By JORGE MADLOS
Spokesperson, NDFP Mindanao Chapter
The NDFP-Mindanao wishes to extend its sympathies to the bereaved families and friends of the fallen 44 PNP SAF troops and 13 paramilitary men, as well as to the families and comrades of the martyrs both of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), and to all the civilian casualties in the January 25, 2015 battle in the vicinity of Sitio Inogog, Brgy. Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao, when the PNP-SAF breached the territory of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). We wish also to express our concern for all the displaced Moro population in the area.
In the battle between the attacking 5th SAF battalion on one side and the defending BIFF, BIAF and the fighting masses on the opposing side, the PNP SAF took the heaviest toll with 44 of its men killed in action, aside from the 13 armed local paramilitary members in its company who were also among the fatalities. On the other hand, the BIFF sustained 6 dead, the BIAF, 18, while 3 civilians were killed when hit by bullets mainly coming from the intruding PNP SAF. The number of wounded from both sides was also high.
It is legitimate for the BIFF to engage the intruding government troops since there is no ceasefire agreement between the government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) and the BIFM. And even if a ceasefire agreement exists between the MILF and the GPH, on their own initiative, the members of the MILF 105th brigade nearby lent combat support to their Moro brothers who continue the path of armed struggle for the genuine right to self-determination of the Moro people.
It must be remembered that the MILF 105th Base Command was formerly led by Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato, the founder of the the breakaway BIFF-BIFM. Aside from blood relations, as a people they are galvanized by their centuries old struggle for their right to self-determination against oppression and chauvinism.
According to Malacañang, the purpose of the territorial intrusion was to “neutralize” two suspected terrorists, namely Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan”, a Malaysian Jemaah Islamiyah “terrorist”, and Basit Usman, allegedly a local “terrorist”. The SAF attack started at 3:00 am of January 25, and the firefight lasted until 3:00 pm deep within the territory of both the BIFM and the MILF. The 5th SAF offensive however, spelled disaster for the almost 400 PNP 5th SAF troops as the more numerous BIFF and BIAF forces, supported by the local masses, put up a legitimate quick reaction active defense against the intruders of their ancestral territory.
And since it was a clash between two armed groups, what took place was not a massacre, as was peddled by Malacañang apologists to desperately elicit sympathy from the public, but a legitimate battle. By exaggerating the manner by which the SAF members died, these apologists have fanned the antiquated chauvinist animosity against the Moro people, in a desperate effort to mask Aquino III’s criminal responsibility in ordering the bungled attack, as if the PNP SAF was not fully armed and ready for battle.
In fact, the PNP SAF is an elite mercenary force, better trained and armed with superior weapons and war equipment. Clearly, however, this was no match against the more formidable combination of highly motivated BIFF and BIAF fighters and the fighting masses in a battle terrain familiar to the guerrillas, which resulted in the routing of the 5th SAF battalion and the annihilation of one of its companies, including 13 of its armed paramilitary support, who were not even mentioned by Malacañang. Aquino III and the PNP generals who ordered the SAF mission must have underestimated the Moro people’s determination and courage in defending their territory. It was not a massacre but a classic example of how a people’s war can vanquish a well-trained and well-equipped mercenary intruder.
Who ordered the expedition and for what reason? Police director Getulio Napeñas admitted in public to have had the direct command responsibility but that he was doing it upon order from President Benigno Aquino III. On the actual conduct of the operation, this jibed with the level of secrecy, as it ignored the chain of command of the Army and PNP units from the top down to the local commands. This showed that only Malacañang can order such operations against two ‘high value targets’ with a total of US$ 7 million bounty who are at the top of the US list of “terrorist personalities” in Southeast Asia. There are reports that US intelligence fed the information as to the exact location of the targets. In fact, right after the incident, US officers, using their own helicopter, were quick to join the AFP and PNP retrieval forces in the scene to confirm if indeed their target personalities were among the dead.
Malacañang is running an errand mainly to please its US boss by ordering a top level mission for the SAF for the “neutralization” of said “terrorists” at the expense of mostly young SAF troopers and paramilitary men, and its peace effort with the MILF. This treasonous act committed directly by Benigno Aquino III himself, is clearly a strong basis, in addition to his other grave offenses, to impeach or oust him from office.
This single incident may serve as a barometer for the future of the GPH-MILF peace process, and the Bangsamoro struggle for their genuine right to self-determination as a whole. The failure of Malacañang to coordinate this surgical operation inside the territory of the MILF for some ulterior reason in spite of the standing GPH-MILF ceasefire, puts into question the trustworthiness of the GPH. On the other hand, the standing mutual ceasefire between the MILF and the GPH suddenly became precarious as proven by the incident where the MILF forces, duty bound, join their erstwhile comrades in the defense of their ancestral domain.
From this, we can say that the BIFF-BIFM will not be alone in their continuing armed struggle for their genuine right to self-determination even if the diluted Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is enacted and implemented. The BBL is not designed to address the basic feudal and semi-colonial system pervading in Bangsamoro areas. Hence, after the BBL euphoria, more and more Moro people will join the rekindled armed struggle led by the BIFM and the national democratic struggle represented by the NDFP. The NDFP has a commitment to the Bangsamoro to support its struggle for their right to self-determination and as such the two fronts can lend each other support against a common enemy.
Tactically however, the BIFM has to brace itself against the escalation of offensive operations of the AFP-PNP as it now stands, in reality, as the remaining biggest and most organized Bangsamoro armed movement that is valiantly carrying the banner of armed struggle in behalf of the Moro people’s right to-self-determination. It must consolidate its ranks and swiftly expand to cover vast areas for its maneuver and to frustrate the “nip-in-the-bud” AFP military encirclement campaigns. The BIFM enjoys vast support among the Moro masses and the Bangsamoro territory and its social terrain are fertile grounds to master guerrilla warfare and the art of people’s war.
The NDFP-Mindanao wishes to appeal to the people in Mindanao and the whole country not to be misled by the false and exaggerated propaganda spun by Malacañang which illogically placed the defenders of Bangsamoro rights at fault. The BIFM-BIFF and the involved MILF-BIAF fighters cannot and must not be held criminally liable, but, Benigno Aquino III himself who recklessly ordered the military adventure that led to the 5th SAF’s disastrous defeat.
Bangsamoro unite! We call on the Moro people to strengthen their unity and persevere in the path of armed resistance against the current exploitative, oppressive and chauvinist reactionary US-Aquino regime. We also call on the Filipino people to unite with the Bangsamoro and, with them, fight for the Bangsamoro genuine right to self-determination and for national liberation and democracy, so that just and lasting peace shall eventually be achieved in Mindanao and in the whole country.