No martial rule at MSU, says prexy

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/9 Aug) – There is no martial rule declared inside the campus, according to Dr. Macapado A. Muslim, president of Mindanao State University, despite the attack within MSU premises Wednesday evening that killed three soldiers.

But Muslim, in a statement emailed to media, confirmed that the military sanctioned a temporary lockdown or “no exit and no entrance” policy Thursday as soldiers conduct an operation against a band of armed criminals following the firefight 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.

At the MSU attack, seven other soldiers belonging to the 65th Infantry Battalion and two civilians were wounded, according to Col. Daniel Lucero, commanding officer of 103rd Infantry Brigade based in Marawi City. But he added that in the succeeding firefight at the Agus 1 hydroelectric plant complex resulted in the death of a seven-year-old girl, Gaily D. Miraato, who was killed with a stray bullet.

Muslim said that there have been rumors circulating that the military has imposed martial law inside campus. “It is simply not true. Only the President of the Republic has the power to impose martial law when chaos is beyond control,” he stressed.

The lockout, Muslim said, is standard military or police procedure to contain crime, or as law enforcers operate in an area or while investigating an incident, find the perpetrators if still around, and to prevent reinforcement by armed elements that may escalate the conflict.

But he confirmed a statement by Lucero who said that police or military personnel could be agitated by the death of three of their colleagues after they were attacked while on patrol at the campus’s Fisheries Village following reports that a band of armed suspected illegal drug dealers lurked there.

Muslim assured that no faculty, staff nor students were harmed during the encounter. Lucero likewise denied earlier reports that 20 MSU students were wounded in the attack.

But Muslim admitted that the situation is tense, “but police and military groups are already in close coordination to defuse the tension and to regain normal situation” in campus.

He assured that everything will be normal after police and military personnel will confirm that the campus has been rid of armed groups. “It’s just unfortunate that the incident occurred inside the campus and such ambush is a consequence of a simmering conflict between the military and a local group. MSU is just collateral damage,” Muslim said.

But a group of scholars condemned the firefight, saying that armed conflict is anathema to an ideal academic community. “The university is neither a battlefield nor a gangster’s haven. Here, student’s safety is a priority and the atrocities should be put to an end,” said Doreen Bayhonon, one of the leaders of Scholare, an association of university scholars.

The group said in a statement that they are also asking the university administration to improve security management to sustain the peace inside campus.

The military, meanwhile, ended up raiding the house of Marawi Mayor Fahad Salic as they were pursuing a black pickup truck reportedly used by armed men. But the pickup was nowhere in the mayor’s compound.

Salic, who said he was having a meeting with barangay captains at the city hall when the raid took place, claimed that a licensed AK-47 assault rifle was taken away by the soldiers. He added that only the caretaker was his residence at that time.

Lucero said Salic was not involved in the crime, but hinted that “some of his relatives” are.

Salic likewise denied involvement. “My relatives and I cannot afford to sow trouble in Marawi. No one will initiate trouble right in his own turf,” he stressed.

Lt. Col. Siegred Espina, 65IB commanding officer, said lawless elements must have been really hurt with what the military has done, like dismantling illegal logging operations, stopping drug trafficking and kidnap-for-ransom and other crimes in Marawi and Lanao del Sur. (Violeta M. Gloria / MindaNews, with reports)