Last September 24, 2019 was a memorable day for the people of the Municipality of Palimbang as they were joined by various organizations in the 45th Commemoration of the gruesome cruelties done during the Malisbong Massacre in Barangay Malisbong, Municipality of Palimbang, province of Sultan Kudarat. The said commemoration was the first recognition of the Malisbong Massacre throught the initiative of the Consortium on Bangsamoro Civil Society and the Independent Working Group-Transitional Justice Dealing with the Past together with the members of the Local Government-Unit of Palimbang as part of highlighting the importance of remembering past injustices to victims of abuses and to let their voices be heard on their shout for justice and accountability to what happened.

The commemoration ceremony was part of honoring the victims and survivors of the Malisbong Massacre at H. Hamsa Tacbil Mosque with its aim “Pagtanaw sa isang nakalipas, pagtamo sa sugat ng nakaraan tungo sa magandang pamayanan.”. A peace caravan on September 23 was started from General Santos City to the Municipality of Palimbang as part of the program which was then preceded by the Commemoration Ceremony. It was such an uplifting scene seeing the victims and survivors from Marawi Lanao, Palimbang, Manili, Gensan, Ambalgan, Ipil, Labangan and Pagadian, Zamboanga and Jolo participating throughout the peace caravan exerting their outmost effort to be part of this memorable event.

Courtesy calls were done to the Local Government Unit of Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat where Municipal Mayor Joenime Kapina and Vice Mayor, Amil Pangansayan welcomed the members of CBCS, IWG-TJDwP and the participating victims and survivors. “I am very happy for your visit and for your help. It is good to know that I am not alone in working for the good of Palimbang and for seeking justice that all our people truly deserve”, Mayor Joenime Kapina, Municipality of Palimbang.

The 45th Commemoration of the 1974 Palimbang massacre was a courageous and a very significant step towards achieving remembrance of the several abuses done to the people of Bangsamoro. It is a way of letting the succeeding generations of our country and our present people to be aware of all the injustices done to the Bangsamoro and to move towards making a difference to access justice and to ensure non-recurrence of these injustices.

As Atty. Cecilia Jimenez, UN Rapporteur for the Human Right of Internally Displaced Persons said, “Gusto ko pong imungkahi ang importansya ng documentation at memorialization ng mga pangyayaring ganito tulad ng Malisbong Massacre upang ito ay maisama sa mga kinikilala ng UNESCO na tinatawag na “Sight of Consience”. Ang kinakailangan po nito ay pagoorganisa na ginagawa na po ninyo, dokumentasyon at memoralisasyon. Sapagkat ang mga ganitong event po ay hindi lamang memory ng Palimbang kundi ito po ay “Memory of the world”, isang memorya ng buong sambayanan.” Atty Jimenez’s statement gained a burst of applause from the participants as they were slowly grasping the idea of how significant it is to document events.

The Commemoration ceremony was started with a walk for peace event where more than 3,000 participants come from different areas such as Marawi Lanao, Manili, Gensan, Ambalgan, Ipil, Labangan, Pagadian, Zamboanga and Jolo including the supportive people of Palimbang who have rejuvenated much effort for the success of the said event. The walkathon for peace enlightened thousands of minds in the Municipality of Palimbang as they were given flashbacks of what they should remember of the Malisbong masscare. The walk for peace participated by people of different sector holding flaglets and tarpaulins that showed their silent shout for justice for all the victims of the said massacre. The whole event on walk for peace was an impeccable way of imparting the meaningful message of peace for the victims and survivors including the Municipality of Palimbang.

It was an event surging with emotions as the people of Palimbang and the other participants including the members from Independer Working Group-Dealing with the Past, the Consortium on Bangsamoro Civili Society and members of the Palimbang Local Government Unit participated in said for peace. After the walk for peace, the event was preceded and officially started with an Opening prayer led by a Community Religious leader from Barangay Malisbong and followed by the singing of a Moro Song as an anthem. Delegates and guests of honors from Commission on Human Rights, United Nations, Representatives from Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Member of the Parliament, Atty. Rasol Mitmug and Chief of Staff Dr. Tahir Nalg, members of the Independent Working Group-Transitional Justice Dealing with the Past and the Consortium on Bangsamoro Civil Society.

An overview of the Commemoration was given by Maria Lourdes Rallonza, one of the IWG-TJDwP Convener who gave a glimpse of what the event wanted to achieve and the purpose of commemorating events such as the Maslibong massacre. It was the followed by an enthusiastic welcome address by the Vice Governor of the Municipality of Palimbang, Amil Pangansayan, “Hindi ito katulad ng isang pagbubunyi na tulad ng isang bagong komunidad, ngunit ito ay isang paggunita sa ala-ala ng kung anong nangyari sa atin. Ito ay tulad ng sinasabi sa kantang “Bangsamoro mimaman tanu, mag-isa-isa tanu”. This is a chance for us to be united.”

Messages of solidarity and supports from different partnered organizations were also given during the commemoration ceremony. Commission on Human Rights representative, Robert Garcia read the Commission on Human Rights Resolution No. AM2019-183 on the Recognition of the Palimbang/Tacbil Massacre and its Commemoration every 24th of September where he emphasized his joyful emotion in behalf of the people of Palimbang as it finally commemorates the Palimbang massacre. As stated in the resolution, “The CHR also resolves the accurate documentation of data and circumstances surrounding the Malisbong massacre, in order to ascertain the full and unassailable truth behind it.”

It was followed by Marian Pastor Roces is a famed Filipino curator, author, and founder and president of TAO, Inc., the sole museum development corporation in the Philippines shared her message of support to the people of Palimbang as one of her statements she said, “Nararapat na hindi natin makalimutan ang mga pangyayaring ganito. Dahil kapag nakalimutan ay may tsansang mangyaring muli. We have to remember and commemorate events like this. We should never forget. Alagaan ang inyong mga ala-ala. Ipaglalaban natin kung anong alam natin. Kung anong alam nating tama.”

Guiamel Alim, lead Convener of IWG-TJDwP read the statement of support of Swiss Special Envoy Mô Bleeker, Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission Chairman. And on his statement he said, “Today, this memorialization ceremony evokes the memory of the dear women, men and youth who died during this terrible man made catastrophe: This should never have happened and this shall never happen again. During decades and until now, an untold number of people in Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago have experienced and are still experiencing immense suffering, discrimination, exclusion and death. They have lost family members, lands and livelihoods, sometimes even their identity and some entire communities were and are still displaced against their will.”

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process, Presidential Peace Adviser and Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. was represented by Bay Pascual, who read Secretary Galvez’s message for the Commemoration ceremony of the Palimbang massacre. It was a heartfelt message that has touched thousands of hearts. In Secretary Galvez’s statement, “We are gathered here not because we want to relieve the horrors of the past but because of the opportunity for all of us to see where we are now and to reflect on what we have become—as peace builders and peace partners. This government will not allow oppression to reign in our land. This is what we guarantee and promise.”

The Minister of Education, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao was not able to come but he was represented by his Chief of Staff Dr. Tahir Nalg, who read the message of solidarity of Iqbal and in his behalf have shown support to fight for justice for all the victims and survivors of injustices. This was then preceded by another member of the BARMM, Member of Parliament, Atty. Rasol Mitmug who have given his short and impactful message of support for the people of Palimbang and to be one of their channels of communication in the Bangsamoro Government.

The member of IWF-TJDwP, Rufa Guiam also gave her message of solidarity highlighting the importance of Transitional Justice in relation to the first commemoration and memorialization of the Malisbong massacre. The participants eyes were shaded with tears and their smiles showed happiness as they were finally given of the attention they deserve.

There were also statements and messages from the victims and survivors of the Malisbong massacre that have gained emphaty and courage from people of Palimbang. Datu Abo Bayao, member of the 7 man Committee of the Malisbong massacre shared his experience on the gruesome event 45 years ago. His teary eyes had the participants silently weep their hearts. In his statement he said, “Ako po ay lubos na nagpapasalamat sa araw na ito. Binigyan niyo po kami ng tulong na mabigya kami ng hustisya at marinig ang aming mga boses.”

There were cultural presentations of Moro Traditional dances and a message of solidarity from Governor Joenime Kapina where he gave emphasis on the importance of unity for all the people of Palimbang as they were finally given a chance to commemorate the Malisbong massacre. This was preceded by the reading of Resolution No. 2019-024, a resolution commemorating the Malisbong Massacre happened on September 24, 1974 at Barangay Malisbong, Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat. The resolution of the Local Government Unit of Palimbang recognized and commemorates the Malisbong massacre every 24th of September. The venue was filled with joyful laughter and shout of remembrance of how grateful they are to Allah SWT. The unveiling of the proposed site development plan of Hadji Hamsa tacbil Mosque Compound was part of the last surprise on the event of the 45th Malisbong Commemoration.