Moros Fear Esperons Appointment Will Intensify Abuses

Jul. 14, 2006

The Kawagib Moro Human Rights Organization expressed their utmost indignation at President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyos choice of Lt. Gen. Hermogenes Esperon as the next Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

According to Kawagib, the decision of the President will make crackdown on civilians a norm rather than an exception.

Kawagib said that choosing Esperon to lead President Arroyos fight against the communist insurgency would mean employing the same military crackdown against Moro civilians in 2001 on a nationwide scale.

Esperon figured in the military crackdown against suspected Abu Sayyaf members, including those suspected civilians who fed, supported and sympathized the Abu Sayyaf. He was the head of the AFPs 103rd Brigade in Basilan.

The military crackdown started in July 13, 2001. The announcement of Esperons appointment also fell at the same date.

Kawagib fear that targeting civilians suspected of aiding the communist insurgency will become the norm in the militarys drive, without necessarily eliminating the New Peoples Army. The same method used by General Jovito Palparan and other military generals that killed more than 700 political activists since Arroyos presidency.

This was the same method used by the military in 2001, the crackdown in Basilan was aimed at draining the pond of the terrorist fish. Only a fraction of real Abu Sayyaf members were arrested. The death of Abu Sabaya happened a year after.

Esperons crackdown included arresting civilians without warrants, raids in mosques and houses of Moro communities, putting up checkpoints and saturation drives, torture and forcing those detained to sign documents admitting their membership in the Abu Sayyaf.

More than 500 Moro civilians — men, women and youth were arrested and used as fall guys for the crimes committed by the Abu Sayyaf such as kidnapping of foreign tourists, school children and their teachers including the killing of a Claretian priest.

Thirty-two (32) of those arrested and detained at the 103rd Brigade filed a case against Lt. Gen. Hermones Esperon for torture based on the findings of Commissioner Jose Manuel Mamauag of the Commission on Human Rights – Region IX.

The military crackdown was the consequence of President Arroyos declaration of Basilan under state of lawlessness, but the range of the military crackdown reached Sulu, Zamboanga City and Metro Manila. There was unaccounted number of civilians who were shot and wounded, while others died.

Kawagib, a Maguindanaon term for rights, is an alliance of different Moro organizations based in Mindanao that fights for the respect of human rights for the Moro people. Established in February 2006, Kawagib provides paralegal services for Moro victims of human rights violations caused by military offensives, illegal arrests, saturation drives and crackdowns.

Kawagib Moro Human Rights Organization

#12 San Pedro St., Kimpo Subdivision
Cotabato City
Telephone No.: 064 4213057

comments powered by Disqus