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Hataman condemns Maguindanao attack

BASILAN Rep. Mujiv Hataman on Friday condemned what he described as a “brazen and senseless” attack on the town center of Datu Piang in Maguindanao Thursday night, saying it is nothing more than an act of terrorism with no discernable objective other than to instill fear in the hearts of the people.

“Acts of violence, especially those that springs forth from terroristic acts, do not have a place in our democratic society. They should not derail our efforts toward achieving peace in Mindanao. We have fought tirelessly for the peace we now enjoy, and we will not allow terrorists to take that away from us,” Hataman, a former governor of the now-defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), expressed.

“What happened in Datu Piang yesterday (Thursday) is a hard lesson for all of us: that forces of evil do not sleep. They will come at a time when we least expect them. And they will stop at nothing to sow fear in all of us. This is why we have to be vigilant,” Hataman stressed.

A few hours before midnight on Thursday, netizens began posting messages, photos and videos of armed men attacking the town center of Datu Piang. Initial reports indicate that a police outpost and squad vehicle had been overrun and burned, and that the armed assailants were subdued by security forces hours after.

According to news agencies, alleged members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) staged the attack. Contrary to early reports, no church was burned during the incident and there were no reported casualties.

Hataman congratulated military and police forces for their quick response to an otherwise volatile situation, foiling what could’ve been another Marawi incident.

“I congratulate the armed forces and the police for containing the situation before it got out of control. Nangyari ito sa panahon na nagpapahinga na ang mga tao, sa gitna ng kadiliman ng gabi. Pero naging maagap ang ating AFP at PNP,” the Basilan legislator stated.

“But we should not stop there. Yes, this is a clear win. Pero dapat pag-ibayuhin natin ang pagkalap ng mahalagang impormasyon at intelligence gathering upang mapigilan ang mga pinaplano pa ng teroristang grupo,” he added.

Now, more than ever, Hataman urged the government to step up its anti-terrorism campaign by including a rehabilitation and reformation program for militants who may want to lay down arms and live a life of peace.

Hataman, together with Anak Mindanao Rep. Amihilda Sangcopan, filed House Bill (HB) No. 4585 that seeks to create a program for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (PCVE) and now pending in the House Committee on Public Order and Safety.

It is based on a program Hataman initiated during his term as ARMM governor, which is called the Program Against Violent Extremism or PAVE that approaches the problem of terrorism by addressing its roots: poverty, no livelihood opportunities, no education and health programs, and others.

“It now becomes imperative to wean our people away from the temptation of extremism and into welcoming arms of a peaceful society. We did it in Basilan, we can do it anywhere,” Hataman explained.