ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines - The breaking news say it all, eight Abu Sayyaf terrorists are killed on February 4, 2008, in a clash with government soldiers on a small fishing village of Ipil in Maimbung town in Sulu province.
It was a big score for the Philippine military in the war on terror. At one time, the military even reported that troops clashed with the groups of Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya, an Indonesian militant organization blamed for the 2002 Bali bombings. The military celebrated the sweet victory.
But the victory is short-lived. It turned out to be a nightmare. Hours after the clash in the village of Ipil, seven civilians and an off-duty Muslim soldier lay dead.
The military said two soldiers were also killed and five others wounded in the clash. There are conflicting and many versions of what really happened in the village.
The military insisted there was a fire fight and that the village is an Abu Sayyaf hideout, but among those killed were children and teenager, including a village official, a seaweed farmer and a pregnant Muslim woman. Soldiers executed three of the victims, witnesses claimed.
The independent Philippines Commission on Human Rights says those killed were innocent civilians and that there were no Abu Sayyaf terrorists in the village as the military claimed. The human rights report detailed how troops attacked and plundered the houses of villagers. It has recommended the filing of criminal charges against the soldiers involved in the raid.
The families of the victims still cry for justice. The governor of Sulu wants justice too for the victims and vowed to file charges against those who are responsible in the killings.
In the village, some of the witnesses have spoken out about the killings.
In a place where poverty is a big problem, the wheel of justice barely moves, especially for victims of violence and extrajudicial killings.
And because of this, justice seems like a dream, but many are still hoping that one day peace may reign once again in the land they call home.