I cannot believe that it has been a year since President Benigno Aquino III gave the go-ahead for units of the Philippine National Police’s Special Action Force to raid a sitio in Mamapasano village to take away a Malaysian terrorist and bomb expert.
Zulkifli Abdhir was killed, but they also came under heavy fire from a combined force of Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. The result was a bloodbath: 44 SAF soldiers were killed while the MILF lost 18 and the BIFF, 5 of their fighters, respectively.
The fallout was extensive: Aquino’s popularity plummeted to its lowest, he was forced to sacrifice one of his buddies, dismissed PNP chief Alan Purisima. His spin masters and apologists had a hell of a time going back and forth between arguing that Aquino showed leadership in salvaging the operation, alternating between blaming the police and then apologizing but stopping short of admitting command responsibility.
Media coverage and punditry, however, found a way to numb the pain, making Mamapasano look like yet another political fiasco that was “normal” of every presidential administration. Moreover, for much of the time, this objectification has done its work (note, for example, how very little public anger there is now over the Maguindanao massacre).
But the effort is there, and it is what it ought to be. So here go some of those stories that were told to me by friends, relatives, and sympathizers of those massacred.
Tears in Crame
A policeman’s wife who was there wrote that the Camp Crame community was all in tears when the bodies arrived. The band that played the taps in honor of the dead was so exhausted by the time the 44th body was brought into the hall. The band leader said one more body and they would just collapse, she wrote. I could imagine the tears streaming down her cheeks as she sent me her email.
Then there was the story that went around the hall that funeral parlors in Mamapasano, Datu Piang, and Sultan sa Barongis towns ran out of coffins so that some of the bodies were brought back to Manila in body bags, and then only placed in coffins after the plane landed at Villamor Air Force Base. The families and comrade-in-arms who were there at the airport were offended by just how sacrilegious the scene was to them.
These are just two of the stories I was able to get from friends and acquaintances who were there when the massacre and its aftermath happened.
However, I know there are more.
Social media as your tool
A historian once complained that even if we want to write a “people’s history,” we are often frustrated by the failure to give the people their voice. But social media has made it less difficult to access these tales. All one needs to do now is write a blog, send and email, pen a comment on Facebook or Twitter, and the stories become alive again. (Check out Rappler X, too)
Almost a year ago, I wrote a post that invited readers to give their opinions and vent their anger about the disorganized way the encounters were handled and the callousness of the President and his advisers when confronted by public protest. The comments also included fervent defense of the President.
Now, I am imploring readers to do something similar. But instead of their anger or disappointment, I would like them to share their stories about the massacre in this column.
I am especially calling on those directly involved and those directly affected to bring out their stories.
So bring them out and post them here.
Let us keep the memories of Mamapasano alive. – Rappler.com
Patricio N. Abinales is an OFW.
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