Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Question of Genocide

The nightmarish killings did not only alarm the local Moro population, but even the Islamic world was led to believe that there was really a systematic genocide campaign waged by the state to annihilate the Moros in Mindanao. According to the Marcos regime, more than 1,000 civilians had died, about 2,000 armed Moros and Christians had been killed, and more than half-a-million persons had been wounded, displaced, and rendered homeless, not to speak of heavy casualties among government troops.", According to another source, the number of Moro victims of the Army, PC and Ilaga attacks reached as high as 10,000 killed." In addition, thousands of Moro houses, mosques and Arabic schools were destroyed or razed to the ground by these ruthless depredators
In response to the issue of genocide, the Islamic world sent missions to Mindanao to investigate the reported mass slaughter of Muslims. In January 1972, eight Muslim ambassadors visited the various Moros areas, particularly Cotabato and Lanao del Norte. Members of the mission were ambassadors from Malaysia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Singapore, United Arab Republic (Egypt), Pakistan and Iraq. Again in July 1972, another mission, this time made up of Libya and the United Arab Republic, came to Mindanao to monitor the situation of the Muslims. The delegation was headed by Dr. Ali Abdulsalam Treki, the Libyan Foreign Minister, who spoke for the group:
... We don't believe there is such a thing. But what is important is not what we educated people believe in. What matters is what the Muslims in Mindanao think. They think their war against Christians is a religious one."'
Both the second and first missions found no trace of genocide as an official policy of the Philippine government, but the collusion of many military and government officials in the series of Ilaga activities was not only a matter of public knowledge; it was confirmed by no less than a ranking member of the organization. One Ilaga commander, Carmelino Abagon, who figured in many massacres in Mindanao, told newsmen that they never attacked Muslims without the permission or order from the Philippine military."' The least the government was guilty of was in tolerating, hence acting as an accessory, in the bloody activities of these gangsters. One can only imagine the wisdom or folly of the decision of Pres. Ferdinand Marcos to play guest to the notorious llaga chieftain, Feliciano Luces, in late 1970 right at the Presidential Palace in Manila. Instead of being punished, the Ilaga kingpin, to borrow the words of the late Cong. Salipada Pendatun, was "knighted" and "bade to go back to his kingdom to bear more arms and commit further depredations
In the meantime, the displacement and dispersal of the Moros from their ancestral lands continued unabated. The towns of Ampatuan, Bagumbayan, Alamada, Columbio, Upi, Palembang, Tulunan, Carmen, Isulan, Esperanza, all in Cotabato; of Wao, Lanao del Sur; of Magsaysay, Kauswagan, and all areas along the National Highway from one end to another, in Lanao del Norte; of Siay, Labangan, Dimataling, and other areas along the National Highway as well as along the coastline, Zamboanga del Sur; of Kalilangan, Talakag, and nearby places, Bukidnon; and of Tantangan and few other towns of South Cotabato, were rendered "ghost areas" as evacuating Moros and Christians moved about in opposite directions. However, in predominantly Muslim towns like Dinaig, Parang, Buldon, Barira, Matanog, Maganoy, Datu Paglas, all in Cotabato, and Balabagan, Lanao del Sur the evacuees were mostly Christians.
Up to the present, most of the people who were uprooted from their ancestral dwellings have not returned. A few who dared to return had to flee again from the incessant fear for their lives from their erstwhile enemies who were usually clothed in authority and brandishing high-caliber firearms after their integration into the paramilitary forces of the government. Others failed to reoccupy their lands because other people were already telling them. And it was not an uncommon instance that those who managed to return became tenants to the lands they once owned. Survival, even in sub-human standards, was really difficult. Not a few survived by swallowing whatever remained of their dignity and pride by winnowing the grains from the chaff of rice left over in Christian granaries and farmlands.

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