Despite of the numerous human rights violations that the Armed Forces of the Philippines committed during the weeklong crackdown, the President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo lauded the military for presenting more than 500 “Abu Sayyafs”. Armed with Deparment of Justice Memorandum, the Arroyo administration defended her military that no violations occurred.
According to the records of the Commission on Human Rights Region IX, thirty-two of those arrested were tortured at the 103rd Brigade then headed by Gen Hermogenes Esperon and were forced to sign documents confessing their membership in the Abu Sayyaf group. Families have been presenting evidence to the military, police and the media clearing their husbands, fathers and sons of the sins of Abu Sayyaf.
Six years later, more than twenty of them were released for lack of evidence. More than a hundred still languish in Bicutan jail. Twenty-two were killed as a result of the police department’s assault to quell the uprising inside Camp Bagong Diwa.
Six years after the crackdown, the falsely accused Moro men from Basilan, Sulu and Zamboanga still await for justice, still hope that they be cleared of the crimes of Abu Sayyaf that were pinned on them.
On July 13, the families of the falsely accused will gather once more in Tabuk Village in Basilan, hoping that justice will be the answer to their long years of prayers.
However, fear strikes the heart of the people in these areas as the government presents once more a law that would once again relive the crakdown in 2001. While the government craftily hides the real schedule of the implementation of the Human Security Act (HAS), the people in Basilan, Zamboanga and Sulu are getting restless, for they know their place will again be used as the government’s showcase for catching their terrorists.
The Human Security Act is no different from the 2001 DOJ Memorandum. The 2001 DOJ Memorandum was used to make it look like President Arroyo was in control of the situation in the South, it was used to justifiy their arbitrary arrests and public presentation of falsely accussed Moro men as terrorists.
With the implementation of the HSA, either on July 14 or next month, more and more Filipino people, Muslim or Christian, will suffer the same fate of the falsely accused Moro men.
For starters, the Justice Secretary already spooks us by saying that wiretapping will now be legal. With the vague definition on what constitutes a terorist act and who are considered as terrorists, we can surmise that every household would be tapped and there is no more room for private conversations. Everyone will become a suspect!
Who defines terrorism and the terrorists presents more of a problem. Last month, when the Weena busses were bombed and burned by extortionists, the AFP already declared the bombings as the works of terrorists and even invited US soldiers in the investigation. Despite the lack of evidence, the AFP still pursues the terrorist angle.
Who are exempted in the HSA? Even children are considered terrorists. Six Moro minors were arrested since 2001 and four of them are still languishing in Camp Bagong Diwa. Children shot in AFP and New People’s Army encounters were tagged as rebels.
The Human Security Act will only bring havoc to our communities, will once more break family ties and create more insecurity and mistrust against an administration bent on suppressing the rights of the people
KAWAGIB Moro Human Right Organization calls on our Moro brothers and sisters to unite in our call to junk the Human Security Act!
If the Arroyo administration is serious in achieving peace in Moro areas, then she would have given justice to those falsely accused by releasing them, not by releasing instead another measure that will further violate people’s rights.
Sittie Rajabia Sundang
Kawagib Moro Human Rights Organization
c/o Kalinaw Center for Interfaith Resources
Francisco Avenue, Juna Subdivision, Matina, Davao City (082) 299-4964