Examining the Mamasapano Impact on Peace
CHEERS TO the Philippine Daily Inquirer for running a two-part series examining the impact of the Mamasapano incident on peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The daily broadsheet ran the series during the week when the incident marked its first anniversary.
On January 25, 2015, members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (SAF) conducted an operation to extract Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. In “Was Marwan’s death worth bargaining for Mindanao peace?” (Jan. 27, 2016) Ryan Rosauro recalled that “The fighting left 44 SAF commandos, 17 MILF guerrillas and five civilians dead, and precipitated a national controversy that jeopardized almost two decades of efforts to secure the dawn of peace in Mindanao.”
Rosauro looked at the setback in peace negotiations, noting the delay in the enactment of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the “adversarial position” of some politicians towards it and the “Morophobia” that ensued among the public.
Rosauro’s “‘Oplan Exodus’ vs Marwan missed antiterror lessons,” published on January 28, recalled past instances in which the lack of coordination with the MILF proved to be fatal. It cited incidents in 2007 and 2011 in which government forces and the MILF clashed, resulting in casualties on both sides.
Rosauro also referred to the Institute for Policy Analysis and Conflict’s report “Killing Marwan in Mindanao” which stated that Marwan was not exactly the high-profile terrorist he was made out to be, but that the bounty on his head and his eluding capture many times may have contributed to the mistaken characterization.
The series underscored that the botched operation was implemented outside the workings of an existing peace process mechanism, one that has worked for both parties in the past. The blunders of the operation, in Rosauro’s words, “dealt a heavy blow to the peace process in Mindanao, creating sociopolitical crevices that can be filled by the dangerous seeds of extremism which can threaten the country and its Southeast Asian neighbors.”
CMFR noted the unethical, inflammatory and sensationalized reporting of the media on the incident a year ago, calling out media organizations for trivializing grief, failing to immediately give time and space for other voices, and lack of contextual information on the Muslim insurgency and peace negotiations. But CMFR cheered ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol and CNN Philippines’ Network News for exploring developments and other issues in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, a year after the incident.