A month after the incident, investigations continue as officials hurl accusations at each other. Meanwhile, families grieve the lives lost. And like many similar incidents, we are never told what really happened.
Death seems to wash off bad reputations people may have had or erase misdeeds committed. In this case, the death of the 44 policemen made someone else’s “misdeed” and the bad reputation those responsible already had even worse. According to officials, they were to serve a warrant of arrest while the MILF’s Mohagher Iqbal claims it was a misencounter.
It was not a crossfire that did those policemen in. In an interview, former President Fidel V. Ramos cited 10 factors that allowed such a thing to happen. These ten included complacency, a laid-back attitude and lack of coordination among higher ups. So, even if they were armed, the policemen became victims themselves— collateral damage of sorts.
Decades ago in the late 80s, I was assigned to cover the MNLF-MILF clash in Darapanan, Cotabato. While initial talks were being arranged, we visited the affected community. Banana trunks still bore pieces of shrapnel and empty shells were strewn everywhere. Many homes were burned or damaged and crops and livestock were lost, leaving the people poorer than ever.
The people had begun to return to rebuild their lives. The braver and more outspoken ones shared their terrifying experience and how afraid they were of what lay ahead of them.
In 2009, over 50 people were killed in the Maguindanao (Ampatuan) Massacre, among them 34 journalists. The journalists were part of a convoy bound for Shariff Aguak and became collateral damage. Mamasapano is one of 36 municipalities comprising Maguindanao and was created in 1998 when the people of Shariff Aguak voted for its creation in a plebiscite.
In May of 2013, 200 civilian residents of Zamboanga served as human shields when MNLF forces attempted to take over the city. Many more incidents resulting in collateral damage remain unreported.
The real victims are those caught in between, those whose lives are lost or are interrupted by fighting and irresponsible leadership, not just of the government but also those who challenge it. In the end, one must ask, for whom are these wars fought?
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.