School buildings, mosque to rise in Mamasapano

John Unson (The Philippine Star) - March 25, 2015 - 4:16pm

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines - Officials on Wednesday launched the construction of P49.8 million worth of school buildings and a mosque in the surroundings of Mamasapano, Maguindanao where policemen and Moro rebels figured in bloody firefights on January 25 which shook the nation to its core.

The hostilities, now known as the "Mamasapano incident," also challenged the peace overture between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which started in 1997.

Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Major Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan of the 6th Infantry Division, and ARMM’s public works secretary, Hadji Emil Sadain, jointly led the symbolic groundbreaking rite for the projects, in the presence of local officials and barangay leaders.

The proposed Islamic worship site, located along a newly concreted farm-to-market road in Barangay Tukanalipao in west of Mamasapano, will be built by uniformed, but non-combatant engineering  personnel of the 6th ID.

Pangilinan said he will personally monitor the construction of the mosque, to be bankrolled by the Hataman administration.

Lynette Estandarte, chief budget officer of the Maguindanao provincial government, said Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu has promised to construct a covered court in the same barangay.

"The covered court can be used as a venue for activities of local folks, for peace dialogues and religious gatherings," Estandarte said.

Estandarte represented Mangudadatu in the launching of the ARMM government's infrastructure projects in Mamasapano. 

Sadain said some of the projects will be funded out of the savings generated by the ARMM’s Department of Public Works and Highways in the past two years.

Hataman said the Department of Education will finance the construction of eight of the nine school buildings the ARMM government will construct in different areas in Mamasapano, now secured by combined Army and Marine units.

In a message, Hataman said the involvement of Pangilinan and his men in the implementation of the ARMM's initial infrastructure projects in Mamasapano is meant to prove to local Moro sectors that the 6th ID supports the Mindanao peace process.

"This will also show to you that the 6th ID is for the peaceful resolution of security problems in this municipality," Hataman told Mamasapano residents during a 30-minute inaugural program attended by the town mayor, Benzar Ampatuan, and local executives from nearby Maguindanao towns.

Local officials also provided with hand tractors and newly assembled passenger tricycles the families of the civilians killed and wounded in the January 25 encounters between policemen and soldiers in Mamasapano's adjoining Barangays Tukanalipao, Pidsandawan and Pimbalayan, where the MILF has enclaves. 

Pangilinan was the deputy commander for the southern peace process of the Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City prior to his assumption last year as commander of the 6th ID, which covers the adjoining Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces.

Sadain said the ARMM government will launch next week the replacement of the wooden footbridge linking the opposite banks of a river near a cornfield where policemen and members of the MILF figured in a 10-hour firefight last January 25, with a P17-million concrete structure.

Hataman said they will invite Pangilinan and representatives of the MILF to the April 1 symbolic start of the bridge project.

Sadain said they will also construct an 880-meter road that would connect the proposed concrete bridge to the center of Barangay Tukanalipao.

Barangay Tukanalipao, a known bastion of the MILF, is about two kilometers northeast of Barangay Pidsandawan, where members of the police’s Special Action Force had killed Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, most known as Marwan, in a dawn raid on January 25.

The SAF commandos were maneuvering their way out of Barangay Pidsandawan when they encountered MILF members residing in peasant enclaves nearby and a third group, the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

At least 44 SAF operatives, 17 MILF rebels and five civilians were killed in the ensuing firefights, which waned only after members of the joint ceasefire committee and the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team arrived and intervened.

Hataman and Pangilinan both said they are expecting local residents, mostly identified with the MILF, to help in the implementation of the initial infrastructure projects intended to improve living conditions in Barangay Tukanalipao and nearby villages.

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