I expected to cover a war when I was sent to Zamboanga City. Hundreds of armed Moro National Liberation Front-Misuari faction fighters stormed the city and used civilians as human shields against government forces.
After three weeks of fighting, the incident left more than 200 dead, 195 civilian hostages rescued or escaped, thousands of homes up in flames, billions of pesos in lost revenue and more than 100,000 residents displaced and staying at different evacuation centers in the city.
Government officials said the mission to defeat the Misuari group is a success. But who really wins in this struggle?
So many people have said: No one wins the war. Not the government or the rebel groups. Not the residents. Not even the journalists who covered the conflict.
Perhaps the biggest losers in the violence are the sons and daughters of soldiers and rebels killed in battle. These are children who fled the fighting with their families, not knowing if their homes would still be standing when they come back. Children who can’t go to school, who have to rely on others for shelter and food. Children who have experienced violence, sorrow, and death at a young age.
The war has ended but for these children, the struggle is only beginning.
These are the children of war.