A national network of civil society organizations, human rights defenders and peace advocates questions the release of known Abu Sayyaf terrorists from government custody. The group is calling “for an immediate and impartial investigation over the suspicious release from detention of high-valued Abu Sayyaf inmates from the Special Intensive Care Area (SICA) of Bicutan Jail sometime in February 2013 through the alleged ‘facilitation’ of a very powerful politician from Sulu.”
The statement was released in the wake of a series of bombings in Mindanao that killed 17 and wounded 81 people. In their media release, the CSOs want the public to be aware about “the biggest question that up to now the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos and the Department of Justice refuse to answer”: Why were these Abu Sayyaf inmates released from prison? They also demand transparency on “who repackaged these highly dangerous terrorists to fall under the legal assistance program of the NCMF and made them appear as innocent Muslims wrongly arrested due to mistaken identity?”
The official statement of the secretary of the Department of Defense was that, a new group called ‘Khalifa Islamiyah’ (KI) is behind these bombings. The government believes that KI recruited from three known groups: Abu Sayyaf Group, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (a breakaway group from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front), and the Al Khobar (a known kidnap and extortion group).
The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters is led by Ameril Umra Kato who was a former commander of the MILF’s 105th Base Command. In 2008, he broke away from the MILF over serious disagreements with MILF on peace negotiation issues with the government. The BIFF was involved in recent attacks on government troops in Maguindanao.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) through Muhammad Ameen, chair of the MILF Secretariat, have expressed condemnation “against this kind of barbarism where civilians are deliberately targeted as means to deliver message for an evil agenda.” A report also referred to Von Al Haq, a spokesperson for the MILF, that a Malaysian terrorist named Zulkifli bin Hir (aka ‘Marwan’) is being coddled by the BIFF in Central Mindanao.
CSO MEDIA STATEMENT ON THE RELEASE OF ASG FROM SICA
August 12, 2013
Why were these Abu Sayyaf bombers released from jail?
On behalf of the bereaved families and victims of bombings and kidnappings in Mindanao and in the interest truth and justice, the undersigned civil society organizations, human rights defenders and peace advocates strongly call for an immediate and impartial investigation over the suspicious release from detention of high-valued Abu Sayyaf inmates from the Special Intensive Care Area (SICA) of Bicutan Jail sometime in February 2013 through the alleged “facilitation” of a very powerful politician from Sulu.
While Mindanaoans are terrorized with the spate of bombings now rocking the fledgling peace in Mindanao, it is highly repulsive and mind-boggling why national agencies of government like the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), which is under the Office of the President, and the Task Force on Anti-Terrorism of the Department of Justice allowed the release of highly dangerous terrorists who made no qualms that they are involved in bombings and kidnappings.
On February 7, 2013, national print and online media outfits reported the order of the Department of Justice to release 18 suspected Abu Sayyaf men allegedly wrongfully accused of kidnapping as “There appears to be no proof of their participation in the kidnapping much less evidence of their purported membership in the Abu Sayyaf Group.” The 18 were charged for the kidnapping and beheading of Jehovah’s Witness/Almeda Group members in 2002. Because of the dropping of their criminal charges by the DOJ, these 18 walked to freedom on February 15, 2013.
What is shocking is that barely a month from their release from prison, four of these 18 suspects, namely Muhammad Sali Said, Robin Sahiyal, Julhamad Ahad and Mujibar Amon were presented before the Regional Trial Court of Manila-Branch 19 as witnesses of Governor Abdusakur Tan in criminal cases which he has filed against a known human rights defender from Sulu.
In open court, these men have admitted that they are bombers, kidnappers and proud active members of the Abu Sayyaf Group. Sali Said, the star witness produced by the Governor, admitted that he was released from prison through the help of the lawyer of the governor who offered to help him “process (his) papers for release” on the condition that his group will agree to stand as false witnesses for the governor.
Why these Abu Sayyaf inmates released from prison is the biggest question that up to now the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos and the Department of Justice refuse to answer. Who repackaged these highly dangerous terrorists to fall under the legal assistance program of the NCMF and made them appear as innocent Muslims wrongly arrested due to mistaken identity? While we are of course supportive of this type of programs as there are indeed hundreds of innocent detainees now languishing in jail, we strongly condemn the act of “inserting” into the list of innocent Muslims wrongly arrested due to mistaken identity—the names of at least four Abu Sayyaf bombers and kidnappers, namely Robin Sahiyal, Muhammad Sali Said and Julhamad Ahadi who walked to freedom last February 15, 2013.
While our young soldiers are risking their lives and limbs running after the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu, it is simply sickening to the senses and a complete mockery of justice to find our own national agencies like the NCMF and DOJ providing free legal assistance to high-valued terrorists, bombers and kidnappers? How can we ever reconcile the use of taxpayers’ money to set free the Abu Sayyaf Group? How can NCMF and DOJ ever miss the sea of difference between an innocent Muslim wrongly arrested due to mistaken identity and the solid intelligence dossier of these hard core terrorists?
Who placed the names of these terrorists into the list of innocent Muslims wrongly arrested due to mistaken identity? Who made the deal so that the four ASG witnesses of the Governor will be categorized as innocent Muslims? Who closed his eyes on the glaring fact that these four are Abu Sayyaf members? Who repackaged the four terrorists to become innocent, wrongly arrested Muslims so they can qualify into the NCMF legal assistance program?
These questions demand answers from NCMF, DOJ and the Provincial Government of Sulu whose appalling modus operandi has ostensibly exposed the civilian population into such extreme level of risks from these terrorists who are now freely roaming around public places and could now be plotting the next bomb to detonate and kill our own people.
We appeal to the Philippine Senate to immediately call for an inquiry so that the NCMF, DOJ and the Vice Governor of Sulu will be able to answer for all these issues.
In the name of the victims of bombings and other terroristic acts in Mindanao, we urge President Aquino to demonstrate the full force of the law by holding his very own agencies of government and political allies accountable to the “matuwid na daan” policy.
Mindanao Coalition of Development NGOs
REV. L. DANIEL PANTOJA
PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI)
PASTOR REU MONTECILLO
Mindanao Peoples Caucus
SISTER MARIA ARNOLD NOEL, SPPS
Mindanao Solidarity Network
MAX DE MESA
Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates
Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society
Reform the ARMM Now (RAN)
Bong D. Fabe, Freelance Journalist; ACCESS-ACDO
Mindanao Congress of Development NGOs and NGIs (MINCON)
Freedom from Debt Coalition
Moro-IP Kinship Council
Alliance of Progressive Labor
Concerned Citizens of Sulu
Radyo Natin Club – Lanao del Norte
One People Mindanao
Balay Rehabilitation Center
Bangsamoro Center for Just Peace
Mindanao Alliance for Peace and Development (MAPAD)
United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD)
Mindanao Migrants Center for Empowering Actions
Bangsamoro Youth Leaders Forum
Organization of Teduray and Lambangian Conference
United Youth Philippines
Mindanao Alliance for Peace
Cotabato Council of Elders
Maranao Peoples Development Center
Mindanao Peace Partners
Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)
Philippine Human Rights Information Center (PHILRIGHTS)
PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI)
Medical Action Group
Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya
Civil Society Forum for Peace and Development
Mindanao Solidarity Network
International Solidarity Conference on Mindanao
Task Force Detainees of the Philippines
Tripeople Concern for Peace and Development
Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao
MNLF Arakan Cooperative
Task Force Kalilintad
Task Force Ugalingan Limbalod
Federation of Matigsalug Tribal Councils
Tripeople for Peace and Development
Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches
Mindanao Legal Assistance Center, Inc.
Bangsamoro Women Initiatives for Development, Inc.
Mindanao Peoples Caucus
SOCSKSARGEN Workers Network for Grassroots Advocacy (SWN)
Hugpong Alang sa Yanong Mamumuo sa Gensan (HAYAG)
National Confederation Of Transportworkers Union(NCTU)
Kapisanan ng Maralitang Obrero (KAMAO)
Building Alternative Rural Resource Institutions and Organizing Services (BARRIOS)
Bangsamoro Initiatives for Services and Consultancy, Inc.
Fatima Tricycle Operators and Drivers Association (FATODA)
Yumang-LlidoMisa Mini Tricycle operators and Drivers Association(YULLIMMTODA)
San Jose Integrated Social Forestry Farmers Association(SJISFFA)
Social Workers Coordinating Council (SWCC)
Sulu Ulama Council for Peace and Development
Tulung Lupah Sug
San Juan Workers and Community Association (SANJUWOCA)
NOORUS SALAM, Central Mindanao
ITTIHADUN NISA FOUNDATION (INFO), Inc.
Women’s Initiative for Social Empowerment(WISE)
Alyansa ng mga Nagkakaisang Kabataang Manggagawa(AKMA)
Maligaya Community Workers Association (MACOWA)
Kahugpungan sa Mindanao
National Ulama Conference of the Philippines (NUCP)-Maguindanao Provincial Chapter
Foundation for Integral and Holistic Community Development
Peoples Center for Community Development
Center for Peoples Self-Determination
Technical Assistance Center for Development of Rural and Urban Poor
Landcare Foundation of the Philippines
Mahad Multipurpose Cooperative
Kaumpiya sa Mindanao, Inc.
Archdiocese Center for Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue
Neo Iranun Multi Sectoral Association (NIMSA), Inc.
Apo Agbibilin, Inc.
Manobo Lumandong Panaghiusa
Peksalabukan Bangsa Subanen
Mindanao Farmers Development Center
SELDA Greater Davao
Local Initiatives for Peace and Development in Mindanao (LIPAD MINDANAO), Inc.
Pagungayan Ami so mga Kagnudaan Antapan ko Kamapiyaan ago Kadtatabanga (PAKAT), Inc.
Moro Women Development and Cultural Center (MWDECC), Inc.
Tabang Ako Siyap Ko Bangsa Iranun Saya Ko Kalilintad Ago
FOR INQUIRIES, please contact:
Rose Trajano: 0906-553-1792 and (02)436-26-33
Jun Aparece: 09177015058
PeaceBuilders Community stands in unity with our partners in this statement as we work with them in advancing peace and justice in our land.