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Death over a basketball game


A bad call by a referee in a friendly basketball game between the Ilonggo settlers and Moro civilians resulted not only in a brawl but also in the shooting and killing of four persons.

Fistfights in basketball games are nothing new even among the top professional players in the American league. It is commonplace in Philippine basketball. But no matter how intense is the rage this simmers down and the protagonists would later shake hands at the end of every game.

It is the same with what happened in Alamada in North Cotabato where people who used to be in conflict have learned to live with the reality that armed aggression is not the way to live in peace. The fact that they now play basketball is an eloquent indication that all is well.

Cooler heads intervened and anger was defused. Unfortunately as the Iranon Muslim players were on their way home, unidentified gunmen ambushed them killing two on the spot. CAFGUs were dispatched to investigate who the perpetrators were but they two were ambushed killing also two on the spot.

Overnight, the peaceful atmosphere in Alamada turned into pandemonium. Residents hurriedly gathered their belongings and farm animals to evacuate to safer grounds fearing retaliatory attacks between the two groups will escalate to yet another bloody confrontation. So far, village leaders from both sides have prevented the situation to get worse. While they claimed that peaceful settlements are in progress the settlers from both sides are adamant to go back to their farms.

This unfortunate event gives us an expensive lesson. For as long as deadly firearms are in the hands of the protagonists and the fingers are still in the trigger of the gun, disputes, even as petty  as basketball bad calls can lead to a deadly clash. 

Which leads us to another issue of grave concern. The peace negotiation might eventually lead to a peace pact but will the piece of document that purports to signal the end of the conflict be enough guarantee that peace will hold on no matter what? If the peace agreement is eventually signed, what will happen next? So far there is no talk yet as to how will the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the government tackle the issue of disarmament. Will there be any? If there is no disarmament or dissolution of the likes of CAFGUs and demilitarization of areas declared as zones of peace, then what use will the agreement be?

On the other hand, assuming that both sides are in earnest to put an end to the armed conflicts, will not the renegade and radical forces of Umbra Kato who are no longer within the mainstream of the MILF draw the government and the MILF to unnecessary war? Possible. Maybe, the only solution is to eradicate the vicious elements of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. The price to pay for this may be stiff but given the circumstance it is the only way to achieve a stable peace in the conflict areas of Mindanao. When this shall have been achieved the next step will be to dismantle all armed elements and then for the government military to withdraw to barracks. And then keep that panicky   finger out of the trigger of the gun.  That’s the lesson learned from a deathly basketball game.

By Menardo Wenceslao

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