Maguindanaon arrested without warrant in Manila; incommunicado for 3 days

“Once again, a member of the Muslim community was arrested without warrant. Once again, someone was subjected to physical abuse to force him to admit to a supposed terrorist plot. Once again, there is an attempt to hoodwink the public and to prostitute the judicial process through evidence that was not only unconstitutionally obtained but all indications point to its spurious nature. Once again, there is an attempt to earn media mileage points at the expense of protecting the public by going after those who are truly guilty. Once again, an excuse is being manufactured to have another escalation of hostilities in Mindanao,” the Association of Muslim Advocates of  Law, the Bangsamoro Lawyers Network, Inc., and the Muslim Legal Aid Foundation, Inc., said in a press statement.

Southern Police District director Chief Supt. Roberto L. Rosales had earlier said a follow-up operation conducted Saturday in Talib’s rented house in Maharlika Village, Taguig City, led to the seizure of an “improvised explosive device fashioned from a 60mm mortar filled with suspected C-4 plastic explosives, three pieces of 9-volt batteries, three improvised electric bulbs, assorted wires, an electronic relay, an electronic tester and a washing machine mechanical timer.”

“This powerful improvised explosive had complete components but was still unarmed when found by our agents,” Rosales said, adding the arrest of Talib and the recovery of the bomb are “a major blow to the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) operating in the country.”  

Rosales was quoted as saying Talib is the “right-hand man of JI leaders Marwan and Usman Basit” and that Talib “drove the car bomb that was recovered by authorities in Surallah, South Cotabato last June 13.”

Rosales said Talib’s group chose the FTI and SM Bicutan as “some of their targets in Metro Manila.”

The lawyers’ group has a different version of Talib’s arrest. They said Talib’s hope of a better life for his family “suddenly vanished last Friday, August 3, 2007, when he himself vanished.”

The statement said Talib was picked up and arrested without warrant by joint elements of the Philippine National Police-Southern Police District (PNP-SPD) and the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP).

Zainudin Malang, executive director of the Center for Bangsamoro Law and Policy, had earlier noted that Talib had just gone to the recruitment agency on August 1 and was working as a part-time tricycle driver to sustain himself while his application was pending.  He was last seen driving a tricycle on August 3 and did not return home that night, he said.

“For three straight days and nights, he was held incommunicado. Frantic families and neighbors sought the help of lawyers whose efforts to locate him were unsuccessful. The PNP-SPD denied that they have custody and instead pointed to the ISAFP. But the ISAFP also denied having custody over him and, as if playing a sort of sick game only they can possibly find amusing, likewise pointed to their counterparts in the PNP-SPD as the ones with custody,” the statement of the lawyers’ groups read.

“This, in itself, already indicates a sinister plan by the PNP and ISAFP” but “what is an even stronger indication of a sinister plan was what transpired the day following (Talib’s) arrest,” the lawyers said.

“On Saturday afternoon (August 4, 2007), members of the PNP went to Kaharudin’s (Talib) residence and again without a warrant and without coordinating with barangays officials as they are required under the law, searched his place for supposed bombing implements. The search was initially conducted in the presence of Kaharudin’s housemates. But when no evidence was found even after each nook and cranny was searched, they ordered everyone to step outside the house. Only after giving themselves moments to search the house without effective supervision and witnessing did the cops allow the residents to step inside. And lo and behold! It was only then that a bomb was ‘found,’” the lawyers said.

“The other evidences are of equally spurious nature. Even disregarding the constitutional inadmissibility of the supposedly incriminating text messages, the nature of those messages proves their manufactured nature rather than the guilt of Kaharudin. Why would supposed terrorists send messages in plain Tagalog? Why not in his dialect? To make their incriminating nature more obvious for the media and the public? To make it easier to convince the public that this person is really a terrorist? Wouldn’t anyone engaged in a sinister crime at least try to hide their crime by sending instructions in coded messages? Who sent those messages? Even a stranger who has someone else’s number can easily send such an incriminating message if he wanted to produce an “evidence” against that person. And when were those messages sent? Before or after the arresting officers had already possession of it? Sadly, these questions cannot be resolved as of now because the police refused to allow anyone but themselves to see those text messages, a clear indication that it is of spurious nature,” the lawyers said.

The lawyers’s groups said they are taking up Talib’s case not only because of the “basic constitutional rights of a person involved in this case but the spurious nature of the supposed ‘evidence’ against him strongly indicates his innocence.”

The lawyers, however, added that the case against Talib does not just involve Talib and his family and friends. “The public themselves have an utmost interest in this case. The public has a right to be protected from heinous crimes like terrorism. But when law enforcement agencies insist on pinning an act of terrorism on a clearly innocent person, Aren’t they in effect letting the true culprits go free? Is their need to show to the public concrete results in their counter-terrorism campaign so strong that they don’t mind apprehending innocent people and letting guilty ones free? Do such conduct from law enforcement and security agencies lead to better protection of the public, or are they only exposing the public to more risks? In other words, do the PNP and ISAFP deserve commendation or condemnation for the arrest of Talib?”

The lawyers said they are aware that the PNP “through one member of the media, presented a supposed confession” of Talib but “when you beat up a person, hold him incommunicado for three days and nights, prevent his family and lawyer from seeing him, and while in an enclosed police station surrounded by the very same people who most likely manhandled him, asked him leading questions when being interviewed by a sole member of the press…. It would be a miracle if he doesn’t own up to any crime you ascribe to him, even that of assassinating John F. Kennedy and Ninoy Aquino!”

The lawyers’ statement reminded the media of their profession’s code of ethics. “We urge them not to allow themselves to be used in the abuse of a person’s constitutional rights. There is a thin line between getting a scoop and being made a party to a police interrogation and illegal confession. No scoop is worth sending an innocent man to jail.” (MindaNews)