Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Maguindanao's bloody clashes traumatize villagers

SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanaop (JOHN UNSON / July 9) - In armed conflicts, poor people become poorer and their hearts are scarred with wounds so difficult to heal.

More than 4,000 people are now languishing in evacuation sites in Maguindanao’s neighboring Shariff Aguak, Mamasapano and Datu Unsay towns, nowhere to return to since their houses have been razed in the violent skirmishes between Moro Islamic Liberation Front and local militia units.

The hostilities, sparked by the June 23 roadside bombing here which let seven people dead and nearly killed Maguindanao Gov. Datu Andal Ampatuan, also left many farming communities without power due to the destruction of P10.8 million worth of solar electrification facilities built by a non-government organization using foreign grants.

Ramon Santos, chairman of the government’s Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities, and his counterpart in the MILF, Von Al-Haq, the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team, and the Department of Social Welfare in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, are now initiating extensive relief missions in the affected towns.

The ARMM’s social welfare secretary, Ruby Sahali-Tan, said with the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross, more than three-fourths of the 4,134 families have been provided with relief supplies.

“The evacuees still refuse to return to their communities. They are so traumatized and are so afraid of a repeat of the hostilities,” Sahali-Tan said.

ARMM Gov. Datu Zaldy Ampatuan, chairman of the regional peace and order council, said there is a need to deploy enough soldiers, as “peacekeepers” in the five war-devastated villages.

Presidential Assistant for Mindanao Jesus Dureza, who has ministerial control over the government’s ceasefire committee, said the conflict here has scarred the hearts of the protagonists --- the rebels and the militia forces --- and the innocent civilians trapped in the crossfire.

“It is easy to rebuild houses, facets of government service, roads, but difficult to heal the wounds in the hearts of all the people affected by the conflict,” Dureza said. (JOHN UNSON)

john felix unson wrote:

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