A fact-finding mission says the government’s commando operations violated human rights and international humanitarian laws as they “undermined” the civilian residents of Mamasapano.
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA — The People’s Fact-finding Mission (PFFM) urges the Aquino government to indemnify civilian victims of human rights violations in the police commando operations in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province.
In an initial report, the mission said some 5,000 civilians in four Mamasapano villages were affected, as civilian lives “were undermined” by the January 25 operations by the elite police unit, Special Action Force (SAF), which resulted in bloody clashes with Moro rebels.
“The government must indemnify, give justice to the victims of human rights violations and be held accountable for the Mamasapano encounter,” said the PFFM.
The PFFM called for further investigation into the role of the US government in the operations, as the mission documented eyewitness-reports that the body of a Caucasian soldier was among those of the slain SAF men.
“Further investigation should be undertaken into the role of the US government in the Mamasapano incident, based on the following reports: that US troops were seen during retrieval operations; that drones were heard and seen flying before and during the police operation; and that possible Caucasians were sighted with the PNP-SAF during operations, including the body of an alleged Caucasian among the slain PNP-SAF,” said the report.
The mission was held on Feb. 9 to 11, covering the affected villages of Tukanalipao, Pidsandawan, Pimbalkan and Tuka. Some 100 people took part in the mission, including “Moro leaders, human rights advocates, children’s rights advocates, church leaders, youth leaders, labor leaders, women leaders, and alternative journalists.” Among the groups that joined were Suara Bangsamoro, Initiatives for Peace Mindanao, partylist groups Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and Gabriela Women’s Partylist.
Human rights and IHL violations
The PFFM documented violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. These include the death of the child Sarah Panangulon, who was killed when SAF men strafed her home in Tukanalipao village. Another victim, farmer Badrudin Langalan, 18, was found dead, hogtied and slumped to the ground, also in Tukanalipao where the SAF men passed through.
The PFFM said the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao Humanitarian Emergency Action and Response Team (ARMM Heart) reported that up to 5,963 students in 13 public elementary and high schools were affected by the clashes. Among these was the Linantangan Elementary School in Tukanalipao proper, which had cancelled classes in the past two weeks.
The mission also reported that hundreds of students have not returned to school. Classes for the 300 Mahad or Arabic students were also disrupted.
The ARMM Heart reported that P300,000 worth of crops were destroyed during the encounters, while more than a million pesos worth of properties were damaged, including six civilian houses.
“The lives of the residents have yet to return to normal, the farmers cannot easily go back to their farms for fear of possible clashes, and unexploded bombs in local fields. There is no normalcy in the lives of child residents, as evidenced by the significant decline in the attendance of students in elementary schools,” said the PFFM.
“The PNP-SAF police operation undermined the civilian community and GPH-MILF peace process,” said the PFFM. “There was a violation of the ceasefire agreement or the Agreement on the General Cessation of Hostilities that resulted in a breach in the peace negotiations and human rights violations.”