HR workers alarmed over arrest of persons mistaken for Abu Sayyaf members in Basilan

ISABELA CITY (MindaNews/27 Aug) – Human rights workers and ceasefire monitors have expressed alarm over what they said was a “rampant” arrest of persons mistaken for members of the notorious Abu Sayyaf. This, as another farmer who also serves as security escort of a former mayor of Maluso town in Basilan, was arrested inside his residence last August 25.

Indal Hairun Ladjatua was arrested by members of the Special Forces of Philippine Army under Col. Alexander Macario, commander of Task Force Basilan stationed in Barangay Tabyawan here.

Ladjatua was nabbed on suspicion that he was Harud Jaljalis alias Indal, who is one of 286 persons with outstanding warrants of arrest issued by the Regional Trial Court of Basilan on suspicion that they are members of the Abu Sayyaf.

Macario told the Basilan Human Rights Action Network (BAHRAN) which documented the case that Indal Hairun Ladjatua is actually Harud Jaljalis who has an arrest warrant. He said Ladjatua could not produce a birth certificate to prove his identity.

But Nixon Alonzo, BAHRAN executive director, said Jaljalis has long been arrested and is detained in Bicutan for the same charge being imputed on Ladjatua.

Informed of Jaljalis’ detention in Bicutan, Macario reportedly told Alonzo and Bantay Ceasefire Provincial Coordinator Allan Pisingan: “Sige lang—bahala na ang korte” (That’s up to the court).

Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang, spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Comman (Wesmincon), said:  “The arrest of the person is based on solid information from a reliable informant. He had been turned over to the PNP (Philippine National Police) after his apprehension. If there is an allegation of mistaken identity, then the apprehended person has to convince the police of this fact.”

An excerpt from the police blotter of the  Maluso Police station bared that Kamariya, wife of Lajatua, complained that an M4/M16 rifle, also known as Bushmaster, was confiscated by the soldiers without presenting any seizure order. PO2 Karim Ulod Abdulkadil, the Desk Officer, noted in his blotter entry that “the confiscated gun was licensed.”

Documents gathered by BAHRAN and Bantay Ceasefire showed that on July 31, 2003, Ladjatua sought clearance from the Department of Justice in line with his application for security guard. Oliva Abellar-Tugonon, Administrative Officer-V and chief of Administrative Division certified that Indal “has no criminal complaint pending preliminary investigation against him.”

Mercedes Gatmaytan, Clerk of Court of the Regional Trial Court, National Capital Region in Quezon City and  Jose Ortiz Jr., Clerk of Court of the Metropolitan Trial Court in Quezon City issued similar clearance in relation to Ladjatua’s desire to join a security agency.

On July 31, 2003, the PNP National Headquarters, through Police Supt. Generoso R. Cerbo Jr., chief of Counterintelligence and Security Division, issued a clearance saying there is “no derogatory record on file” against Ladjatua and the National Bureau of Investigation also granted him clearance on August August 1, 2003, signed by Gen. Reynaldo G. Wycoco, NBI Director.

Alonzo said a witness against the Abu Sayyaf who is under the witness protection program of the Department of Justice was summoned by Army investigators to determine if Ladjatua is indeed an Abu Sayyaf member. Alonzo said the witness told soldiers that the person they arrested “is a civilian—not an Abu Sayyaf member.”

After he was brought to Zamboanga City on August 25 for interrogation, Ladjatua was sent back to this city on August 26 where he will reportedly be charged, not of kidnapping but illegal possession of firearms.

BAHRAN and the Bantay Ceasefire were able to gather documents showing that the gun confiscated from Ladjatua, a rifle (Bushmaster) Cal. 223-5.56, was licensed to former Maluso mayor Kakid Badurahim Salajin, for whom Ladjatua works as security escort. The license was issued by the Provincial Police Office of Basilan.

Pisingan noted that authorities in Basilan have been arresting innocent people without presenting any warrant, like the case of Azraf Musa, 17, and Jubiri Sano, 13, who were arrested last June 22 and July 8, respectively.

Alonzo said that after the  interrogation where Musa was reportedly pressured to admit membership in the Abu Sayyaf, Musa was charged for  illegal possession of a hand grenade but the explosive was reportedly placed inside Musa’s pocket by his interrogators before they took photographs of the youngster.

Sano, a student of Manggal National High School, was arrested inside his classroom also on charge of being a member of the Abu Sayyaf Group. Army officials have, however, already apologized to school officials for the arrest of Sano, assuring the academic community that a similar incident will never happen again.

On July 23, Macario’s men also arrested and tortured Abdul Khan Jalil of Libug, Sumisip, Basilan on suspicion that he was an Abu Sayyaf member named Kanneh Malikil. The Army already relieved four of Macario’s men who were allegedly involved in the torture of Khan.

Nixon and Pisingan relayed they have been receiving a number of similar complaints of civilians being arrested without warrant and would later be charged for being members of the Abu Sayyaf. (Romy B. Elusfa/MindaNews contributor)