By Ellson Quismorio
Maguindanao 2nd district Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu wants the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to carry out an investigation on the explosion in Barangay Kitango, Datu Saudi Ampatuan town, Maguindanao during the Eid’l Fitr celebration last May 24, Sunday.
The huge blast, reportedly caused by mortar shelling, left two children dead and 14 others wounded.
Mangudadatu said the CHR should conduct “a thorough and impartial investigation on the case” as local folk believed that the explosions were caused by mortar shells fired by military troops. Because of this, barangay residents couldn’t help but express frustration over the incident and demand justice for the slain children and wounded family members.
“My family and I were also victims of unspeakable violence, so believe me when I tell you that I understand the gravity of what they (the victims) are going through,” the congressman said, referring to the 2009 Maguindanao Massacre where his wife, Bai Genalyn, was killed.
“But while I understand their sentiments, I fervently ask for temperance and call for cooler heads to prevail,” said Mangudadatu.
“As Chair of the Peace, Reconciliation and Unity Committee at the House of Representatives, I appeal to everyone to please refrain from spreading unverified information that may further lead to more acts of violence,” he appealed.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) officials bared that they are also conducting their own investigation. However, they’ve already claimed that no troops were authorized to operate that day in respect to the celebration of Eid’l Fitr.
Mangudadatu lamented that incidents such as this often end in animosity and rebellion against the government and law enforcement authorities.
“I have seen how sons picked up the rifles after their fallen fathers. If we are bent on putting the cycle of violence to an end, then we must stand together and work to achieve lasting peace,” he said.
He also said that aside from emotional and financial support, the affected families also need spiritual and mental counseling to tide them from their harrowing experience.