilian residents of the village.
Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Luz Ilagan shared the same observation.
“There was nothing to indicate that the operation did take into consideration the safety of the civilians in the area,” Ilagan said.
According to the Children’s rehabilitation Center, fear is still being felt by the residents of the village, especially by the children.
“Fear and trauma manifest especially during night time,” said Rius Valle. “Children think what happened on January 25 will happen again.”
Because of the incident, only 100 out of 600 school children have returned to school.
The group Suara Bangsamoro earlier noted the violation committed by the government of the Philippines of the ceasefire agreement and its disregard of the operation’s implication on the peace negotiations, particularly on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
Philippine lawmakers already suspended deliberations of the BBL pending the results of the investigation on the Mamasapano incident.
“Peace in Mindanao and the peace process were sabotaged by the government of the Philippines and the US government,” said Suara Bangsamoro National President Amirah Lidasan.