SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao: The daughter of the Army’s 524th Engineering Battalion personnel who was killed by a Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) gunman in Mamasapano was escorted by a foster dad from the Army as she marched on her graduation day on Friday.
Hafra Macadatar, 13, was escorted to her graduation ceremony at Palumbe Elementary School at Lambayong, Sultan Kudarat by Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, commanding officer of the 33rd Infantry Battalion.
Her father, Cpl. Tamano Macadatar, was killed by a BIFF member in Barangay Tukanalipao last Tuesday while he and several others were constructing a peace and learning facility for the residents.
Lt. Col. Maynard Camarao, battalion commander of Macadatar, joined Cabunoc at Hafra’s graduation. Both Camarao and Cabunoc have adopted the slain Army man’s children.
“It’s an honor to stand as father of Hafra on the occasion his father, the late Tammy Macadatar, had supposedly prepared for and had wished to attend,” Cabunoc said.
Hafra’s mother, Jean, an Ilocana, is in Kuwait working and could not attend the graduation of her daughter.
Macadatar, a skilled construction worker, was a member of the Moro National Liberation Front who was integrated into the Army as part of the MNLF’s peace agreement with the government.
His unit was tapped by a non-government organization to help put up a learning center in Barangay Tukanalipao.
He was killed in the project site by a BIFF bandit using a caliber .30 M1 Garand rifle. The suspect and his eight cohorts, armed with assault rifles, escaped before responding policemen could reach the crime scene.
More than 7,000 MNLF guerillas were absorbed by the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police after the group forged a final peace pact with Malacañang on September 2, 1996.
The treacherous murder of the unarmed Macadatar angered barangay (village) leaders and local officials of Mamasapano.
His superiors provided his immediate relatives with cash assistance and facilitated his burial immediately after he was killed in keeping with Islamic tradition of burying the dead within 24 hours from the time of death.
Cabunoc said Macadatar’s children are also entitled to an AFP scholarship program for military dependents killed in the line of duty.
JULMUNIR I. JANNARAL