7-month old baby killed in Ipil strafing

Witnesses said “a black Kia vehicle sped towards the direction of the town center.”

One of the witnesses, who requested not to be named, said he saw “uniformed men inside the black Kia vehicle who indiscriminately fired their rifles at the houses.

The strafing killed Nuraine but injured no one.  It, however, destroyed several home appliances.
The April 18 strafing was the eighth incident since October  last year, village chief Rashid Bual said.

“Practically, we are living here under a cloud of fear that anytime another strafing incident might happen,” he said.

Some of the residents, he revealed, had even “left the village and re-settled in Zamboanga City and Jolo because of fear.”

For the families who stayed behind, Bual said they “sleep in our madrasah and mosque during the evening for safety.”

He said he brought the problem to the attention of the local government of Ipil and the local police “only to be told  we should police our own people who were suspected for a number of carnapping incidents.”

“Instead of helping us secure our place, we ended up treated like suspects and criminals,” he lamented.

At least a dozen persons had been killed since Bual assumed office after the barangay elections in 2007. One of the victims gunned down by still unidentified assailants last January was village councilor Jamiri Walil. 

During the same period, the local police exhumed two bodies in the village’s swampy area. The bodies were identified by the police as the persons who disappeared last year together with their motorcycles, theorizing that the two were victims of carnapping.

“Because the suspects are Muslims allegedly coming from our community, it is not fair to tell us that we should police our ranks,” Bual said, adding: “it is like saying that because the suspects are Christians then all Christians should watch their kind.”

The same sentiment was echoed by Barahama Ali, a resident of the village and member of the Coordinating Committee for the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“The Bill of Rights of the Philippine Constitution provides the protection of all citizens, Muslims or Christians, of their rights. It is sad to know that our people are being deprived of their right to receive equal protection from the government authorities,” Ali said.

He said the local police only arrived at the scene to investigate a day after the strafing incident.

“The residents are asking why the delay and why the lukewarm treatment on the case?,” he asked.

Several text messages were sent to Ipil police chief Sr. Inspector Ariel Huesca to verify the allegations Huesca did not reply.

“Given their allegations that our small Moro community is haven of criminals as they always want to portray us, we should be given the benefit of the rule of law and the protection from harm especially the innocents like the recent victim who was a seven-month-old girl,” Ali said.

As member of the CCCH, he said, he is “appealing to Zamboanga Sibugay police chi
ef, Sr. Supt. Federico Castro, Jr. and to Ipil police chief Sr. Inspector Ariel Huesca to conduct a thorough investigation of the incident” fearing that it might contribute to the already deteriorating peace situation in the province and the town of Ipil.

The CCCH is a body tasked to monitor violations of the 2003 ceasefire agreement between the government and the MILF.

“I have already forwarded to the CCCH the report of the incident for appropriate action and documentation,” he added as he appealed to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to “see for themselves the extra-judicial killings that are happening in the province and Ipil.

Provincial police chief Castro said they are “still investigating the case.”

“It involves sensitive issues,” he added. (Antonio M. Manaytay/MindaNews)