Cops in Maguindanao in talks with Moro leaders after Mamasapano clash
John Unson (The Philippine Star) - February 9, 2015 - 2:53pm

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines - Officials on Monday lauded police units in the province for not resorting to retaliations for the deaths of 44 colleagues in a 10-hour encounter with Moro rebels last January 25 in three barangays in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, presiding chair of the inter-agency provincial peace and order council, said chiefs of the 36 municipal police offices in the first and second districts of Maguindanao even intensified after the incident their back channel dialogues with Moro commanders in their respective areas to forestall any breakdown of communication lines.

Mangudadatu said there is no doubt policemen in the 36 towns of Maguindanao were hurt by the deaths of the 44 members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) in the January 25 encounter with guerillas of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and a third group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. The cops, however, remained calm, stood down and allowed higher authorities, including political and religious leaders, to resolve the incident peacefully instead.

“Apparently they sincerely support the Mindanao peace process and so they did not do anything that can derail the ongoing peace initiative between the government and the MILF,” said Mangudadatu.

Mangudadatu said the 36-member Maguindanao mayors league is also helping defuse tension in Mamasapano via dialogues with MILF commanders in their respective towns to assure them that the government is not turning away from its now 18-year peace overture with the rebel group.

He said his 36 constituent-mayors have not ceased from supporting the operations of the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT) and the joint government-MILF ceasefire committee either.

The IMT, comprised of soldiers from Malaysia, Brunei, Libya, Indonesia and non-uniformed conflict resolution and rehabilitation specialists from Japan, Norway and the European Union, has been helping enforce since late 2003 the 1997 government-MILF Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities.

“None of the 36 mayors in Maguindanao, none of our Muslim, Christian and lumad religious leaders, including our provincial vice governor, Datu Lester Sinsuat, and members of the provincial board wants any escalation of animosity between the MILF and the Philippine National Police as a result of that January 25 incident in Mamasapano,” Mangudadatu said.

Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, who chairs the multi-sectoral ARMM peace and order council, said members of different police units in Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi have assured him of their continuing recognition of the importance of the on-going government-MILF peace efforts.

“We are thankful to them for being firm in their support to the Mindanao peace process,” Hataman said.

Mangudadatu said their main concern, in the meantime, is the continuing delivery of relief and rehabilitation services to peasant enclaves in Mamasapano's adjoining Barangays Tukanalipao, Pidsandawan and Inog-og, scenes of the bloody SAF-MILF encounter.

“It is always the civilians that suffer most from armed conflicts. The provincial government is doing its best to help them,” Mangudadatu said.

Hataman said the ARMM is helping the office of the Mangudadatu address the needs of the more than 2,000 families affected by the incident through the regional government’s Humanitarian Emergency Assistance and Response Team.

Hataman said the ARMM’s health secretary, physician Kadil Sinolinding Jr., and his subordinates embarked on a medical mission in Mamasapano last week, where they provided evacuees with medicines for various ailments, vitamin supplements and re-hydration drinks.

Sinolinding said most of the patients showed signs of severe physical and emotional stress and needed proper nourishment to bolster their immune systems.

“They complained of stress-related problems such as hyper-acidity, muscle and joint pains, discomfort due to high blood pressure,” Sinolinding said.

He said they have served more than a thousand patients during their medical mission in Mamasapano last week.

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