Congress urged to probe Feb. 4 Maimbung massacre

This, as Suara Bangamoro party in a press statement said the Western Mindanao Command “should be held accountable for the massacre” as the victims were killed “as a result of an indiscriminate firing of the Philippine Navy under the Western Mindanao Command.”

The Area Coordinating Center of the Sulu Provincial Government sent out photographs of the corpses of civilians “allegedly killed by members of the Philippine Navy's Special Warfare Group and Philippine Army' Light Reaction Company.”

“Seven civilians, including two children and two teenagers, and an off-duty soldier were killed early Monday during a military raid on a suspected Abu Sayyaf hideout on a fishing village in Maimbung town. Sulu Governor Sakur Tan and provincial officials strongly condemn the killings of innocent civilians and vowed to prosecute the soldiers involved in the mass murder,” the caption of  the photographs read.

One of the photographs showed a victim’s right forefinger cut off.

Amirah Lidasan, national president of  Suara Bangsamoro called on the Senate and House of Representatives “to hear the testimonies of the people of Sulu about the involvement of the US troops in military operations in Sulu that has affected a number of civilians.”
She also called on the Western Mindanao Command to “stop using the Abu Sayyaf presence in Sulu as a pretext for military operations in Sulu, and by condoning the massacre of civilians and participation of US troops in the carnage.”

Earlier, the Western Mindanao Command said what happened in Maimbung was a “legitimate encounter” between the Philippine Navy’s Special Warfare Group and the Abu Sayyaf who are holding as a kidnap victim a Chinese woman from Tawi-Tawi.
Temugen “Cocoy” Tulawie chair of Bawbug-Sulu and Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society in Sulu, named the civilians killed in the incident as Eldisin Lahim, 35; Kera Lahim, 40; Ibnol Lahim, 30; and Duni Lahim, all of them male;  Narsiya Ben, 28, and her husband Ben, 33; Alnalyn Kira, 21 and Sernalyn Kimar, around 4 to five years old.

Hataman listed the victims as Kirah Lahim, 45; Eldisim Lahim, 43;  Marisa Payian, 4; Wedme Lahim, 9; teenagers Alnalyn Lahim, 15 and Sulayman Hakob, 17; Narcia Abon, 24; and Pfc Ibnul Wahid of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division who was said to be on vacation when killed.
According to Lidasan, Tulawie also reported that members of the US soldiers were seen by residents accompanying the Philippine armed forces in the mission.

Hataman said one of the victims was a pregnant woman.
“The bodies earlier presented by the military as Abu Sayyaf members were civilians to include a pregnant woman. More unfortunate circumstance are facts that one of the cadavers brought to the Jolo town proper was clothed only in her underwear, and that one of the victims is an Army sergeant made to lie flat on his stomach and shot twice in the head in front of his wife,” Hataman said in his resolution.

“Such reprehensible and barbaric acts committed allegedly by Elite Forces of the Armed Forces against innocent civilians is highly condemnable,” he said, adding, an “independent and thorough investigation to determine the facts and truth behind this incident is urgently and significantly necessary, especially on alleged non-validation of military intelligence report leading to the senseless killing of innocent civilians, to include children,” he said.

“There are reports that the military will be conducting an investigation on this incident, however, given the conflicting theories presented by the military, the witnesses and the provincial government, we believe that there is a need for an independent House investigation. I hereby call on and enjoin my colleagues in the House of Representatives to support this urgent Resolution and give justice to the victims of this Sulu tragedy, especially the innocent children,” Hataman said.

He said he doubts “the other theory of the military that the casualties were victims of an encounter between warring families.”

“Although Sulu had its share of clan conflicts, the concept of Rido is not as prevalent in the Tausog culture as it is in other Moro ethnic groups. Moreover, in the interviews by news reporters, the families of the victims who witnessed what we now call massacre, identified the soldiers as perpetrators,” he said.

Hataman said whatever the purpose of the military or the reason for the alleged “encounter” was, it still does not justify the death of innocent civilians. “Walang anumang dahilan o rason, lalong-lalo na ang mga sundalo na dapat sana’y tagapagtanggol ng sambayanan, upang pumatay ng mga inosenteng sibilyan, lalong-lalo na ng mga bata!” (There is no reason, especially for soldiers who are supposed to protect the people, to kill innocent civilians, especially children), Hataman said in his press statement.

“The military also cannot fool us by saying that these civilians were probably caught in the crossfire. For heaven’s sake, we are talking of eight people here, four of whom are minors. Are they saying that these eight people all stood between them and whoever it was they were fighting? Besides, it is their responsibility to ensure that there will be no civilian casualties. This alibi only serves as a self-confession by the military on how reckless their soldiers are,” he said. (MindaNews)