Victims and families mark the seventh year

of military crackdown in Basilan

 

Isabela City, Basilan

 

July 14, 2008

 

 

Marie Hilao-Enriquez, a veteran human rights fighter and chairperson of Karapatan,  told the students of Basilan State College and families of the victims on how Karapatan reported the case of Basilan to the different human rights organizations abroad and even at the United Nations.

Enriquez gave the faculty and students of Basilan State College a copy of the Stop the Killing book of Karapatan and also challenged them to be vigilant and aggressive in fighting for their civil and political rights and not to forget the case of Basilan.

Suara Bangsamoro national president Amirah Ali Lidasan gave a brief history of what happened during the crackdown, and clarified government reports that those arrested were Abu Sayyaf members.

According to Lidasan, most of the more than 500 arrested during crackdown were innocent residents of Tabuk who were victims of human rights violations when the military set up checkpoints, saturation drives and illegal arrests on innocent residents of Basilan.

◄ After seven years, families, friends and activists gathered once more at the Basilan State College on July 14, 2008 to commemorate the "worst nightmare" the people of Basilan experienced when the province was declared under state of lawlessness by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in July 2001.

The forum, sponsored by the Liga ng Kabataang Moro, was meant to commemorate the "worst nightmare" for the people of Basilan when the Armed Forces of the Philippines conducted a military crackdown from July 13-15, 2001 as a consequence of President Arroyo's declaration that Basilan be under state of lawlessness aimed at quelling the Abu Sayyaf group.

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Photos courtesy of Suara Bangsamoro
           

 

Victims and families gathered in Basilan to commemorate the seventh year of military crackdown in Basilan

After seven years, families, friends and activists gathered once more in Basilan State College on July 14, 2008 to commemorate the "worst nightmare" the people of Basilan experienced when the province was declared under state of lawlessness by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in July 2001.

The forum sponsored by the Liga ng Kabataang Moro was meant to commemorate the "worst nightmare" for the people of Basilan when the Armed Forces of the Philippines conducted a military crackdown from July 13-15, 2001 as a consequence of President Arroyo's declaration that Basilan be under state of lawlessness aimed at quelling the Abu Sayyaf group.

The forum became a reunion for human rights activists who in 2001 sought the families and friends of the victims of crackdown and who initiated a fact-finding mission that led to a congressional inquiry on the reported cases of human rights violations perpetrated by the military during the crackdown.

Suara Bangsamoro national president Amirah Ali Lidasan gave a brief history of what happened during the crackdown, and clarified government reports that those arrested were Abu Sayyaf members.

According to Lidasan, most of the more than 500 arrested during crackdown were innocent residents of Tabuk who were victims of human rights violations when the military set up checkpoints, saturation drives and illegal arrests on innocent residents of Basilan.

Lidasan further said that during the crackdown, more than 70,000 individuals were displaced in then eight towns of Basilan, ten (10) were summarily executed at military chekpoints because they were thought to be Abu Sayyaf. With the help of the Commission on Human Rights - Region IX, twenty eight of those arrested and detained at the 103rd Brigade in Tabiawan, Isabela City filed a case against then 103rd Brigade commander Hermogenes Esperon, Jr for torture.
 

Lidasan also said that the forum was timely for the Pasig Ragional Trial Court that handles the Puno Mahajie kidnapping case, where most of the Basilan crackdown victims were lumped with Khadaffy Janjalani and other real Abu Sayyaf as the accussed perpetrators, will after seven years finally give the verdict next month. The Puno Mahaji caseis the case where the Abu Sayyaf kidnapped a Claretian priest and the teachers and students of Claret School in Sumisip, Basilan in March 2000.

 


 

 

 

Marie Hilao-Enriquez, a veteran human rights fighter and chairperson of Karapatan, also told the students of Basilan State College and families of the victims on how Karapatan reported the case of Basilan to the different human rights organizations abroad and even at the United Nations.

Enriquez also described how Basilan became a laboratory for the military as a precursor to the implementation of Oplan Bantay Laya I and II, which became a crackdown against acitivists and human rights defenders nationwide.

Enriquez gave the faculty and students of Basilan State College a copy of the Stop the Killing book of Karapatan and also challenged them to be vigilant and aggressive in fighting for their civil and political rights and not to forget the case of Basilan.

Nujum Jandtul, wife of one of the detainees at Camp Bagong Diwa who was arrested during the crackdown, made the people remember the day when her husband was forcibly taken from their home, accused by a mask-wearing man as an Abu Sayyaf sympathizer. She told the story of how she had become the breadwinner of the family and the hardships that her children faced being apart from her husband, even losing one of her child because of lack of money to buy medicine to cure his sickness.

The forum was also joined by officials of the Basilan who in 2001 became instrumental in criticizing the crackdown by going to Malacanang and presented to President Arroyo the reported abuses done by the military during the crackdown.

Former Provincial Board Member Ustadz Abdulmuhmin Mujahid and current PBM Nasser Salain also encouraged the students to support them in their fight to make Basilan a better province by fighting for their rights.

The forum with the theme "No More Crackdown! No More Terror Tagging! Respect the Civil and Political Rights of People in Mindanao" was sponsored by the Liga ng Kabataang Moro and the Political Science Department of Basilan State College.

           

 

Basilan under State of Lawlessness: 

Intensive Military Crackdown

The case of Basilan Province (June-September 2001)*

  

In July 2001, after the Armed Forces of the Philippines failed to solve the kidnapping incident in Lamitan Island by the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group on June 2001, the Arroyo government declared Basilan in a state of lawlessness.  The  Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in a memorandum from the Department of Justice, was ordered to arrest even without warrant all persons suspected of being Abu Sayyaf members and sympathizers.

 

This declaration was followed by heavy military deployment of up to 11 battalions under the command of the 103rd Infantry Brigade.  The AFP formed the Task Force Comet to pursue the Abu Sayyaf.  The Task Force Comet consisted of Task Group Thunder headed by Col. Hermogenes Esperon based in Isabela City; the Task Force Lightning headed by Col. Pedro Ramboanga based in Tipo-Tipo;  and Task Group Tornado headed by Marine Col. Renato Miranda based in Maluso municipality.

 

In the night of July 12, 2001, elements of the 103rd Army Brigade, which had already been dispatched to different areas in Baranggays Tabuk and  Sunset, Isabela City, positioned themselves in the areas where suspected Abu Sayyaf members and sympathizers resided. They surrounded the houses of their targets.

 

The only road connecting then six towns and one city of the province was saturated with checkpoints. From Isabela Cityto Sumisip town, there were 16 checkpoints only a few kilometres apart and were manned by military and paramilitary groups.

 

At dawn on July 13, 2001, the following day, while the residents of the villages were still asleep, soldiers wearing masks conducted a saturation drive.  They barged into the houses of the residents and forced them to come out so that the military could search their houses.  The males were herded together in one place while masked informants pointed to alleged ASG members and sympathizers, who were then arrested, hogtied and blindfolded, and their houses subjected to more intensive search. The soldiers simply ignored demands by the residents for search and arrest warrants.

 

Twenty-eight Isabela City residents were arrested and brought to the 103rd Brigade  Headquarters  in Baranggay Tabiawan, which is about four (4) kilometres away from Baranggay Tabuk where most of  the arrests were made. Inside the military camp, those arrested were subjected to tactical interrogation.  Some were physically and  mentally tortured to force them to admit complicity with the Abu Sayyaf group. They were mauled, slapped and beaten.Afterwards, all 28 arrested were made to sign a document that they were treated well and were not harmed.

 

Cases of kidnapping and Serious Illegal Detention were filed against the twenty-eight civilian residents.

 

On August 22, 2001, the AFP bombarded several villages in Sumisip town, causing the evacuation and displacement of entire communities.  By September, 23, 2001,  the Philippine Governmentís Department of Social Welfare and Development had placed the number of Basilan residents affected by the military operations to 78,736 individuals or 13,421 families.  Extensive looting of the abandoned houses of the residents took place. The displacement and the destruction and looting of their houses caused the residents untold suffering and loss of their livelihood.

 

Forced evacuations also caused the disruption of classes because schools were either occupied by the soldiers or used as evacuation centers, or the school buildings had been damaged by mortar shelling or aerial bombing during military operations.  Around 100 civilian residents were also illegally arrested.

 

Military operations resulted also in extrajudicial killings.  From June to August 2001, there were ten documented victims of extrajudicial killings all characterized by brutality as revealed by the perpetratorsí mutilation of remains, which also bore signs of torture.  The victims have been identified as follows: (1) Roque Hamajin, 17 yrs old; (2) Jaang Pulaan, 50 yrs old; (3) Mr. Hamajin, husband of Jaang Pulaan who all died on July 11, 2001 during the military operation conducted by the32nd IBPA in Bgy. Pipil, Tipo-Tipo, Basilan; (4) Ibno Mallaji, 27 yrs old, was abducted and burned to death on September 7, 2001 by elements of the Marines and CAFGU; (5) Banadin Ujajon, 45 yrs old; (6) Abdua Ujajon, 17 yrs old; (7) Abubakar Ujajon, 13 years old were found dead a month after they were abducted by CAFGUs from their farm on July 24, 2001; (8) Nuramun Asunum, 27 yrs old was arrested in a checkpoint at Bgy. Colonia, Lamitan and killed the day after; (9) Hadji Ahmad Asan was killed by CAFGUs and found dead on August 27, 2001 buried under a pile of coconut husks, his entire body was swollen from beating and his left foot was cut off; (10) Jasan Linungan, 22 yrs old was shot to death by elements of the military on June 10, 2001.

 

At present the illegally arrested victims, who have been brought to Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig, Metro Manila remain in detention. (Initially they were detained in the  Zamboanga City Reformatory Center and  Basilan Provincial Jail.  On November 2002, seventy-three of them were transferred to Camp Bagong Diwa.  For the purposes of campaign for their release they were named Basilan 73, referring  to innocent civilians arrested during the intensive military crackdown and to differentiate them from the real Abu Sayyaf inside jail. More than fifteen, most of whom were professionals and village leaders in Isabela City, were released in 2003 for lack of evidence linking them to the Abu Sayyaf group.)

 

Accoring to media accounts, on March 14, 2005 at around 7:30 AM, about 10 prisoners led by Alhamser Manatad Limbong, aka Commander Kosovo, staged a jailbreak in Camp Bagong Diwa. A team composed of ARMM Gov. Parouk Hussein, Congressman Mujiv Hataman, DILG Secretary Angelo Reyes and Gen. Avelino Razon of the Philippine National Police negotiated with the group of Commander Kosovo.  The jailbreakers demanded from the negotiators a guarantee that they will not be harmed after their surrender,  that there will be a speedy trial of their cases and an investigation of the human rights violations committed against them and that there will be full media coverage of their surrender to the police.  On March 15, 2005, at around 9:15 AM, Secretary Reyes ordered the PNP-SAF  (Special Action Force) to assault the SICA (Special Intensive Care Area) Building.  The PNP-SAF indiscriminately fired at the SICA Building, resulting in the death of 24 prisoners, including 11 who were part of the Free Basilan73, and injuring many inmates.

 

*Taken from Karapatanís report to the Permanent Peopleís Tribunal, Second Session on the Philippines, Repression and Resistance:  The Filipino People vs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, George W. Bush, et. Al, March 21-25, 2007, The Hague, The Netherlands. 

 

     
     

The forum became a reunion for human rights activists who in 2001 sought the families and friends of the victims of crackdown and who initiated a fact-finding mission that led to a congressional inquiry on the reported cases of human rights violations perpetrated by the military during the crackdown.

     
     

 

Seven years after under state of lawlessness, Basilan residents still fear
continuing crackdown

Seven years after the declaration of Basilan under state of lawlessness,
residents still live in fear that another massive crackdown would again be
conducted in Basilan following reports that the Philippine Marines is
renewing it's pursuit against extermist fighters suspected of killing 14
elements of a marine battalion landing team that conducted an operation in
Al-Barkah town on July 10, 2007.

According to Amirah Ali Lidasan, national president of Suara Bangsamoro,
her organization have gathered reports from the ground that additional
names will be included in last year's list of warrant issued against 127
Basilan residents, ten of whom were religious leaders while five were
already dead.

Some of those who were in the list, one of them a religious teacher,
complained to the media about the inclusion of their names and vowed they
were never members of any groups in Basilan nor were they involved in the
Al-Barkah incidents.

Lidasan further said that while Marine commandant Major General Ben
Dolorfino complains about justice being elusive against those who were
killed at the Al-Barkah fighting, the marines should not retaliate against
innocent civilian residents.

 

Lidasan also reminded Major General Dolorfino that for seven years justice
remained elusive for the civilian residents of Basilan who were arrested,
tortured and detained when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared
Basilan under state of lawlessness.
 


 

 

 

The intensive military crackdown conducted from July 13-15 in 2001,
resulted to more than 150 arrests of civilians, torture of 28 civilians,
summary killing of more than 10 civilians accused of supporting the Abu
Sayyaf and displacement of more than 70,000 residents of then eight towns
of Basilan.

Lidasan said that further said that her organization fear that President
Arroyo's visit in the United States last month was aimed at gaining more
support for her anti-terror policies in the country and to present again
"usual suspects" another crackdown would again be conducted in Moro areas.

As a way of remembering the victims of crackdown and helping the victims
pursue justice and to seek for the release of those arrested, Suara
Bangsamoro and Liga ng Kabataan Moro will be conducting forums in key
cities of Mindanao on July 14, 2008. The forums will feature all victims
of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's anti-war policy including a review of the
effect of the one-year implementation of the Human Security Act to the
Moro people.

"The Moro people is the most understood people when it seeks and fights
for justice. But just like the rest of the impoverished Filipino people,
justice remains more elusive as the government continue to brew conflict
and inflict fear to Moro civilians and close its doors to peace talks with
the revolutionary groups in Mindanao," said Lidasan#
 

 

 
 

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