Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of collective and personal privilege to add the women’s voice to the growing clamor for truth and accountability in the Mamasapano Incident. And when I say that the women in this country want truth and accountability, I mean that they want the House investigation on the Mamasapano Incident to resume with a sense of urgency, without ifs and buts.
Mr. Speaker, after the Mamasapano Incident broke out in the news on January 26, this representation went out of her way to join a fact-finding mission organized by Kalinaw Mindanaw and conducted on February 8-11 in the four barrios of Tuka, Tukanalipao, Pidsandawan and Pimbalkan, Mamasapano in order to personally see for myself the situation of the civilians affected by the encounter and to seek from them their perspective of the incident. If I were to honor the hearty welcome of the residents in the 4 barrios, they said that I, together with Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, were in fact the first representatives to set foot on their barrios after the incident.
I thus saw for myself the now iconic footbridge of Tukanalipao, fashioned out of weather-beaten logs that make for risky crossing, a bridge that symbolizes the need for a just and lasting peace not only in Mamasapano, not only in Mindanao, but the whole country. I saw for myself the corn fields where the 44 SAF members fell, their cobs laid to waste by the encounter, emblematic of the damaged lives of civilians in the four barrios. I talked with the residents who fled their homes at the first burst of gunfire in the ungodly hours of January 25, who up to the time of our fact-finding have refused out of fear to return to their barrios because the encounter had awakened horrible memories of a protracted armed conflict whose end is fast slipping from our hands. I have talked with the wives whose stores were ransacked empty, whose houses were raided of plates and pans; I have talked with the widows of slain civilians and MILF fighters who were asking if they were not Filipinos deserving of indemnification. Other members of the fact-fining mission were also able to talk with the wounded survivors and some of the traumatized children.
After three days in Maguindanao, Mr. Speaker, I came back with the untold narrative of the Mamasapano Incident that is starkly different from the reports, the unrepentant testimonies of blame passing and the lines of questioning in the official investigations that shamelessly try to bury the truth and the issue of accountability rather than dig up the ground so we can see the bottom of things. In their narrative, the people of Mamasapano want to tell this House and the entire country that they too, as much as if not more than the 44 SAF members and their widows, are victims of the Mamasapano Incident. Apart from the historical oppression and discrimination they have suffered in the hands of an ‘imperial’ government, they are victims of reckless decisions indicative of the lack of statesmanship and caution of our officialdom that goes high up to the Office of the President and Commander-in-Chief. Days and even weeks before that fateful dawn of January 25, the people of the four barrios of Mamasapano already saw signs of an impending military operation in their communities because of the intrusive drone sorties that interrupted their sleep. But they swept their apprehensions aside and held their peace with the comforting thought that negotiations for the BBL and a ceasefire have been on-going between the MILF and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines. They trusted this government to hold its end of the ceasefire, the peace negotiations and their attendant protocols for observing diplomacy, respecting the political integrity of the parties and the non-use of arms in settling outstanding issues. For the people of Mamasapano, this government has failed them. More to the point, Mr. Speaker, this government has betrayed them.
The people of Mamasapano are also full of questions so that they are one with the women sector and the entire Filipino people in demanding for the truth that would ascertain the accountability of officials responsible for such betrayal. They conveyed to us, I and Rep. Zarate, their demand for an impartial congressional investigation that will ferret out the truth no matter where the chips may fall. It is for them, Mr. Speaker, that as the representative of the women sector, I add my voice to the clamor for the House to resume its investigation on the Mamasapano Incident.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Privilege Speech delivered by Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luzviminda C. Ilagan
23 February 2015