[Editor’s Note: The article was written by  Rajah Buayan Cluster CBCS-CSO  Lead Conveners through Area Coordinator Ustadz Ebrahim Sandigan] 

Polomolok, South Cotabato. June 14, 2020. Polomolok town Mayor Honey Lumayag called for a peace and order dialogue held at her office at the Municipal Hall on June 12, 2020. Aimed to resolve the series of killing in Brgys. Sumbakil, Koronadal Proper, Bentong and Rubber (all in Polomolok town), the peace dialogue was prompted by the ambushed-killing of an MSU professor, Ustadz Mohammad Taha Abdulgapor, on May 26,2020. Ustadz Abdulgapor was shot at the side of his head by a motorcycle tandem riders while he was driving along the Makar National Highway in Brgy. Apopong, General Santos City. A resident of Brgy. Koronadal Proper, he was the 9th victim of the series of killing in his barangay for month of May alone.

In a related earlier development, Gensan City Councilor Jing Gacal said during the SP session on June 2, 2020 that he delivers a special privilege speech on the assassination of Prof/Ustadz Abdulgapor. This development has called the attention of Muslim leaders in GenSan, and they requested permission to attend the SP session. Councilor Jing Gacal also requested permission from his fellow councilors and to the presiding Officer, Vice Mayor Acharon, to allow former Congressman, and presently an MSU-Gensan Professor, Mario Aguha to talk on the assassination of his fellow professor, Prof/Ustadz Abdulgapor.

The peace and order dialogue was attended by some 20 participants, including South Cotabato Governor Rynaldo Tamayo, some AFP elements, MILF representatives from the Joint Peace and Security Team (JPST) and the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), representatives from NCMF-GenSan and NCMF-South Cotabato, representatives from Gensan Muslim Council of Leaders, some professors from MSU-GenSan, and CSO representatives from Maguidanao Development Foundation, Inc. (MDFI) and Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society Inc. (CBCS).

The town mayor opened the peace and dialogue, and immediately pointed to the root of the series of killing among Muslim communities in her municipalities. She said, the series of killing was perpetrated by two families- the Nilong and the Macabangen families.

The spokesperson of the JPST clarified their presence in the dialogue. He said that one of the victims- Ustadz Mohammad Taha Abdulgapor- in the series of killing mentioned by the mayor was a member of the MILF Local Monitoring Team (MILF-LMT). He also said that his group would like to know the status of the investigation. Governor Tamayo replied that “we are not into investigation yet, we are still in a dialogue”. “And we want to fix the problem by ourselves alone; you don’t need to join us”. So I request the participants who were not from Polomolok to step out for a few minutes; we will call you after 20 minutes”, the governor said.

There was also an argument/dispute between the Mayor Lumayag and the JPST group when the mayor declared that there is no MILF community or camp in her municipality. An AFP officer who also attended the dialogue supported the argument of the mayor.
According to a participant-observer, it is evident that the side and interest of the mayor and the governor prevailed in the peace dialogue. The Governor made his concluding message: “I am asking you (Muslim leaders and barangay officers) to stop the killing so that we can start the investigation of the issue. I will give you (Muslim leaders in the concerned barangays) P200,000 for every case of killing that you will resolve.”

The Muslim leaders from the four barangays of Sumbakil, Koronadal Proper, Bentong and Rubber (all in Polomolok town) were speechless regarding the request of Governor Tamayo. For them, it was as if the governor was saying that they were ones perpetrating the series of killing.

The so-called “peace and order dialogue” ended “peacefully”. However, according to some participant-observers, there was no dialogue that happened; they said what happened was just an orientation or presentation on local political situation in the municipality.