BAGUIO CITY, Philippines - The widows and parents of the Cordillera warriors who died in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, want President Aquino to apologise and take responsibility for the Jan. 25 slaughter of 44 police commandos.
Janet Carap, Christine Kiangan, Aurelyn Kayob, Celestino and his wife Jocelyn Bilog held hands and gave each other the sign of peace during a Mass that was organised by the Philippine National Police Academy Alumni Association Inc. at Burnham Park on Sunday.
Peace remains elusive unless President Aquino apologises for the government's mistakes and ends the finger-pointing that has characterized the inquiry into the bloody Mamasapano mission, they said.
Janet is the widow of PO2 Peterson Carap, Christine is the widow of PO2 Noble Kiangan while Aurelyn, a migrant worker, is the widow of PO2 Jerry Kayob. The Bilogs are the parents of PO1 Russel Bilog, a bachelor.
"An apology is all we ask. We want President Aquino to accept responsibility for [Mamasapano], apologise publicly and sincerely and then investigate the one who gave those orders that led to the deaths of our family members," Celestino Bilog said.
"This issue would not have gone unanswered this long had the President simply stepped up and apologised," he said.
Celestino said this act would have tempered the public's anger and would have compelled Aquino to quickly punish the people who made mistakes in handling the mission.
"He may have been given bad information. He may have been told that everything was going right so he was confident about the mission succeeding. But he could have stopped all [the tension]," he said.
He said he did not like the way Director Getulio Napeñas Jr., the dismissed Special Action Force (SAF) chief, was being treated. "He was following someone else's orders so he should not shoulder all the blame," he said.
Janet Carap said the families of the slain SAF commandos from the Cordillera "need to move on with our lives," but the government's inability to reveal everything about Mamasapano has kept them from grieving properly.
"Our grieving has not ended. We have not been able to join the assemblies organised by the government outside Baguio City because we cannot leave this city until we have completed our burial rituals for [Bilog]," Celestino said.
Also on Sunday in Pampanga province, around 400 policemen from Central Luzon joined a march from the provincial capitol in the City of San Fernando to the regional police headquarters in Camp Olivas. They lighted 44 candles for the slain SAF commandos.