DAVAO CITY – The killing of nine Muslim farmers in Kabacan, North Cotabato has sparked outrage among Muslim communities, including those identified with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), after initial investigations revealed that they were allegedly executed, and not killed in a shootout.
At around 12:20 p.m. of August 29, nine people were killed in what authorities initially reported was a shootout between feuding clans, or locally known as a rido.
Eight of the victims were killed on the spot, while the other one expired around 4 p.m. at a local hospital. All of them were farmers, according to the police report.
But police report later disclosed that there was no firefight as the victims were allegedly gunned down after they were waylaid by unidentified gunmen along the road inside the University of Southern Mindanao (USM).
In a statement posted on his Facebook account, Sammy Al Mansor, chief of staff of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), condemned the killing, saying that it was a massacre.
The incident he said “reminds us of the dark period in our not so recent past, when the Bangsamoro people were besieged and beleaguered in their very own ancestral homeland, by forces who are privileged with impunity and assured of unbridled movement in the senseless and brutal murder of unarmed civilians.”
“Multiple murder at high noon in a provincial road intimates confidence that no one will stop them, and no one will run after them,” said Al Mansor, which is the nom de guerre of now Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) Executive Secretary Abdulraof Macacua.
BIAF is the armed wing of the then separatist movement MILF, which has signed a peace deal with the government in 2015.
He added that the BIAF has supported the peace negotiations of the MILF with the belief that those days and crimes committed against their people and communities are now but
A Manila Bulletin source said that one of those killed had an identification card saying he was a member of the BIAF.
“We will not tolerate the reemergence of violence and hostilities against unarmed Bangsamoro in their defenseless communities,” Al Mansor pointed out.
His Facebook post was swarmed by rage and condemnation from his fellow BARMM officials as well as from different Moro personalities in the region.
Zaynab Ampatuan, a development worker and a peace advocate in Kabacan, said she was also enraged with the incident, saying that while peace advocates have exerted so much effort in bringing the atmosphere of peace in the region, some evil forces are taking the lives others so easily.
“Masinsinang mga peace building efforts ang ginagawa natin para lang maka educate at makatuwang ang community sa sustainable development na may genuine peace pero sila ganun-ganun lang kung makapatay nang tao. Asan ang hustisya?” lamented Ampatuan who has been involved in grassroots development work for about two decades already.
A Moro leader, who requested anonymity, told Manila Bulletin over the phone that he is not hoping that justice will be served to the victims, saying: “Wala naman talagang hustisya ang mga namamatay na Bangsamoro.”
Moro Peoples Core, a grassroots organization of composed of young Muslims, also condemned the killings as they also ask put an end to the cycle of violence in the region.
In a statement obtained by Manila Bulletin, the Moro Peoples Core also urged the officials of the provincial government of Cotabato and BARMM to conduct a thorough investigation on the incident.