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Folks rise from stigma of Mamasapano carnage

Local News • 20:16 PM Tue Jan 26, 2016
John Unson
Workers of the Maguindanao provincial government pose for photographers at the new Tukanalipao Bailey Bridge during a break in their humanitarian missions in Mamasapano town on Monday. (John Unson)

MAMASAPANO, Maguindanao -- While residents of this town have sad stories on the January 25, 2015 hostilities in their once idyllic barangays, they have good tales too on how the carnage ushered in improvements in their communities.For one, folks never ever thought local infrastructure projects, amounting to almost P100 million, can be implemented by the executive department of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) after the Mamasapano incident in record time, from February to December 2015.At least 44 operatives of the police’s elite Special Action Force (SAF), 17 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and five innocent villagers were killed in a series of encounters on January 25, 2015 in three adjoining barangays in Mamasapano.The hostilities, which also involved a third group, the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), now most known as the Mamasapano incident,” shook the nation to its core and badly affected the peace overture between Malacañang and the MILF.The government-MILF peace initiative, now in its 19th year, aims to replace ARMM with a more empowered Bangsamoro government through the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, still pending in Congress.Karim, a corn farmer, said while they are still in pain, as a result of the deaths of 17 local MILF guerillas and five innocent neighbors in the incident, there are continuing improvements now in their lives helping them reel off from its saddening vestiges. We were destined to experience that incident for us to realize that for every trial comes joy and more spiritual strength as Muslims,” Karim said in the Maguindanaon dialect.Muslims believe in qad’r (destiny), which for them sometimes brings miseries, as tests of true faith, so they can rise as strong and rewarded” believers soon after. The deaths of Mamasapano residents, MILF members and non-combatant villagers alike, and the dislocation for several months of thousands as a result of the `Mamasapano incident” pained the local communities so much. Seeing these positive developments around helps them recover fast,” said a public school teacher handling classes in a new school building built by the ARMM government in Barangay Tukanalipao west of Mamasapano. All of these were paid in blood by the slain Mamasapano residents and members of the SAF,” the teacher, who asked not to be identified, pointed out.It was in southwest of Barangay Tukanalipao where more than 20 of the 44 SAF men that clashed with MILF and BIFF gunmen were killed, in a series of encounters that lasted for 11 hours, near a river then traversable only via a so unsafe wooden footbridge that was to become an icon of the bloody incident and a symbol of the widespread poverty and underdevelopment in the area.The dirt road connecting the scenes of the fierce encounter near the Tukanalipao River to the center of the barangay is now concrete and a safer, all weather bridge now connects both banks of the waterway.Combatants of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division had recently built a mosque along the route using grants from the ARMM government.The Department of Public Works and Highways in the autonomous region (DPWH-ARMM) has also been constructing eight units of water supply facilities, worth P38 million, in Maguindanao’s adjoining Mamasapano, Datu Unsay, Shariff Saidona and Datu Hofer towns after the Mamasapano incident.Some barangay folks on Tuesday said they were saddened by lack of focus by giant television networks on how ARMM officials and the provincial government of Maguindanao implemented humanitarian and infrastructure projects in Mamasapano in recent months in TV reports about Monday’s 1st anniversary of the Mamasapano incident.For fish vendor Talib, the sacrifices of engineers, construction workers, soldiers, ARMM and provincial officials, who fused ranks together to construct infrastructure facilities and help them rise again via various socio-economic and humanitarian interventions, were just as burdensome as the sufferings they had experienced for a time after January 25, 2015. We ought to thank them too,” Talib said in Filipino.Local officials in Mamasapano and nearby towns said they are grateful to President Benigno Aquino III, to ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman and members of his regional cabinet for helping residents of the three barangays affected by the Mamasapano incident bounce back. Projects are flourishing everywhere,” said Mayor Sam Dimaukom of Datu Saudi town in Maguindanao, about eight kilometers northeast of Mamasapano.The mayor of Mamasapano, Benzar Ampatuan, is just as thankful to Engineer Zainal Mlok of the 2nd District Engineering Office of Maguindanao for his hands-on involvement in the implementation of ARMM projects in the municipality.The ARMM government had allocated P1.098 billion for infrastructure projects in the second district of Maguindanao in 2015, compounded with an additional P1.084 billion package for this year.While progress is now gradually spreading around the three barangays where policemen, MILF and BIFF forces figured in bloody gunfights exactly a year ago last Monday, people in Mamasapano still long for something, the much awaited enduring peace they believe an acceptable, peaceful closure to the decades-old Moro rebellion can bring in.

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