On The Mamasapano Tragedy

On The Mamasapano Tragedy

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Photo credit: DZRH News

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Peace­‐building Means Engaging Truth: A call to remain vigilant against a Mamasapano cover‐up

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of is found in all that is good and right and true. —Ephesians 5:6‐9

The unfolding accounts of what happened before, during and after so-called “Operation Plan Exodus/Wolverine” with said intention to serve a warrant of arrest on Malaysian-national Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, cannot help but leave us disturbed at realities in our nation. We, UCCP Bishops, join the call for TRUTH that makes clear who is accountable, so that we can build PEACE based on justice in our nation.

According to reports, 382 Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) jumped off in the late hours of January 24, 2015, yet only 41 PNP of the assault 84th Seaborne-Special Action Company (SAC) headed toward the target location in the interior marsh of Barangay Pidsandawan, Mamasapano and another 36 PNP from the 55th SAC were sent as a blocking force at the simple bridge that led from 105th MILF Camp headquarters in Barangay Tukanalipao to their camp outposts. In the end, 44 SAF commandos were killed including 35 of the 36 from the 55th SAC blocking force, in the ensuing clashes of January 25, 2015. In addition, the MILF reported 18 casualties, the BIFF reported 1 casualty, and at least 5 civilian deaths were reported.

First and foremost, we wish to express our condolence to the families of all who perished in this incident, most especially to the family of PO2 Peterson Indongan Carap, PNP-SAF from the Baguio City UCCP. While emotions and passion are high, the call for an eye-for-an-eye retaliation and vengeance are rife. The Christian faith calls us to forgive and to love our enemies, for vengeance belongs to God. Grief is natural in the wake of the loss of a loved one; however, the intensity surrounding this incident and the possible ramifications on our nation should urge us all toward pastoral care and support for grieving friends and families.

With deep concern, we also encourage our members to work for the promotion of human dignity and respect for all people in our nation. Our faith calls us to act as peacemakers amidst an upsurge in anti-Moro/Muslim sentiments expressed through social media as well as in our daily interactions. We must not allow Christian chauvinism to take deeper root in our society as it will surely lead to greater discrimination against our brothers and sisters of Muslim faith; this will only further raise obstacles to peace-building.

We stand for the respect of the human rights of all persons and we continue to monitor the alleged violations of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. We condemn the brutal killing of wounded policemen evidenced in autopsy reports, as violations of International conventions and protocols on the treatment of enemy combatants. As we have strongly condemned the violations of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law in the brutal killing of civilian Engr. Delle B. Salvador as well as NPA combatants at the hands of the military during their operation in Lacub, Abra in the early days of September, 2014, we likewise strongly condemn the illegal killing of incapacitated PNP­‐SAF commandos, the desecration of PNP-SAF remains and the looting of their personal effects. We challenge the MILF not only to return properties divested from the SAF forces but to put to the bar of justice the violators of International Humanitarian Law. Likewise, we also call for accountability on the extra-judicial killing of civilian Badrudin Langalan, a Moro farmer, who left his home to charge his cell phone at 4am, January 25; he is alleged to have been detained by the 55th SAC and his remains were found hog-tied amongst the 55th SAC casualties. Sara Pananggulon, 8-year-old girl, was also killed due to indiscriminate firing, allegedly by the 84th Seaborne SAC. Civilians in Mamasapano should equally be indemnified for properties that have been destroyed or divested. All perpetrators of violations of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law in the Mamasapano incident must be held accountable.

We also urge our members to be discerning and vigilant in light of calculated efforts at drawing out parts of the truth, while simultaneously covering up the role of the Commander-In-Chief. President Benigno Simeon Aquino III has sought to distance himself from Oplan Exodus/Wolverine, as if accountability should end with sacked PNP-SAF Director Getulio Napeñas and now “resigned,” though suspended, PNP Chief General Alan Purisima. Discerning vigilance is particularly important as we continue to probe the degree of involvement of United States operatives as well as a seeming priority for maintaining the appearance of a GPH-MILF ceasefire. These may have led to the faulty and uncoordinated plan that cost so many lives. As former president Fidel V. Ramos has made clear, there is no way that this operation occurred without the Commander-In-Chief’s approval. We ask you to pray for our nation as many discern if they will join the call for President Aquino to resign from the Office of President, since he has lost his moral authority and denies responsibility in this shoddy and suspect operation.

Peacemaking in Mindanao will continue to require our effort; a long history of marginalization experienced by the Moro people will not be easily overcome. We encourage UCCP Local Churches to familiarize themselves with the Philippine Government-Moro Islamic Liberation Front (GPH-MILF) peace process. Under the Arroyo administration, the  Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) was declared unconstitutional, and now the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), for which deliberation in Congress has been suspended, hangs in the balance. Our collective anger will be misplaced, if we simply hold the peace process and BBL hostage—that too would be overkill. And, neither will an all-out-war bring peace—for out of every rebel killed, a hundred more will rise. Unless we are ready for genocide or prepared for further outbreak and escalation of civil war, we must struggle to craft a just peace for Mindanao. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we must open ourselves to possibilities of building peace that respects the aspirations and self-determination of national minorities. We must discern together how to address the roots of the armed conflict, so that genuine peace can flourish.

We enjoin everyone to model Peacemaking that Engages Truth. Clearly, efforts to save or prop up the GPH-MILF Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro cannot be used as sufficient basis to cover-up what happened in Mamasapano:

Justice is essential for building genuine peace.
Truth is essential to discern justice.
Therefore, PEACE-BUILDING requires that we uncover the TRUTH behind the Mamasapano tragedy.

BISHOP REUEL NORMAN O. MARIGZA
General Secretary

BISHOP ELORDE SAMBAT
North Luzon Jurisdictional Area

BISHOP JOEL TENDERO
South Luzon Jurisdictional Area

BISHOP ERMEGENCIO PADILLO
Middle Luzon Jurisdictional Area

BISHOP JAIME MORILES
East Visayas Jurisdictional Area

BISHOP JEZER BERTOLDO
West Visayas Jurisdictional Area

BISHOP MELZAR LABUNTOG
Northwest Mindanao Jurisdictional Area

BISHOP HAMUEL TEQUIS
Southeast Mindanao Jurisdictional Area

24 February 2015

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