That MILF Mamasapano Report

The investigations by different government agencies of the Mamasapano tragedy are indispensable to render immediate, standard justice and redress to all those it has hurt or offended, including the nation’s sense of security and peace. Against the complexity of the national crisis it has unleashed, though, the collective findings of the investigations being that of government only will be too lopsided too bring much-needed closure to the tragedy. Without a proper closure that would address the deepest roots of the Moro rebellion and communal violence, Mindanao’s peace process will continue to remain a shaky proposition even if the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will overcome its present hurdles. The unfortunate fate of the once and future 1996 Final Peace Agreement is lesson enough. Hence, Mamasapano has opened an unprecedented though painful opportunity for a hard, hard look at what it will take to achieve real, just and doable peace in Mindanao, that Congressional debates on the BBL alone could not have gone far enough.

To bring about that closure through the healing power of justice for all, the MILF must give its side of the Mamasapano incident and its own conclusions and recommendations. Its honest report to its constituencies at home and at large is vital to the closure, to enable the peace process to move forward on the dynamic power of the political and social capital that all peace deals need to succeed in the long term.

Obviously enough, the MILF has as much, if not more critical, explaining to do than government about what really happened that day of January 25 in Mamasapano. If its fighters were instantly engaged in the firefight with the SAF commandos, then they could only be neighbors of Zulkifli Bin Hir, who was one of the targets of the police raid, and so how could neighbors not know one another? How much appreciation do its fighters have for the ceasefire and its mechanisms? Did they believe the raid was against them and not Marwan? Why are there armed and dangerous factions roaming in central Mindanao? What can be done to restore or strengthen genuine trust between it and government, between its Moro followers and Filipino citizens?

The MNLF attack of Zamboanga City in 2013 also raised questions of such nature that until now mostly remain unanswered. It’s a major reason why the tragedy has found no closure, justice has not been given to its victims, security and rehabilitation issues cannot be resolved, the old and new wounds continue to afflict the city’s social system. Peace flounders blindly in such limbo, can’t find its way out of the darkness of the heart and mind.

To bring optimum closure in form and substance is as much a priority and challenge to the peace deal architects as getting BBL passed and implemented. To satisfy the intractable doubts and opposition among some Moro communities that undermine the peace project, the MILF can send out clear signals that it can be trusted – by its diverse Moro constituents, by government, by all Filipinos. “The signals that build confidence are those that cut to the heart of the grievances and ambitions that underlie violence,” peace consultant Nigel Roberts wrote a year ago.

He said: “What are ‘signals of intent’? To understand the concept, we need to appreciate two things: first, that it takes a very long time to build the credible institutions that a new country, or a newly autonomous area, needs to operate effectively; and second, that you don’t have the luxury of time, and are at constant risk of losing your legitimacy. So, if you can’t create credible institutional performance overnight, you have to find a way to foreshadow it.” With Mamasapano, the MILF has an opportunity to send out one such signal by making and revealing to all its own thoroughgoing report about the incident. With probity, the “meek shall inherit the earth”. (ZABIDA)

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