On January 25, 2015 a mission by the Philippine National Police (PNP) to serve arrest warrants against two men suspected of terrorist activities led to the death of over 40 members of the Philippine Police Special Action Force (SAF) and at least 16 members from the Muslim Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The clash between the SAF and the MILF, took place in the town of Mamasapano, in the Maguindanao Province in the southern island of Mindanao. The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) also got involved in the firefight.
At least four villagers, Badrudin Langalan, Murshid Hashim, Omar Dagadas, and five-year old Sarah Pananggulon were hit by stray bullets and died. An unknown number of civilians were injured.
The incident caused the Philippine Congress to suspend the discussion of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which will implement the agreements reached by the government and the MILF in the peace process.
Below is the statement by Women Engaged in Action on 1325 (WE ACT 1325), a network of women's organizations that work for peace in the Philippines. Other women's organizations have called for an investigation into the encounter to determine what happened and to seek justice for the families of the civilians killed.
Last Sunday's bloody encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao was unfortunate considering the number of lives lost as well as the stage in which the Bangsamoro Basic Law process is at the moment.
Members of the Women Engaged in Action on 1325 (WE ACT 1325) grieve with the mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts and other kin of the slain. We join others in their call for a thorough and transparent investigation of the case with the participation of members of civil society, and pray that justice will be served. We ask: Was there a deliberate defiance of the ceasefire mechanisms? Who ordered the mission? Under whose authority was it carried out?
Although we grieve the loss of lives, we appeal to government officials, specifically our politicians and all peace-loving Filipinos not to hold hostage the GPH-MILF peace process. Noraida Abo of Unyphil-Women reiterated this call: "GPH and MILF, do not let the Mamapasano incident derail the peace process."
Indeed, let us all stay the course and see through the adoption of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. Jogenna Jover from Kutawato Council for Justice and Peace also expressed that "we are tired of living in fear here in Maguindanao. Nananawagan ako sa ating mga mambabatas, sa gobyerno, MILF at sa lahat, ituloy natin ang usapang pagkapayapaan. Tama na ang karahasan." [Translation: I call on our legislators, the government, MILF and everyone, let us continue peace talks. Enough violence already.]
We have all invested a lot of time and resources to get to where we are. The call to discontinue the peace process will only lead to more misery and loss of lives. Let us not allow uninformed and biased viewpoints to negate our gains. Stay the course. Pursue the BBL initiative to its conclusion! No to war!
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