Military drive feared to result in rights violations against Moro civilians

In a press statement, the Moro-Christian Peoples’ Alliance (MCPA) said that every time President Arroyo visited Muslim-dominated areas in Mindanao, the terror issue in Sulu and in other parts of the region was “hyped-up.”

“Now the military puts the number of Abu Sayyaf elements at 200 while only previously, the then Southern Command has bragged that the number of ASG elements has narrowed due to the sustained joint US-RP military exercises,”  said MCPA vice-chair Ren Jalaluddin Ropeta.

Ropeta accused Arroyo of using the “anti-terror hysteria” to lift her sagging reputation. “What she doesn’t know is that she has become ‘a subject of ridicule’ of
other democratic nations, just like her US President Bush,” he said.

He added, “This anti-terror drive is but a way to justify the US military’s continued intervention in local military affairs.”

The Moro leader said the media blackout in the operation areas, and the narrowing democratic space for human rights organizations may heighten the danger of military atrocities against civilians.

“Now monitoring human rights abuses in these ‘no-man’s lands’ has been very difficult. Early this year, the Commission on Human Rights Region 11 made a public statement that there are six deaths related to the US-RP Balikatan Exercises and until now we don’t know what the Philippine government will do about this case or if it will just keep a blind eye to all these abuses,” Ropeta stressed.

He also lambasted the abduction and tagging of Muslim civilians and religious scholars and leaders as terrorists which has been prevalent based on reports from the Kawagib, a Mindanao-based human rights group.

Kawagib Secretary General Sittie Sundang said the release last August 27 of the three Muslims suspected of involvement in the Super Ferry 16 bombing incident proved that the Arroyo government implements a policy of branding Muslims as terrorists.

The three suspects were identified as Wahab Ramalan, 34; Sammy Gampong, 26; and Radzak Macarimbang, 41. (Malu Cadelina Manar/MindaNews)