Today is a National Day of Mourning. The whole nation is in grief on the killing of the 44 members of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force in an encounter happened last Sunday, January 25, 2014, birthday of the late President Corazon Aquino, in Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao. Many Filipinos demanded an All-Out War against the so-called terrorist groups like what former AFP Commander-in-chief and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada did. To peace advocates, this proposal is disapproving. Let us not forget that the military victory gained by the Estrada administration was impermanent. After major military camps of the rebels fell in the hands of the government forces, MILF regrouped and gained more strength. Erap’s All-Out War became an open recruitment opportunity for the Muslim rebels.
Not few among us emotionally resorted to ethnic slurs against the Muslims and a huge number of citizens criticized Benigno S. Aquino III for the tragic incident. As sorrow swallows up the nation, innuendos and speculations came out from practically all sectors of society. There are claims that SAF’s main target, Zulkifli bin Hir alias "Marwan", Southeast Asia's most wanted terrorist with a $5 million bounty on his head is already dead but this needs further confirmation. Stories keep pouring and opinions coming from known groups and influential personalities gained media attention but those voices from civilians who are right there at the conflict areas are hardly heard.
And once again, netizens from Occidental Mindoro as it is elsewhere, barely armed with laptop computers instantly turned into military strategies and war tacticians forgetting that the horrors of war has more effect on the civilian population or the non-combatants rather than the combatants, government forces and the Muslim separatists alike. They call for an All-Out War from the comfort of their offices and homes that are million kilometers away from the war zones. In just a wink of an eye, we all became “experts” in Mindanao crisis!
We have forgotten that All-Out-War would have more serious collateral damage to the citizenry, those who have no direct participation in the armed conflict,- women, children and the elderly, Christians or Muslims, than the combatants. These opinionated and prejudiced people in cyberspace are popularizing war seeing it as the only way to end such man-made horror. History taught us that war, both internal and external and whatever scale, has tremendous effects in economy and the community as a whole. It would also drain resources, monetary and other wise, from the national coffer. War can never be a top priority in resolving social and political conflicts as stipulated in our Constitution.
As of today, no definite figures on how many civilians were killed and how much money the Philippine government has spent in said military campaign during Estrada’s time much more in almost a century long history of secessionist war in the region. As of body count, though no define figure was released, it is safe to say that it reached a couple of hundred of civilian lives!
After Estrada launched the All-Out War in 2000, number of refugees fleeing from the conflict swelled to 800,000 individuals. Imagine the anguish and pain of leaving behind almost everything you own and had worked for because of the fighting. We cannot estimate how much the government has spent in said military campaign but it is for sure dreadfully expensive. It was as dreadful as the actual battle itself. Imagine, the military deployed at least two marine and two infantry battalions, or the equivalent of around 2,400 men, not just for days but for at least over a month. Think how many ammunitions and bombs they needed, aside from other peripherals like food, fuel, among other logistics.
Every massive military offensive coming from both forces is a psychologically draining experience for every individual and family who there at the battle front regardless of the intricacies and the untold stories behind the operation and the encounter that cost the lives of 44 PNP commandos and 12 MILF fighters. All we know is this: this issue has been misted up and the public are being bombarded by confusing reports about what really happened but the investigations are going on. But we do not completely expect full disclosure on these investigations for truth, like peace is very elusive though the former is necessary to achieve the latter.
Well, based on the loud outcry of many Filipino netizens to “exterminate all rebel and terrorist groups” in Mindanao by exhausting all the military might of the Republic a-la Erap, it clearly shows our war-obsessed mentality is deeply embedded in our psyche, thus unknowingly we pass this cultural conditioning towards war and killing to our children.
As we honor our fallen SAF44, we should remember that an All-Out War would just put the lives and properties of civilians and the non-combatants or those having hors de combat status as collateral damage. Putting the lives of these gallant officers for motives and objectives only known to those who are in power and those agencies and governments which makes profit or advancement of their security interests out of war, needless to say deserves condemnation.
Will we allow our police and military men as mere chips in the game of the generals by launching another All-Out War in Mindanao and once again be betrayed by those officials?...