Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Mamapasano Massacre and the Long-standing Conflict in Mindanao

Contributed by my sister Pearl Dans, an alumna of the University of the Philippines Visayas. Her response to recent events surrounding the Mamapasano massacre in Maguindanao, Philippines. 

When I first read this, I cried in tears because I couldn't agree more with her sentiments. Somehow, she found the right words to express my feelings that I could not have expressed any better.

This has been shared and reposted on other people's timeline as well. I would appreciate it very much if you could take time to read this. 

To all my friends who have posted their sentiments on Facebook regarding the Mamapasano massacre, before anything else, please know that I respect your opinions and I wish to thank you sincerely for your honesty. Only when we are able to fully express our stand regarding issues without limitations, censure or fear of retaliation, are we able to fully appreciate democracy in our country.

A former schoolmate noted an observation that the Muslim community has been questionably silent over the brutal killings of 44 police officers in Maguindanao. As a "half-breed Moro", I think I might just have been the target of that insinuation.

It seems that my decision to keep my opinion to myself have resulted in some erroneously inferring that I am biased towards a certain party.

My apologies to you, as it seems that wary caution has heightened your emotional state of resentment. Please be assured it does not mean I do not care, or that my outrage over this are less than yours. By no means does it equate that I feel no anger or pain. In truth, I fear whether there may be too much of it that sometimes I wonder whether so much negativity may have permanently taken root in this heart that is more conflicted than yours. I have to step back at times and remind myself, again and again, that I have to be circumspect with my thoughts in order to stay rationale.

In this chaos of vitriol mudslinging, how could I disregard my mother's feelings? She, who gave me this gift of life, who has stood by me and tried her best to understand me as I delved into my crisis of unresolved identity? How could I disregard the feelings of my friends, whom I have shared many fond memories all these years since childhood? Should I simply cast aside the friendships we have built, out of anger, even as, like me, they too are victims in all these?

There is much anger, anguish and pain. If there is anybody who has a right to that, along with the families of those who were killed, it should be us, Mindanaoans - We, who have suffered and endured more than enough in this violent conflict that has claimed and destroyed the lives of so many for so long.

You are right in saying this is an issue of distrust. I will take that statement a notch higher. Taking in context  my selfish interests, and please note this is my opinion alone, I say there is NO ONE I can trust. Not the so-called freedom fighters who have resorted to the unflinching murder of innocents, nor our incompetent and corrupt government that, time and again, has failed to protect us and our rights to a life of peace that is free from fear, violence and intimidation.

I accept your criticisms wholeheartedly as all opinions are valid. Should you brand me a coward if I am unable to join you so bravely in your polemic crusade, I accept that too. I am sorry that I have to protect my family first. You see, the house that my father built for us - his family, as well as those of our neighbors' and everyone else's in our locality, are already lathered thick with gasoline. We thread ever so lightly everyday over a vast and rich oilfield, where all it takes is a single lighted matchstick for a dreaded conflagration to take place. Unfortunate as it is, I am in no position to add fuel to what is already a very heated situation. Because when this whole thing ignites, believe me when I say, it will be I, my family and my friends who will burn.

Six million dollars. Forty-four dead police officers. Two Jemaah Islamiyah terrorists in hiding. Not one in command from either side taking the blame.

All these in just a little over a year since the Zamboanga siege, an unforgettable event for us Zamboanguenos, as many people died, lost their loved ones, their homes, properties and livelihood. This happened despite the fact that SOUTHCOM, the main operating base of the AFP for southwest Philippines, and headquarters of the WESMINCOM, is stationed in Calarian.

A few hundred terrorists were all it took to hold our city of 800,000 hostage for a month. The outcome: A major section of our hometown comprising of several barangays burned down, over 100,000 people displaced, over 10,000 homes destroyed, some 190 people dead, add an additional 160 who died in evacuation centers, and one police chief sacked over a highly suspicious single-handed negotiation that resulted in the surrender of 23 MNLF fighters. If "hush-hush reports" are to be believed, the death toll could actually skyrocket, as there are many who claim it was very heavilty underreported. Moro-Moro lang to pre!

The threat to security crisis has been a perennial one for us, and yet in 2005 Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered the transfer of SOUTHCOM from Zamboanga to Pagadian to which we protested. Our mayor was not in good political standing with the then president, this individual who has been accused of cheating her way to the highest office in the land.

A week ago, another bomb exploded near the bus terminal, along a highway we pass through everyday. Scores were injured and 7 people died. The bomb was placed in a very busy area. The objective, to free 57 detained comrades, and apparently, to hurt and claim as many lives possible. We live only several meters away from that terminal, yet the explosion was so powerful, my father said our house of concrete shook as if there was an earthquake, and shrapnel actually reached the nearest store in our neighbourhood located just three houses away.

This was not the first. Nor will it be the last.

Cap that with a long list of atrocities we have had to deal with in the past until the present, most of them unreported in the national media. The extortions, the notorious kidnappings, and the assassinations committed by serial perpetrators with so much impunity that, again, there are well-founded rumours these groups are coddled and protected by a few rotten tomatoes from the AFP and some local politicians for a considerable slice of ransom and extortion money.

This beloved land of promise we can only hope to collectively call ours has since long ago been rendered nothing but a mere playground for a classic game of generals. We are nothing but mere pawns for the amusement of an elite few, who have disenfranchised as of our right to choose our destiny. At the end of the day, when everything has been said and done, it is we, Mindanaoans, both Moros and non-Moros, who will have to bear the brunt of a senseless war. We are but your collateral damage.

You get to live your enviable lives of nine-to-five hour, five-day-a-week "overly stressful" jobs, and Sunday visits to church thanking the Almighty for all the blessings that have come your way, while we have to worry every single minute about the next possible bomb explosion or rebel attack. Your reality, my friend, is different from my reality. While our perspectives may, at some point or another, be similar, they will never be altogether the same, because where we come from are totally disparate.

Having said all this, I want it to be clear I do not condone any form of violence and I support the call to continously and unrelentingly pressure this government to defend and protect us law-abiding citizens of this nation.

We are overwhelmed by our emotions right now. I personally would prefer to weigh and deliberate on these after an in depth analysis of everything, with a calm and collected head over my shoulder, as this is a very sensitive and complicated decades-old issue.

Two weeks ago, I attended the largest papal mass held in Luneta. I asked from God - a God I can't be totally sure to be Catholic or Muslim - for light and guidance. I prayed for my family and for my friends. For our country to overcome the inhibiting shackles of poverty, ignorance and corruption. That one day, we could all live harmoniously in a progressive and peaceful society that is inclusive of everyone.

I harbor no ill feelings against anybody. You have said your piece, and now I have stated mine. If anyone feels offended by it, then please accept my sincere apologies.

I am one with the rest of the country in commiserating with the families of those who were slain. May the souls of the fallen rest in eternal peace.

Nonetheless, I join Justice Lourdes Sereno and the Supreme Court in their plea for sobriety in these very difficult times.

Peace be with you!


Golden Threads said...

Thanks for sharing. I really want to understand both sides.

Fayezha Dans said...

Your welcome Golden Threads.