Mamasapano: A month after

MANILA, Philippines – The lives of civilians in barangay Tukanalipao in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, return to normal, as a probe body comes near to concluding its investigations.

Bea Cupin reports.

Exactly a month after a bloody police operation that shook a nation, police investigators visit ground zero – Mamasapano town, Maguindanao.

In the wee hours of the morning on January 25, 73 troopers of the elite Special Action Force entered this part of the town to neutralize Abdul Basit Usman and Malaysian bomb maker Marwan, one of the United States’ most wanted terrorists.

Marwan is killed but Usman escapes.

The operation came at a price – 3 civilians, 18 Muslim rebels, and 44 of the SAF troopers – slain in what would be one of the bloodiest operations in the PNP’s young history.

Among the casualties: an 8-year-old girl and a 30-year-old farmer.

Members of the PNP’s Board of Inquiry head to the site, hoping to find the remaining pieces of a complicated puzzle that endangered a peace deal, put President Benigno Aquino’s credibility on the line, and exposed weaknesses in the country’s police and military forces.

Officials tour the area where SAF troopers found themselves trapped, where fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front encountered government forces, and where innocent civilians found themselves caught in the fire fight.

Security is tight. BOI officials and members of the media are discouraged from entering certain areas.

In this part of Maguindanao, coordination is always key.

The community is a buzz as investigators tour barangay Tukanalipao.

Life here has normalized, if you call strange visitors, and companies of police and military personnel, normal.

Cellular signal is down. It’s been that way here since SAF troopers entered the town, followed by photos and videos gone viral.

The fields and rivers of Mamasapano are calm, with barely a trace of the carnage that it witnessed only a month ago.

And even as police come closer to a clear, comprehensive picture of what happened January 25, the residents of Mamasapano and nearby areas that are left with even more questions: When the finger-pointing is over and the truth comes out, what happens to the promise of peace?

Bea Cupin, Rappler, Maguindanao. –