For peaceful prayer
Masjid Dimaukom or the pink mosque in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao. Pink, they say, stands for peace. KR Guda
Life is normal in the streets of Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.
Life after death
Despite the traumatic events of January 25, life continues in Brgy. Tukanalipao. KR Guda
Watching the hearings
In Brgy. Tukanalipao in Mamasapano town of Maguindanao province, a resident fixes her electric fan as she begins to watch the Senate hearings on the Mamasapano debacle. KR Guda
Busy with school
Students in Linantangan Elementary School are busy with school work even as more than half of their classmates are still yet to return to school after the attack in Mamasapano. KR Guda
A mother and child in Linantangan Elementary School, after dismissal of classes. KR Guda
Signs of times
A child passes by the military camp of the 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao. The signs offer congratulations to the Philippine President for signing the agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. KR Guda
Residents put up pictures of women residents in a hut in Tukanalipao proper. KR Guda
The People's Fact-Finding Mission members interview members of the local police station in Mamasapano, Maguindanao regarding the bloodbath that occured on January 25. KR Guda
Students gather outside their classrooms during a psycho-social intervention by the Children's Rehabilitation Center in Linantangan Elementary School. KR Guda
Where they died
Fallen and unharvested corn crops now remain where the bodies of fallen police commandos were found. KR Guda
A Tukanalipao resident shows a bullet, purportedly from an M-60 machine gun, that pierced through their houses after SAF members reportedly opened fire on their houses. KR Guda
Recounting the dead
A local police describes to the People's Fact Finding Mission members how the locals brought to them the bodies of the 44 SAF members after the bloody encounter. KR Guda
'As big as a fist'
A human rights worker points to the huge hole reportedly caused by indiscriminate firing of SAF commandos in the highway during the bloody encounter. A child looks on. KR Guda
A farmer, with his bicycle, passes by the wooden bridge which was the site of the bloody clash between Moro fighters and police commandos. KR Guda
Survived but traumatized
Samra's child looks on as his mother tells the story of how her other child, the 8-year-old Sarah, was shot and killed during the police commandos' raid in Sitio Inugog in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. Samra herself was grazed by a bullet in her right cheek. KR Guda
From one dynasty to another
The image of the Philippine President, Benigno Aquino III with the Mamasapano mayor, Tahirodin Benzar Ampatuan, inside the town hall. The Ampatuans were themselves implicated in a bloody massacre of 54 people, more than half of which were journalists, in 2009. The case remains unclosed until today. KR Guda
A sign indicating that a different "government" is in operation as one enters Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. KR Guda
"You don't have to avoid showing my face," an MILF fighter says, standing guard inside a modern building where central committee members of the MILF hold meetings. "I don't have anything to hide." KR Guda
Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF's vice-chairman for political affairs, discusses to visitors the situation in their ranks after the Mamasapano incident. KR Guda
An MILF fighter stands guard outside a modern building that is home to the central committee of the MILF in Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. KR Guda
Tanks perennially stationed in Army checkpoints. KR Guda
Members of the local unit of the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police have their own checkpoint near Cotabato City. KR Guda
Not business as usual
A sign announcing that an agreement between the Aquino administration and the MILF has to come soon--or there will be consequences--stands in front of a huge factory in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. KR Guda
A quiet life in Liguasan
A simple house stands amid the sprawling beauty of Liguasan Marsh, which is reportedly home to a vast reserve of natural gas, which is coveted by many multinational corporations. KR Guda
The bloodbath in Mamasapano, Maguindanao once again brought to public attention the armed struggle being waged by various revolutionary, Bangsamoro groups for more than a century now.
Philippine senators, in their own inquiry, and riding on a wave of Islamophobia and anti-Moro sentiment, questioned the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)’s description of itself as a “revolutionary organization”. The senators thus betrayed an ignorance of the long history of Bangsamoro revolutionary struggle to determine their own future amid political and economic impositions from what they call “imperial Manila” and exploitation of their natural resources by foreign and local elite interests.
After the MILF’s signing of a comprehensive agreement with the Philippine government, progressive pundits were alarmed that the Bangsamoro struggle may have been compromised, especially after the United States government–which had expressed its desire to tap into the rich natural gas reserves in Liguasan Marsh–were adamantly supportive of the agreement. The MILF dismissed the warnings, saying that peace had to happen sometime, and that the agreement with the Aquino government, as well as the Bangsamoro Basic Law, was the closest thing to a principled peace that they could achieve.
That was before Mamasapano happened, of course. On January 25, the town of Mamasapano, which was clearly an MILF controlled territory, was subjected to a night-to-dawn police operation by dozens of police commandos ostensibly targetting two “known terrorists”. We all know what happened next.
Even in the bloodbath’s aftermath, the MILF affirmed its commitment to the peace process with the Aquino government. Meanwhile, other groups like the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and factions of the old Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) now call for a continuation of the armed struggle. With what we now know of the Mamasapano operation, it is clear that the Manila-based government, and its patron US government, did not have the Bangasamoro people’s interests at heart.
The people of Maguindanao, as well as all of Moro Mindanao, will have to brace themselves of an even longer struggle for self-determination and peace.