SING THE SONGS OF THE FALLEN (Mindanao PeaceWeavers Statement on the Mamasapano Tragedy)

WE, the convening networks and members of the Mindanao PeaceWeavers (MPW), join our people and offer our solemn tribute to the fallen 44 police officers and their respective families and kin. We stand witness to the tragedy that snuffed our young heroes’ lives dedicated in the service of the country in their pursuit of duty, honor and obedience.

We remember, too, that more than 40 years on the same fateful Sunday, our country was likewise plunged in a tumultuous period during the so-called First Quarter Storm when idealist youth at the forefront of a burgeoning people’s movement against a dictator – organized massive street protests, and were then detained, tortured or killed. These two timelines are important nodes in our history as a people where the Young offered their lives for what they believed and fought for. We will never forget. But we will always learn.

No words can express a nation in mourning – for behind every soldier’s life are a widow, an orphaned child, a parent, a sibling, a neighbor, and a friend.

We also offer our profound prayers and sympathies to the others who have been felled as well – the mujahideens of the MILF, the elements of the BIFF, and more so the ever innocent civilians who were slain and caught in the deadly crossfire.

We have been pained and wounded through this incident. And we are now confronted with our deepest fear and anxiety that it threatens to affect the fragile peace that we have built through the years. The Mamasapano tragedy embraces a paradox – the shedding of blood as a catharsis in keeping our communities from harm’s way, in the ongoing struggle for a more peaceful future for our children’s children.

This has always been the intent of the peace processes in our midst. The gains we have painstakingly earned as a country in the negotiated political settlement embodied now by the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) has raised the bar of our tolerance and respect for each other in a multicultural society; and reflected our maturing democratization as a people. This means, there is no turning back – we have to continue ‘beating the peace drum’.

In the light of the uproar, surge of emotions, wave of ethnic slurs in social and mainstream media and unwarranted pronouncements from several legislators tasked to enact the BBL – the call for sobriety is all that we have; our only recourse for now. We may denounce in gravest terms the carnage. We must all seek the truth and justice. But after every rage and storm also comes a calm. And the “calm” here is our steadfast commitment towards addressing the root causes of conflict and the granting of greater autonomy in the beleaguered Muslim Mindanao.

We, from MPW, are raising the following questions and appeals for immediate action and support by the stakeholders and the public at large :

  1. We support the intention of officially-mandated probes by the PNP’s Board of Inquiry, MILF’s Special Investigative Commission (SIC), the field investigation of the International Monitoring Team (IMT), and the Commission on Human Rights investigative mission to shed light, seek justice and exact accountability on what really happened. But how are the results of these probes will be consolidated? To whom the results will be submitted? And can these bodies enjoin civil society to be part of their probes?
  2. We strongly endorse the call towards instituting an independent commission to be led by eminent persons such as former Supreme Court Chief Justices Reynato Puno and Hilario Davide, Sr., and former Senator Wigberto Tañada. Henceforth, we appeal for the Senate to enact the Senate Bill 2603 in order to install the “Mamasapano Truth Commission” the soonest.
  3. We are emboldened to conduct a parallel, independent Solidarity Mission to bring about a “humanitarian face” to these probes amidst these hard times. We will generate personal stories from the internally displaced families, survivors, and armed forces. Results of which will be submitted to this Truth Commission and to the other investigation bodies as well.
  4. We, as citizens, are appealing the Commander in Chief to allow a JOINT AGREEMENT between the DILG, the intelligence community of the Security Sector together with the ceasefire committees & mechanisms (Joint- CCCH, IMT, AHJAG) for a MORATORIUM OF POLICE & MILITARY OPERATIONS (i.e. serving warrants to suspected terrorists, staging hot pursuit operations) especially in fragile communities and conflict-affected areas while investigations are ongoing, and internal displacement is still being addressed. Concretely, this entails “repositioning” of armed forces (GPH/PA/AFP, MILF-BIAF) to create a buffer zone especially in the communities where IDPs are located.
  5. We highly invoke the “primacy of the peace process”, a standing policy of the PNoy administration. We reiterate to all members of the security forces of the government and MILF to be committed to the agreements, the protocols enforced, and the mechanisms that worked and kept the peace for several years. We highly recommend that all ceasefire mechanisms (joint ceasefire committees, AHJAG), PNP, Philippine Army and even the AFP go through “confidence building measures” (CBMs) to abet the fallout of the Mamasapano crisis;
  6. We appeal to the MILF Central Committee and its Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Font (BIAF) to police its ranks and rein in and exercise influence over other armed groups within its vicinity and virtual control. Can the MILF help turn over those from the BIFF who are answerable to the incident and inform the public about the sanctions that are going to be meted out to those accountable for this tragedy?
  7. We are requesting to the agencies concerned to clarify the alleged presence of American soldiers at the site of incident. If indeed this is true, what was their role in the “OPLAN Wolverine”? Is Maguindanao covered in the tour of duty of American troops as reflected in their terms of reference with the Pacific Command (PACOM) Augmentation Team (the unit replacing the defunct US Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines, JSOTF-P)? If the PACOM unit works with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, why was it visible in a PNP/SAF-led police operation?
  8. We call on both Houses of Congress to pursue reviewing the draft Bangsamoro bill with even more fervor than before. All the more the imperative of a sound policy has to be crafted to guarantee inclusivity and safeguard all rights of the peoples living in the Bangsamoro territory. We firmly believe that this crisis is a huge but temporary setback. The enhancement and enactment of the basic law will help prevent a reprise of armed hostilities.
  9. We enjoin everyone to be part of a tribute advocacy, the “44 DAYS OF MOURNING” starting February 1 until March 15 and offer our “Songs to the Fallen”: a 3-minute absolute silence and prayer to all who have fallen victims to the tragic clash in Mamasapano – the SAF troops, armed actors of the MILF-BIAF, the BIFF and the civilians and the families who have been displaced due to this armed conflict.

The Mamasapano armed conflict is only a bead in the string of tragedies that defined our history as a people in constant struggle – from the massacres in Bud Dahu and Bud Bagsak in Jolo in the 1900’s, to the ‘70s in Manili, Carmen, North Cotabato, and the recent Ampatuan Massacre just 5 years past – we all pay tribute to the fallen – be they soldiers, mujahideens, or civilians. This spiral of violence has to end. Impunity has no place in this world. Let the truth set us free and be the balm in addressing the wounds of the bloodbaths in our blighted land.

The centuries-old armed conflict in Muslim Mindanao is anathema to its growth and development as a region – we are at the crossroads to make history and exercise magnanimity as a people. Let’s not go astray in according genuine autonomy since the establishment of the Bangsamoro will fully realize this vision. Let’s all make this happen.

We must grieve and seek justice for now. But let us keep the faith and continue to dialogue until we build a just, sustainable and peaceful tomorrow.


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