Sufferings in Leyte shock Maguindanao relief team PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 21 November 2013 13:10

Most volunteers to Maguindanao’s relief mission to Leyte have long been callously familiar with human sufferings — having witnessed how calamities and armed conflicts devastated the province in decades past — but still got awed and bothered with the sickening scenes in the typhoon-stricken communities they had served.

Lynette Estandarte, Maguindanao’s provincial budget officer, said the younger members of their relief team, dubbed “Bangon Visayas,” (rise Visayas), were, at first, so emotionally disturbed by what were for them “grotesque images” of the damages and loss of lives due to super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

Estandarte said the volunteers even almost balked from getting through the villages were they were to disperse food and medicines for displaced folks.

“Even me myself got so disturbed. The children in Tacloban City and surrounding towns are the most affected by the brunt of the calamity. Even the men in our team shed tears seeing so many displaced residents,” Estandarte said.

The Maguindanao provincial government’s relief mission had already served more than 50 villages in Tacloban City and in six Leyte municipalities, where they distributed 18,000 food packs, seven tons of frozen Tilapia from Lake Buluan, P8 million-worth of medicines, and bottled water, in a continuing relief mission that began last weekend.

Estandarte said Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, who is a Moro datu, immediately took the lead in serving the areas assigned to them by the central office of the Department of Health when he noticed how some members of their team became so sentimental with what they saw in the surroundings.

“There is a strong Moro culture wherein when the blue-blooded datus lead the community initiatives, their constituents follow and give out utmost support,” Estandarte said.

Mangudadatu told reporters he himself was virtually “shocked and awed” with what he saw in Tacloban City and surrounding Leyte towns where they distributed relief supplies.

“The scenes could be, perhaps, a thousand-fold more disturbing than all of the devastation and displacement of local communities that we have seen in our province due to armed conflicts and calamities in the past three decades,” he said.

Mangudadatu said emotions “ran high” among members of Maguindanao’s Bangon Visayas relief mission when they saw human corpses around and thousands of hungry people left homeless by typhoon Yolanda.

“Its impact to us was just the same with how we felt losing my wife and several other relatives and friends in the infamous November 23, 2009 massacre in Maguindanao. Hurting, so hurting,” Mangudadatu said.

Mangudadatu was referring to the country’s worst election-related violence, the massacre of 58 people, more than half of them journalists, by militiamen and several members of Maguindanao’s ruling clan then, whose leaders are now incarcerated, being prosecuted for the atrocity.

The victims, led by Mangudadatu’s wife, Jenalyn, were on their way to the provincial capitol in Shariff Aguak town to file on his behalf his certificate of candidacy for governor during the May 13, 2010 elections when gunmen flagged them down while in Barangay Masalay in Ampatuan town.

The suspects herded Mrs. Mangudadatu and her companions to a hill about two kilometers from the highway and, there, killed them with assault rifles and machetes.

Mangudadatu was still vice-mayor then of Buluan town. He eventually defeated two rivals in the 2010 gubernatorial race and, subsequently, got re-elected during the May 13, 2013 polls.