US-Backed Military Operations in Sulu Decried

Sep. 09, 2006

A Moro rights group echoes fears that the unabated military operations in Sulu and in other areas of operations of the joint US-RP military will lead to human rights violations against Moro civilians.

Ren Jalaluddin Ropeta, vice-chairperson of the Moro-Christian Peoples Alliance (MCPA), reacted to news reports on the ongoing hunt for the Abu Sayyaf Group in Sulu.

Every time President Arroyo goes on one of her trips, the terror issue in Sulu and in other parts of Mindanao is hyped-up. Now the military puts the number of Abu Sayyaf elements to 200 while only previously, then Southern Command has bragged that the number of ASG elements has narrowed due to the sustained joint US-RP military exercises. Using the anti-terror hysteria, the President desperately tries to lift her sagging reputation. What she doesnt know is that she has long been a laughingstock of other democratic nations, just like her US President Bush, Ropeta said.

He added, This anti-terror drive is but a way to justify the US militarys continued intervention in local military affairs.

The Moro leader said the media blackout in the operation areas, and the narrowing democratic space for human rights organizations, may heighten the danger of military atrocities against civilians.

Now monitoring human rights abuses in these no-mans lands have been very difficult. Early this year, the Commission on Human Rights in Region 11 made a public statement that there are six deaths relating to the US-RP Balikatan Exercises and until now we dont know what the Philippine government will do about this case or if it will just keep a blind eye to all these abuses, Ropeta stated.

Ropeta also lambasted the abduction and terror-tagging of Muslim civilians and religious scholars and leaders which has been prevalent based on reports from the Kawagib, a Mindanao-based human rights group.

Kawagib Secretary General Sittie Sundang said the release last August 27 of the three Muslims suspected in the Super Ferry 16 bombing incident — Wahab Ramalan, 34; Sammy Gampong, 26; and Radzak Macarimbang, 41 — proved that the Arroyo government implements a policy of branding Muslims as terrorists.

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