Karapatan to Cayetano: file diplomatic protest vs US gov’t for alleged torture of young Moro leader

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 22 April) —  Human rights groups Karapatan dared Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano to file a diplomatic protest against the US Government for allegedly torturing Jerome Aladdin Succor Aba, a Moro activist, who flew to the US for a speaking tour organized by different church and human rights groups but was barred entry upon arrival in San Francisco and sent back to the Philippines the next day.

In a statement issued on Sunday, Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said Aba, national chair of the Suara Bangsamoro (Voice of the Moro People) and vice chair of Sandugo Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-Determination,suffered various forms of psychological and physical torture while in the custody of US Department of Homeland Security and US Customs Border Protection at the San Francisco International Airport from April 17 to 19.

Aba was granted a 10-year multiple entry visa by the US Embassy in Manila on March 27 this year. His visa is supposed to expire on March 20, 2028.

Jerome Aladdin Succor Aba, chair of the Suara Bangsamoro (Voice of the Moro People) and co-chair of Sandugo, narrates in a press conference on April 21, 2018 what happened to him at the San Francisco airport during his 28-hour interrogation. Aba was barred entry into the US when he arrived at the San Francisco airport on April 17 and was sent home the next day. Photo courtesy of Arkibong Bayan

The 25-year old Aba, who flew to the US for a speaking tour organized by the United Methodist Church, the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas and the US chapter of the International Coalition on Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP), said in a Facebook post last April 20 that he could not participate in the Ecumenical Advocacy Days to talk about the “human rights crisis in the Philippines especially in my native land, Mindanao as the US Homeland Security deems me as a ‘threat to their national security’.”

Palabay dared Cayetano to be true to his word. “If Cayetano meant an ounce of truth in his pronouncements that the country should fully exercise its rights as a sovereign nation, he should uphold the rights of a Filipino citizen who suffered physical and psychological torture, among other violations, under the US government.”
The filing of a diplomatic protest against the US government will be the indicator if the country’s top diplomat and the Philippine government are capable of exercising the country’s sovereignty, she said.

Palabay said Aba was treated like an “enemy combatant,” forced to strip naked with an electric fan blowing at him, handcuffed during the interrogation, denied food and water and was threatened they would shoot him if he stayed longer inside the comfort room. Palabay said Aba’s belongings were “illegally searched, illegally obtained information from his electronic gadgets, and even disrespected his religion for deliberately serving him pork.”

She said some of the officials accused him of being a “terrorist,” “communist,” “terrorist communist”, or “communist terrorist.”

“Also during interrogation, the slightest movement from Aba, even for just stretching his arms or moving his head, would earn him the ire of interrogators. To add to his harrowing experience, Aba relayed that a gun and a grenade were intentionally placed in a room, on two different occasions while he was under custody,” she said.

She said US officials violated his privacy and freedom of movement, and civil and political rights for denying him access to a lawyer and human rights organizations, waiting to assist him outside the airport.

The interrogators told Aba that the Universal Declaration on Human Rights did not cover him and that Miranda rights were only read after the long hours of interrogation, according to Palabay.

“Aba’s privacy and freedom of movement was also grossly neglected after US officials showed him voluminous information on his family, educational background, and activities. He was also not allowed to call anyone except when he was about to be deported,” Palabay said.

She said Filipinos must be accorded internationally recognized civil and political rights even in foreign soil.

“Cayetano and Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque seem to stick to their nationalist principles and sentiments whenever Duterte gets pushed against the wall,” she said.

“If it doesn’t raise its voice against the US on these dastardly acts, the Philippine government will once again reaffirm that it is but a stooge of its imperialist master,” Palabay added

In his April 20 post, Aba said it is ” laughable that the US government is threatened by my presence whereas I (went) there only armed with stories of plight and struggle of Moros and Lumads under Duterte’s Martial Law,” he said.

“Though I couldn’t make it to the speaking tour, I hope that our message of hope and aspiration for peace in our lands is not lost in these dangerous times. We will continue the fight for truth, justice and freedom for the Bangsamoro and indigenous people,” he said.  (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)