MANY of the 44 police commandos killed in Mamasapano were shot at close range, one at a time, by Muslim rebels, six or seven hours after the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front had agreed to call a ceasefire on Jan. 25.
This detail emerging from Monday’s Senate hearing on the Mamasapano bloodbath suggested that the rebels moved from one body to the next, and in cold blood made sure there were no survivors among the Special Action Force commandos sprawled on the ground.
The dead policemen were then stripped of their weapons, body armor, gear and personal belongings. At least one rebel even sent a bone-chilling message to the wife of a fallen policeman using his cell phone: “Don’t bother calling. Your husband is dead.”
This was barbarism, plain and simple.
The MILF, with which the government is in peace talks, has not denied its role in the massacre. Their fighters joined those from a splinter group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, in battling the SAF, who were on a legitimate mission to serve arrest warrants on wanted terrorists.
When the smoke cleared, the MILF defended the actions of its fighters.
Its chief negotiator, Mohagher Iqbal, insisted they were acting in self defense, and that it was the fault of the police for failing to coordinate with them in accordance with its ceasefire agreement with the government.
He also denied that it was a massacre, since the MILF also suffered casualties, and insisted on characterizing the bloody encounter as “an unfortunate incident.”
No euphemism, however, can cover the horrific facts that are emerging from various investigations, including hearings at the Senate.
The rebels, as one senator put it, simply kept shooting until everyone was dead.
In a further show of contempt for the government, the MILF chief negotiator has stayed away from the Senate hearings, sending a representative instead who is incapable of answering the most basic of questions: Why did the rebels not stop firing when a ceasefire was called? Does the MILF consider itself still at war with the government while the Bangsamoro Basic Law that it wants remains unpassed? Is it true that the weapons taken from the dead police commandos are now being sold in Maguindanao, despite an MILF promise to return them? Why did the MILF allow wanted terrorists to seek refuge in territory it controlled?
Iqbal deigned to send a letter to the chairman of the Senate committee on public order, saying only that he would be unable to attend the hearings because the MILF central committee had not given him the approval to do so.
This suggestion may fool gullible government peace negotiators who will do anything to achieve success, but it is unacceptable to the rest of us.
Nor is it acceptable for the MILF to claim that it will punish any of its members who were guilty of crimes under its own rules—particularly since Iqbal was so quick to exonerate them from the start.
In the aftermath of the January 25 bloodbath, the government insists the MILF must now show good faith and prove by its actions that it is a true partner in the peace process.
Sadly, this is unlikely to happen because its actions to date prove otherwise, that the MILF is an unworthy partner in the quest for peace, with leaders and members who cannot rise above brutality, duplicity and treachery.