Villagers: Rebels finished off SAF members with shots to the head
John Unson (The Philippine Star) - January 27, 2015 - 4:59pm

MAMASAPANO, Maguindanao - Some policemen wounded in the fatal clash with Moro guerillas on Sunday would have survived if their attackers did not finish them off with rifle shots to the head, villagers said.

Folks from Barangay Tukanalipao said more than a dozen wounded members of the Special Action Force (SAF), who came to their barangay to search for two wanted terrorists, Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli Bin Hir, also known as “Marwan,” and his ethnic Maguindanaon cohort Basit Usman, were executed by rebels as they tried to crawl away from the scene.

“Pagkatapos silang barilin sa ulo isa-isa, pinulot ang kanilang mga baril at iniwan na ang kanilang mga bangkay,” said a peasant, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals.

Another source, who asked to be named only as Hamim, said some rebels even stumped on the heads of the slain policemen before firing shots to finish them off gangland style.

The cadavers of more than 40 members of the police’s elite SAF are now at the mortuary of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (ID) in Camp Siongco in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

Police forensic experts said many of the slain policemen had gunshot wounds in the head with powder burns in the bullet entry points, indicating they were indeed shot at close range.

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, who was at 6th ID’s morgue Tuesday, appealed for sobriety among the families of the SAF members killed in the encounter.

“I’m also appealing to people in other parts of the country to help us pray for a peaceful resolution of this incident. We don’t want this to affect the on-going peace efforts of the Aquino administration and the MILF. The peace process must continue,” Mangudadatu said.

Mangudadatu said he has directed his chief budget staff, Lynette Estandarte, to extend assistance and provide food provisions to relatives of the slain policemen who are now at Camp Siongco, waiting for the release of the victims’ remains.

Major Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, commander of 6th ID, said there are even more “pressing reasons” now for the government and the MILF to pursue the peace process for tranquility in many flashpoint areas in Mindanao to fully take off.

Pangilinan said tension in Mamasapano has waned and Army units in the area are now helping government agencies extend relief and rehabilitation services to villagers dislocated by the incident.

In a statement, Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said the bloody encounter should not derail President Benigno Aquino III’s peace deal with the MILF.

The incident marred the lull in hostilities between government and the MILF since 2010.

Hataman called on the peace panels of the government and the MILF not to let the incident affect the ongoing peace process. 

The police-MILF encounter forced hundreds of Moro peasant families to evacuate to safer areas.

The MILF leadership maintained that the incident was a misencounter and could have been avoided had the Philippine National Police initiated prior coordination with the joint ceasefire committee.

The committee is comprised of representatives from the MILF, the PNP and the Armed Forces.

The MILF, under its July 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities with government, is to help interdict criminals and terrorists in areas where its members reside.

Local police officials, emotional over the violent deaths of their more than 40 companions, said the MILF has done nothing to pluck Marwan and Usman out of Mamasapano and turn them over to the government for prosecution.

Hataman said the ARMM’s Humanitarian Emergency Assistance and Response Team will extend relief and rehabilitation services to families dislocated by Sunday’s carnage.

“As always, it’s the civilians that suffer most from the brunt of armed conflicts,” said Hataman.

The MILF leadership was quoted on Tuesday by radio stations in Cotabato City as asserting that it wants the joint ceasefire committee and the International Monitoring Team to investigate on the incident to ensure impartiality.

Muhaquer Iqbal, MILF’s chief negotiator, said the hostilities in Barangay Mamasapano was a mis-encounter, an offshoot of the PNP’s failure to inform the joint ceasefire committee of its planned law enforcement activity in the area.

Barangay folks said the SAF contingent, about three platoons of combat-ready policemen, that came to their village clashed with about 300 MILF guerillas.

“Yung ibang mga pulis ay mga BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters) naman ang nakabangga,” a 34-year-old peasant, Samad, said.

The BIFF, led by radical clerics feared for their enforcement of a Taliban-style justice system in areas where they operate, does not recognize government-MILF ceasefire accord.

Abu Misry Mama, spokesman of the BIFF, said their guerillas engaged the SAF operatives when they noticed them approach their enclave in Barangay Mangapang, also in Mamasapano, about a kilometer away from Barangay Tukanalipao.

Mama had also bragged about their having killed more than a dozen SAF members in the ensuing encounter.

ABU MISRY MAMA ARMED FORCES BANGSAMORO ISLAMIC FREEDOM FIGHTERS BARANGAY MAMASAPANO BARANGAY MANGAPANG BARANGAY TUKANALIPAO CAMP SIONGCO HATAMAN MAMASAPANO MILF
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