Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume IV, Number 23 July 11 - 17, 2004 Quezon City, Philippines
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
�Basilan Fall Guys,� Three Years Later
Since July 2001, the Arroyo government has been rounding up people suspected of being terrorists. The arrests, according to human-rights groups, were illegal while those arrested had complained of torture. To date, 124 of these men � most of them Muslims � are languishing at Camp Bagong Diwa, awaiting trial.
the early morning hours of July 13, 2001, soldiers stormed the house of
the Saliddin family in a village called Tupay, in Isabela City, Basilan,
in the southern Philippines. The soldiers barked their orders: �All men
should come down!�
the house, a man wearing a ski mask stepped forward and pointed at
Abdulmoner Saliddin, then a 26-year-old student. Abdulmoner, the man said,
is a member of the Abu Sayyaf Group.
who was then a graduating student taking up an engineering course at the
AE College in Zamboanga City, was flabbergasted. The soldiers approached
him; when Abdulmoner resisted, one of them snarled at him: �Go explain
yourself to Gloria!� referring to the president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
and his father, Munap, were then taken to an Army camp in Tabuk, in the
same city. Shortly before noon, they were transferred to the headquarters
of the Army�s 103rd Infantry Brigade in a place called Tabiawan in
Sallidins are just two of the dozens of Filipinos rounded up by the
military and the police since 2001, accused of being terrorists and
members of the Abu Sayyaf. As of this week, 124 of them still languish at
the Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig, Metro Manila; all of them had been charged
with kidnapping. Four of the detainees are minors while the oldest, a
77-year-old Tausug from Basilan, is in a pitiable condition inside the
jailhouse, suffering from the ravages of Alzheimer�s disease.
arrest and detention of these men, most of them Muslims, were part of the
Arroyo regime�s �crackdown� on the Abu Sayyaf since the bandit group
abducted 21 local and foreign guests at the Dos Palmas Resort in Palawan,
an island south of Manila, three years ago.
This �crackdown� had been intensified through massive military
operations after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
Arroyo government had earlier declared Basilan in a �state of
lawlessness.� Through a memorandum from the Department of Justice, the
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) was ordered to arrest even without
warrant all persons suspected of being Abu Sayyaf members and
sympathizers. This �crackdown� had turned Basilan into what
human-rights groups had called �a virtual garrison.�
groups had said that the arrests and detention were illegal. In fact, some
of those abducted have been reported missing and are feared to have been
the �crackdown� against the Abu Sayyaf has resulted in the death and
the capture of key Abu Sayyaf leaders (among them Abu Sabaya, who was
killed during a military operation to rescue Gracia and Martin Burnham,
the Americans whom the Abu Sayyaf abducted from Dos Palmas, and Ghalib
Andang alias Kumander Robot and Nadzmie
Saabdullah also known as �Kumander Global,� who have been
arrested and presently detained in Camp Bagong Diwa), the group still
terrorizes Basilan and some areas of Mindanao.
one detainee put it, �The military couldn�t destroy the Abu Sayyaf in
the mountains so it turned its ire on us who are in the cities.�
have been questions raised against the methods used by the authorities in
the �crackdown.� In the case of the Saliddins, for example, the father
and son went through a routine medical check-up but they were forced to
sign a waiver that said that they had not been harmed and that they were
in good condition when brought into custody. After signing the waiver, the
nightmare began, Abdulmoner said.
was forced to admit that he was a member of the Abu Sayyaf. Each time he
denied that he was a member, the interrogators mauled him, he said. At one
point, he was struck with a nail on his left face. The soldiers also used
long-nosed pliers on his tongue to force him to talk, he told Bulatlat.com
in an interview this week.
July 16, 2001, Abdulmoner and his father were brought to the Southern
Command headquarters in Zamboanga City and were charged with kidnapping,
with Abdulmoner being accused of 52 counts. On Dec. 8 that same year, they
were transferred to Camp Bagong Diwa. Almost two years later, in November
2003, Munap was released. To this day, Abdulmoner is still languishing
inside Cell No. 46.
Abdulmoner insists he is innocent of the charges against him. His only wish, he said, is to be reunited soon with his family in Basilan -- and perhaps finish his studies. Bulatlat.com