CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – The military on Friday has urged troops assigned in checkpoints and mobile patrols to afford the civilians with courtesy following several reports of individuals complaining of rude soldiers.
One of those who said she experienced discourtesy lately was Divina Suson, a correspondent for local, national and international news outlets.
Suson said she was on her way to the downtown area in Iligan City when the bus she was riding stopped at a checkpoint manned by police and military personnel in Barangay Hinaplanon on Thursday morning.
She said she showed her press identification card to one of the soldiers stationed there who asked her what her middle name initial M stands for. She replied it’s “Morgia.”
The soldier then inquired her if it’s not “Maute,” in obvious reference to the surnames of the Maute brothers Omarkhayam and Abdullah, leaders of the ISIS-linked Maute group.
The group has been fighting the armed forces in Marawi City since May 23 that resulted to the displacement of more than 400,000 residents and the deaths of hundreds.
To confirm to the soldier if Morgia is really her mother’s maiden name, he told her to produce another identification card, the one that spells out her middle name.
With her one hand inside her bag looking for her stacks of ID cards, Suson asked him: “What if my middle name is Maute?” The soldier replied: “You will be imprisoned.”
“Why?” she asked him. He said: “It’s your fault that you are a Maute.”
At first Suson was being polite to the Army personnel since she meet them everyday at checkpoints, but when this particular soldier answered him that, she said she began to get irked.
Her voice now a notch higher, Suson then looked at the soldier in the eye before telling him: “Which garbage dump did you get that logic from? Did you know that it was not what the Task Force Marawi told us in our press briefings”?
She then went on to explain that the military has made it clear that not all who bear the family name Maute are terrorists. The soldier then blurted out that he is from Luzon.
To end their exchange, Suson cussed him. She said her anger doubled when the bus she rode left her.
With indignation dominating her, Suson failed to get the soldier’s name and unit.
She said she was not really keen on filing formal complaint against the soldier, but realized that it could happen to any individual.
“I have heard stories of civilians being harassed by soldiers manning the checkpoints. What about those whose family name is Maute? What will happen to them? I don’t want it to happen to others,” Suson said in an interview Friday.
Captain Joe Patrick Martinez, the spokesperson of the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division, said Suson could lodge a complaint to the unit where that soldier belongs.
Martinez also reminded soldiers on the ground to always maintain proper decorum when dealing with civilians.
“While we are actually doing our part [in doing security effort], we have to uphold human rights, and to show respect to people. That’s the guidance from the higher-ups,” he said, adding that if soldiers have the basis to arrest a person, among them the arrest orders and rouges’ gallery, they can do so but they must also avoid harassing hapless civilians.
“If a civilian’s face does not match the photos on the wanted list, why scrutinize that person further? It’s not right for the soldier to do that,” Martinez said.
He said it is senseless to arrest someone just because his surname is Maute.
What happened to Suson, he said, was an example of harassment and she can file a formal complaint to that soldier’s commanding officer for proper action.(davaotoday.com)