MAGUINDANAO, Philippines - The security cooperation among policemen and Army units in Maguindanao has not been dampened by the infamous January 25 Mamasapano incident, feared to drive a wedge in the solidarity of the two organizations.
Members of the Maguindanao mayors league said their municipal police chiefs and officers of Army units in their towns have not ceased from cooperating on security efforts and law enforcement activities despite the incident.
At least 44 members of the police’s Special Action Force, 18 guerillas of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and four civilians were killed in the January 25 gunfights in Barangays Pidsandawan, Inog-og, and Tukanalipao in Mamasapano town in the second district of Maguindanao.
The SAF operatives had just killed then in a dawn raid Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, most known as Marwan, in his hideout at the border of Inog-og and Pidsandawan and were already maneuvering their way out when they encountered local MILF forces and a third group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
Major Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, commander of the Army's 6th Infantry Division (ID), which has jurisdiction over Maguindanao and the neighboring Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato provinces, had explained in a Senate inquiry, which started early this week, that there were tactical lapses that prevented soldiers from initiating interventions as the firefights ensued.
Cynics have accused the 6th ID of not doing its best to help the SAF withdraw from the area where they were pinned down by overwhelming guerilla forces that attacked from different directions.
“What is saddening is that those creating, spreading these intrigues, skeptics and cynics, are not from Maguindanao. They are there in faraway peaceful places and are not aware of the real situation on the ground,” lamented Maguindanao’s appointed deputy governor, Ramil Dilangalen, a senior member of the provincial peace and order council.
Dilangalen said he has not heard of any policeman, or a municipal police chief spoke ill of the 6th ID after the incident.
“The Mamasapano incident has not affected the police-military relations in Maguindanao. That’s a fact,” Dilangalen said.
Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu on Thursday also refuted insinuations that the Mamasapano incident had caused a rift among policemen and Army units in the province.
“That is absolutely untrue. Policemen and soldiers in the province continued cooperating with each other in maintaining law and order in the 36 towns in Maguindanao, in joint missions that are being performed in the spirit of amity and cooperation,” he said.
The governor said one concrete proof of the strong, continuing security cooperation among police and military organizations in Maguindanao is the round-the-clock security being provided by both to the week-long provincial Sagayan Festival, which will culminate on February 14.
Combined contingents from the Maguindanao police and the Army’s 33rd Infantry Battalion, led by Lt. Col. Markton Abo, who is an ethnic Maguindanaon Muslim, have been securing since last week many strategic spots around Buluan, the new provincial capital and venue of the continuing Sagayan cultural activities.
Mayor Ramon Piang of Upi, a hinterland town in the first district of Maguindanao, said policemen and members of the Philippine Marine Corps based in their municipality continued co-existing peacefully despite the Mamasapano incident.
Piang, an ethnic Teduray chieftain, said policemen in the province even ought to be cited for their having been sober and professional amid the pain of losing 44 colleagues in a deadly encounter with rebels in Mamasapano.
Piang, an erstwhile member of the government’s peace panel, helped craft, along with MILF negotiators, the power and wealth-sharing annex to the October 15, 2013 Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro.
Top police and Army officials are expected to grace Saturday’s culmination of the Sagayan festival in Buluan, said Mangudadatu.
He said the security missions of policemen and soldiers protecting the venues of the Sagayan activities are closely coordinated with local commanders of the MILF.
Standup comedian Vice Ganda was guest in Wednesday night’s Sagayan merry-making in Buluan, where he told local folks he personally felt there is indeed peace in the province, contrary to how people outside feel.