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People's Fact-Finding Mission in Mamasapano [Psychosocial First Aid Report]

On February 10, Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) joined the People’s Fact FindingMission  in  Mamasapano,  spearheaded  by  Suara  Bangsamoro  and  Kawagib,  with  the objective  of  documenting  human rights  violations  against  civilians  as well  as  facilitating psychosocial help to women and children victims of the recent armed encounter between theMILF, BIFF and PNP SAF.

In particular,  CRC facilitated a psychosocial first  aid intervention to the students of Brgy.Lintangan Elementary School in Brgy. Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao. CRC was able to mobilize 28 volunteers coming from different  youth organizations and schools in Mindanao.

The said  activity  was attended by  around 200  students  from kinder  to grade 6.  It  was composed of 114 girls and 76 boys with ages ranging from 4-15 years old.

The psychosocial first aid is composed of release activities that includes finger tracing andfour basic emotions activity combined with art and recreational games. It aimed to providechildren a venue to recognize and release their feelings, thoughts and emotions towards therecent horrible incident.

As result of the finger tracing activity, CRC was able to profile the children participants. Mostof them came from Moro families. Furthermore, agriculture is the main livelihood source oftheir families.

During the four basic  emotions activity,  most  of  the children associated their  feelings ofanger, sadness and fear to the clash between MILF/BIFF and PNP SAF last January 25.

Many of them expressed fear and anger towards the military and police. According to the children, the encounter occurred because the PNP SAF did not inform the community andthe MILF regarding their operation. They also narrated some of their experiences. They alsorecalled the deafening sounds of gunfire and how they evacuated. Most of the children wereamong those families who were temporarily displaced due to the incident. According to them,they  stayed  in  several  houses  and  barangay  centers  that  served  as  the  temporaryevacuation center for two days and were only able to attend class a week after the incident.Many of  them are still  afraid,  especially  during night  time.  According to  them,  they fearnightfall thinking that the incident might happen again.

One of the children shared that he saw an ‘american’ soldier among the dead recovered inSitio Inugog. He even described the soldier as having white complexion and pointed nose.

There are also children who expressed their aspiration to become BIFF or MILF someday.All the children participants want peace in their community.

On  the  other  hand,  a  simultaneous  debriefing  session  was  conducted  among  schoolprincipal and teachers. According to them, they noticed a significant decline on students’attendance after the incident. Out of 625 students, only 200 students attended school. They added  that  it  was  the  first  time  for  the  children  to  undertake  services  such  as  thepsychosocial  release  activities  for  children.  They  also  expressed  fear  whenever  armedencounter occurred near their community and school. According to them, they have livedmost of their life with constant fear resulted by the decades of war. Many of them are hopefulfor  the positive  outcome of  the  BBL and wished that  the  incident  could  not  hamper  itspassage.

In addition, CRC was able to gather a document from the ARMM HEART which accounts the total  number  of  children  and  schools  affected  by  the  incident. According  to  the  said document,  there  were  13  schools  affected  with  approximately  5963  students  and  124 teachers.

With the limited time, CRC was able to come up with the following analysis:

  • Children are traumatized due to the incident and their consequent evacuation
  • Fear and anger towards the military
  • Apprehension that the same incident might happen again
  • Disrupted daily routines (economic and education)
  • Feeling of insecurity
  • The  significant  decline  in  students’  attendance  contradicts  the  claim  of  thegovernment that the economic and daily routines of the civilians in  Mamasapano normalized