DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/12 August) – At least 79 civil society organizations have issued a statement asking the Senate for an “immediate and impartial investigation” on the alleged “suspicious release from detention of four high-valued Abu Sayyaf inmates” from the Special Intensive Care Area (SICA) of Bicutan Jail allegedly through the facilitation of a “very powerful politician from Sulu.”
The CSOs appealed to the Senate to immediately conduct an inquiry so that the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), Department of Justice (DOJ) and Sulu Vice Governor Abdusakur Tan “will be able to answer for all these issues” as they expressed fear that the release of the four Abu Sayyaf members “has ostensibly exposed the civilian population into such extreme level of risks from these terrorists who are now freely roaming around public places and could now be plotting the next bomb to detonate and kill our own people.”
Tan told MindaNews he is “open to inquiry by any body.”
The CSOs’ statement, dated August 12 and written “on behalf of the bereaved families and victims of bombings and kidnappings in Mindanao” and “in the interest of truth and justice,” asked why four confessed Abu Sayyaf members were allegedly “inserted” into the list of 18 detainees ordered freed by the Department of Justice in February. The 18 were ordered freed on the grounds that there appeared to be “no proof of their participation in the kidnapping much less evidence of their purported membership in the Abu Sayyaf Group.”
It said it is “highly repulsive and mind-boggling” that national agencies of government like the NCMF and the DOJ’s Task Force on Anti-Terrorism “allowed the release of highly dangerous terrorists who made no qualms that they are involved in bombings and kidnappings.”
National print and online media outfits reported on February 7 the order of the DOJ to release18 suspected Abu Sayyaf members who were allegedly wrongfully accused of kidnapping and beheading of Jehovah’s Witness/Almeda Group members in 2002. Because of the dropping of their criminal charges by the DOJ, the 18 “walked to freedom on February 15, 2013.”
“What is shocking,” the statement noted, is that barely a month from their release from prison, four of the 18 — Muhammad Sali Said, Robin Sahiyal, Julhamad Ahad and Mujibar Amon – “were presented before the Regional Trial Court of Manila-Branch 19 as witnesses of Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan” in criminal cases he filed “against a known human rights defender from Sulu.”
The statement did not name the “human rights defender from Sulu” but was apparently referring to Temogen “Cocoy” Tulawie who was arrested in Davao City and detained since mid-January 2012.
Tulawie was implicated in the May 13, 2009 bombing in Patikul, Sulu that injured 12 persons including then Governor Tan (Tan is now Vice Governor of Sulu while his son, Abdusakur II, is the governor).
Tulawie, a member of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society and Baugbog where he documented cases of human rights violations in the province of Sulu, has repeatedly denied the allegations.
He is also a member of the Council of Elders of the Concerned Citizens of Sulu and was vocal against the declaration of a state of emergency in Sulu following the September 20, 2009 bombing on Eid’l Fitr. He also opposed Governor Tan’s creation of a Civilian Emergency Force which he said was a “private army.”
The statement noted that the four freed Abu Sayyaf members admitted in open court that “they are bombers, kidnappers and proud active members of the Abu Sayyaf Group.”
It added that Sali Said, “the star witness produced by the Governor, admitted that he was released from prison through the help of the lawyer of the governor who offered to help him ‘process (his) papers for release’ on the condition that his group will agree to stand as false witnesses for the governor.”
“Wolf in sheep’s hide”
Tan, however, laughed off the allegations. He told MindaNews Monday morning that he is “open to inquiry by any body so that everybody would know the group/groups behind this and deceiving other groups/CSOs into believing them which is after all to help Cocoy who they want to project as human rights advocate.”
“They should show the other groups the revelations of the witness in the case against Cocoy,” he said, adding they “want to present a wolf in a sheep’s hide, ano ba naman yan. Shame on them,” Tan said.
The statement acknowledged that there are hundreds of innocent detainees now languishing in jail and condemned what they said was an act of “inserting” into the list of innocent Muslims wrongly arrested due to mistaken identity, the names of the four whom Tan allegedly used as witnesses against Tulawie.
“While our young soldiers are risking their lives and limbs running after the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu, it is simply sickening to the senses and a complete mockery of justice to find our own national agencies like the NCMF and DOJ providing free legal assistance to high-valued terrorists, bombers and kidnappers? How can we ever reconcile the use of taxpayers’ money to set free the Abu Sayyaf Group? How can NCMF and DOJ ever miss the sea of difference between an innocent Muslim wrongly arrested due to mistaken identity and the solid intelligence dossier of these hard core terrorists?” the open letter asked.
“In the name of the victims of bombings and other terroristic acts in Mindanao,” the CSOs also urged President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to “demonstrate the full force of the law by holding his very own agencies of government and political allies accountable to the ‘matuwid na daan’ policy.”
Among the CSOs that signed the letter are the Mindanao Coalition of Development NGOs (Mincode), Mindanao Congress of Development NGOs and NGIs (Mincon), Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society, Mindanao Peoples Caucus, Anak Mindanao, One People Mindanao,
Balay Rehabilitation Center, Bangsamoro Center for Just Peace, Mindanao Human Rights Action Center (Minhrac), Organization of Teduray and Lambangian Conference,
Bawgbug, Inc., Maranao Peoples Development Center, Medical Action Group, Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya, Bangsamoro Women Solidarity ForumMindanao Solidarity Network
Mindanao Peoples Peace Movement, Initiatives for International Dialogue, International Solidarity Conference on Mindanao and Suara Kalilintad. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)