Hailed as the “Mamasapano Debacle”, the death of 44 Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) police officers who were killed in action during an encounter with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25 was truly a tragedy. They rushed into mission to capture the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist infamously known as “Marwan,” with a $6-million bounty and the mastermind of bombings in the country and other parts of the world, and another terrorist, Abdul Basit Usman. Marwan was killed but Usman escaped. Why, really did it cost 44 lives to capture one? How could a simple operation turn into a deadly exchange of gun fires?
The SAF commandos are brave enough to conquer an arena where the odds were clearly not in their favor. Mar Roxas explained that the failed mission was an isolated case, which is by far the closest reason to explain the tragedy that happened. There was no coordination between PNP-SAF, the military and the MILF due to the ceasefire following the signing of a peace agreement. The MILF’s 105th, 106th and 118th base commands are in Mamasapano. Usman was a member of the MILF before he joined BIFF. The SAF commandos, in raiding the hideout of Marwan and Usman, were greeting a deadly pit.
Aside from that, government forces on standby that could have helped the SAF troopers who were pinned down by the enemies is also lacking. Many fingers point to SAF head Director Getulio Napeñas, and his flimsy plan of the operation which is unquestionably full of lapses. Like Miriam Defensor-Santiago said, there are no quick reaction forces, air-force strike assets no armored assets ready to move on the pre-planned lanes to support the troops, and no forward observers who could have advised the Fire Direction Center to adjust the fire.
The fallen SAF commandos showed their commitment to peace and order, which all of us must respect and honor. Along with this, the war against terrorism resurfaced. Islamic religious leaders and followers have spoken out of being victimized by extremist and terrorist groups. Commit acts of hatred against Muslims and fellow Filipinos is to promote the cause of terrorism which is to compromise safety.
Many citizens of Maguindanao cower in fear that another bloody incident may happen, with comrades of MArwan seeking revenge. With civilians abandoning their homes and residing in evacuation centers, there is hardly any economic activities in Mamasapano. If the MILF official cannot do something about this, death will constantly stalk the town residents.
Justice should be immediately given to the 44 heroes who fell during their mission, and it would just be achieved if the authorities would be quick enough to capture the ones at fault and accountable.