A prayer ritual for Mamasapano dead
MAMASAPANO, Maguindanao—Wearing a loincloth (“bahag”), a spiritual leader from the Cordillera region in northern Luzon walked around the cornfield in the village of Tukanalipao on Monday.
He was performing a ritual (“kapya”), offering prayers and sacrificing animals for the souls of 44 police commandos who died here a year ago.
At least 13 of the 44 policemen belonging to the elite Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police were from the Cordillera. The fighting also left 17 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels and three civilians dead.
“Before we went here, there was a trauma healing process among the relatives. It is an important process because they cannot sleep well and they have no peace of mind,” said Andress Ngaoi, an engineer who represented the council of elders from the northern region.
“We have to do the prayer here because if the souls of their loved ones are still outside Cordillera, they will have no peace of mind,” he added.
Before flying back to Manila, Ngaoi and his companions were planning to meet with some leaders of the MILF.
“We are open to that because we want to have a good relation with the Muslims here in Mindanao,” he said.
Also yesterday, the MILF remembered its fallen fighters, the SAF members and the civilians who lost their lives.
“We do not commemorate in grandest fashion, we simply offered prayers for our slain fighters,” MILF chief Murad Ebrahim said in a news conference.
“We prayed for all—SAF, MILF and civilians. They came ahead of us because of the circumstances beyond our control,” he said in Filipino. “We remember them in our prayers”
Mamasapano Mayor Benzar Ampatuan told the Inquirer that memories of what happened a year ago were still fresh.
“It hurts us. The memories are still there. The incident is hard to forget because there were innocent civilians killed in the operation,” he said.
“But we are trying to cope and move on. We are calling for justice for all—not just for the police but also for the civilians and MILF rebels who were killed,” Ampatuan added.
Policemen, belonging to the 84th Company, entered Mamasapano to get terror suspect Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan.” After killing Marwan and while they were on their way out, they clashed with armed men believed to be supporters of the terrorist.
Another SAF group from the 55th Company, which served as a blocking force, encountered members of the MILF and its breakaway group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
A year after, the MILF has yet to punish members who were involved in the fighting. Von Al Haq, spokesperson for the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, the armed wing of the MILF, told the Inquirer by phone that there was no decision yet from the front’s central committee.
“It’s not yet served. It’s the discretion of our central committee,” Al Haq said. “But we assure the public that those involved will be given disciplinary actions,” ranging from a six months’ suspension to dismissal. Jeoffrey Maitem, Nash Maulana and Edwin O. Fernandez, Inquirer Mindanao
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