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THE MAMASAPANO DEBACLE: A Postscript

   
By ATTY. NASSER MAROHOMSALIC

Everything, almost, about the Mamasapano incident is in the news, including the version of Senator Allan Peter Cayetano. I’m afraid I’ll only chatter up the narratives with my version.


In fear of rendering an inadequate and spotted secondary or hearsay information on the incident and get pilloried in Moro capitals, I pick on related issues which are not in the news. For this conference, I address myself to the following questions: Why the incident happened? Aside from the plan to capture or kill Marwan and Basit, is there another objective on the side? Was the operation merely plain law enforcement work gone wrong?

The history of the peace talks between the Philippine Government and the Moro revolutionary organizations, notably the MNLF and the MILF, is littered with similar incidents designed obviously to manipulate or subvert or ruin altogether the peace talks. Elements of the security and law enforcement agencies of the government including hawkish and wayward politicians are the culprits.

Let me fresh out my thesis.

The Estrada presidency entered into peace negotiation with the MILF to buy time and waylay detractors from their impeachment pursuit against Estrada. In due time and on the day following the signing of an agreement between the parties where government recognized MILF camps and the MILF agreed to the transformation of its main camp Abubacar into an economic zone, President Estrada declared an all-out-war against the insurgent organization.

With the overthrow of Estrada in January 2011 and the succession of the presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, government unilaterally declared a ceasefire on its part and sought the assistance of Malaysia to broker a peace talk with the MILF. But by and large this is only for a show intended to avoid unnecessary distraction even as she consolidated her position in the presidency.

More than a year later, she’s shed off her cover and declared war on the MILF. She capitalized for a justification on the bombing of Davao City International Airport and Davao Sasa Wharf on March 4, 2003 and April 2, 2004, respectively, blaming the MILF for the incidents. These bombings, according to Captain and now Senator Trillanes, were the handiworks of the military.

Earlier, on February 10, 2003 the military violated the ceasefire agreement with the MILF, bombarding and attacking Buliok Complex on the day of Eid al-Adha or the Feast of Sacrifice to incense and provoke the MILF to break the peace accord which government presented a day earlier to Congress.

Again, on July 10, 2007 the military violated the ceasefire agreement with the MILF, entering into MILF territory in Basilan without coordination on the pretext of pursuing kidnappers of Italian priest Bossi, who was at the time nowhere in the province. A firefight ensued between the two forces, resulting in the death of 14 soldiers, 10 of who beheaded. Engaged at the killing of their blind imam the night before, which they pinned on the soldiers, the villagers joined the battle. The imam was tied to a bamboo pole. According to reports an investigation by the International Ceasefire Monitoring Team absolved the MILF forces involved in the skirmish.

There must still be remnants of warmongers in the military bureaucracy harboring jingoistic enmity towards the Bangsamoro.

In August 2013 the military launched an offensive against the MILF on the day of Eid al-Adha to incite obviously the MILF to engage the AFP in a larger warfare that would jeopardize the peace talks.

Earlier, on October 18, 2011 soldiers went into Al-Barka town in Basilan province and engaged MILF units therein in violation of protocols under the ceasefire agreement. The firefight resulted in the death of 19 soldiers and the wounding of 12 others. This happened just two months following the meeting between Al-Haj Murad and President Aquino in Tokyo where the former expressed grave concern over the revised draft of the BBL by Malacanañg.

The Mamasapano incident raised similar questions too, as regards the mindsets of the military echelon involved in the operation. In the first place, the operation was very poorly planned. Secondly, the disarray among the SAF defies explanation, unless one considers the SAF as a force of yokels or run-off-the-mill graduates of the Philippine National Police Academy, which they are not. Indeed, one is wont to suspect that something sinister was also intended on the side.

What else bootstrapped my suspicion, my pineal sense?

The SAF were positioned within target area at Barangay Tukanalipao at 4:30 in the morning, at which time Muslims habituated to praying the early morning Subuh Prayer were awake doing their ablution or offering their prayers. And to think that only 18 of the company of SAF proceeded to the objective, while the rest stayed behind on the excuse that they could not wade through the muddy river along the way. They’re all in the same unit and have received the same training.

It may be asked: What prompted their inability to make the crossing, while the 18 succeeded? What about the deployment of the bulk of the troops, almost 400 of them? Where they tactically emplaced so they could easily get to the rescue of their attack forces if needed? Why did they not move to rescue their besieged forces? Do they have enough logistics, especially ordinances to bail them out?

The exact huts of Marwan and Basit were marked and identified and their spot isolated. Easily they could be taken out by a smart bomb. Or a lean and lethal commando force could come like thieves in the night with rifles bearing suppressors and night vision telescopes.

But, as they say, the rest is history. What confront us now is the fate of the BBL. To emphasize, politicians used the Mamasapano tragedy to either derail the passage of the bill or mangle it. This peace agreement with the Bangsamoro hangs on the balance as yet. But the MILF and its public, being Muslims, set great store by what Divine Providence may bring. I wish to be optimistic as well about the future of the BBL. It’s not yet dead in the waters anyway.

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This piece was delivered by Atty. Nasser Marohomsalic, IBP Presidential Assistant on Publications and Media, at the Marawi Conference on Peace, Human Security and Conflict-Prevention, sponsored by the International Rotary Club of Cotabato City-South and the Aba Al-Khail Computer School, Marawi City, held at the Ayala-MSU Resort, Marawi City, on August 06, 2015. This speech is also delivered at a Roundtable on the Mamasapano Clash and the Bangsamoro Basic Law, sponsored by the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) on February 19, 2015. In the light of the non-passage of the BBL by Congress which many believed is due to the Mamasapano Clash, we are publishing this speech of Atty. Marohomsalic, a brilliant young Muslim lawyer in the country, for its relevancy to what is now going on after the BBL’s defeat in the Senate. Marohomsalic is Legal Adviser of The New Ranao Star. - Editor

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