Don't make a legend out of Marwan, public urged
John Unson (The Philippine Star) - February 2, 2015 - 4:54pm

COTABATO CITY, Philippines - Officials on Monday called on the public not to create a legend out of international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir by stoking sentiments that tend to memorialize his reported death in the hands of the police’s elite Special Action Force (SAF).

The appeal was aired by officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, among them ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman, after staging an anti-war rally in Cotabato City on Monday, in support of efforts to peacefully resolve the deadly January 25 encounter between SAF members and guerillas of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Hataman said sowing animosity between government and Moro sectors can only encourage extremism among groups indignant about the incident.

“Let’s not make a legend out of Marwan,” Hataman said.

Hataman also confirmed that Marwan, a Malaysian national, was killed by SAF operatives that raided his hideout in a marshy area in west of Mamasapano before dawn of January 25.

“I’ve been informed that he was indeed killed in that police law enforcement operation,” Hataman said.

Hataman and hundreds of his subordinates converged at the 32-hectare ARMM compound Monday morning and released baloons while in an open field to show support to Malacañang’s position of not allowing the incident to stifle the on-going government-MILF peace overture.

Hataman called on residents of ARMM, which covers Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, to patiently wait for the result of the separate investigations on the encounter by the MILF, the government’s Board of Inquiry, and the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT).

The IMT, comprised of soldiers from Malaysia, Brunei, Libya, Indonesia, and civilian conflict resolution experts from Norway, Japan and the European Union, has been helping oversee since late 2003 the enforcement of the 1997 government-MILF ceasefire accord in flashpoint areas in Mindanao.

Laisa Alamia, ARMM's regional executive secretary, said four civilians were killed in the January 25 SAF-MILF Mamasapano encounter.

She identified the fatalities as peasant Badrudin Langalan, five-year-old Sarah Pananggulon, Murshid Hashim, and Omar Dagadas.

Alamia, who is helping Hataman manage the ARMM’s Humanitarian Emergency Assistance and Response Team (HEART), said six villagers, Saad Minidal, Samra Pananggulon, Tot Pananggulon, Saed Sangutin, Amina Salaganan, and Sajid Pasawilan, were wounded in the ensuing crossfire.

Alamia said the HEART had extended initial assistance to the families of the four civilian fatalities.

She said the HEART has also been helping attend to the needs of the six wounded villagers.

Rashid Ladiasan, chairman of the MILF’s ceasefire committees, said 18 MILF rebels were killed in the ten-hour encounter, which waned only when ceasefire monitors managed to disengaged the two groups.

Hataman said what the public ought to do now is to help deescalate the tension caused by the incident by avoiding making hostile comments about it and refrain from warmongering, particularly via social media.

“We need to support the separate investigation on the incident by the MILF, the Board of Inquiry which the government activated for this purpose and the IMT for us to really know the truth behind the incident,” Hataman said.

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