DAVAO CITY – Moro groups appealed to the incoming President Rodrigo Duterte to grant amnesty to Moro prisoners who were “falsely” accused as local terrorists.
Suara Bangsamoro and Kawagib Moro Human Rights said the Moro prisoners were victims of military crackdown on Abu Sayaff members.
The Moro rights advocates have issued their appeal following Duterte’s offer to grant amnesty to political prisoners.
The rise of the number of Moro prisoners was the “result of the Philippine government’s anti-terror policy and Department of Justice’s memorandum that extended to those who were suspected to have fed and supported the local terrorists,” said Amirah Lidasan national president of Suara Bangsamoro.
Lidasan said the government’s policy resulted to “more than 200 arrested Moro men from Basilan, Sulu, Zamboanga and even Manila and other parts of Mindanao.”
“Thirty two were documented and reported by the Commission on Human Rights as torture victims and were forced to sign documents to admit that they were ASG members by then 103rd Brigade head General Hermogenes Esperon,” said Lidasan.
The group also asked Duterte to review the anti-terror policy of the government as past and recent studies have pointed out its faults, including arresting innocent men and cashing in on the bounty under the US Department of Justice’s Rewards for Justice Program.
The DOJ reviewed cases of more than 94 Moro prisoners for the issuance of the final decision after the Moro human rights groups filed before the Pasig Trial Court back in February 2013. The court has yet to determine if they will be charged with kidnapping along with the identified Abu Sayyaf members.
“There were six witnesses interviewed and presented by the DOJ, including two state witnessess who were ASG members and who were involved in the kidnapping cases,” Lidasan said, adding state witnesses only identified five to twelce as ASG members out of the 94 prisoners.
Senior State Prosecutor Peter Ong conducted the review through a series of consultations with the lawyers, prisoners, families, victims of kidnapping and the local government unit in Basilan from May to November 2013. Ong said that among the 12 identified, six were innocent but the hope that these prisoners will be released did not push through in December 2013.
The group lamented that DOJ Secretary and now incoming senator, Leila de Lima will leave the agency without any Moro prisoner released and any case resolved.
The cases included that of Muhammadiya Hamja, a farmer who was among those arrested during the crackdown in 2001, who was released in 2003 and again arrested in 2006 for the same cases.
“As long as the DOJ memorandum and the reward system remain, more innocent Moro men, most of whom are poor, will be arrested and paraded as terrorists. Recent arrests show that police and military authorities forcibly took a jeepney dispatcher and a mango vendor based on a report from a local asset pointing to these two as the John Does in the Abu Sayaff case,” said Lidasan.
A certain Aldimar Sangkula Jumurana was forcibly taken by elements of the Zamboanga City police and military intelligence branch while mango vendor Radjan Sahiddan was taken by joint military and police forces in November last year and was immediately transported to Metro Manila. Both were imprisoned at the Special Intensive Care Area 1 at Camp Bagong Diwa where most of the suspected Abu Sayyaf men are detained.
The group also sought the review of the case of 266 Moro men and women accused as members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who were arrested during the 2013 Zamboanga Siege and were detained at SICA 2 of Camp Bagong Diwa.
On March 2015, 42 were released due to the intercession of their lawyers, leaving 224 poor Moro men and women without representation. Among them was Nuraisa Omar, a student from Zamboanga City who along with her family was displaced due to the military and MNLF standoff in their village.
The Moro human rights groups expressed hope that through the amnesty program “justice will be rendered to the victims and their families and will help address the historical injustice of military solution to the conflict in the Moro areas, of using discriminatory policies against the Moro people such as equating terrorism to their identity and struggle.” (davaotoday.com)