Groups call on CHR to probe killings of Moro civilians in South Cotabato
KORONADAL CITY—Some 30 civil society groups have called on the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to investigate the alleged extrajudicial killing (EJK) of at least 80 Moro civilians in South Cotabato province.
In a statement of concern, the groups, among them human rights organization IDEFEND and workers’ coalition Sentro, said the “widespread and systematic killings” were allegedly perpetrated by unidentified vigilantes and police officers.
“(The victims) were summarily killed by riding in tandem vigilantes or in the hands of police authorities in the course of so-called police operations against drugs or lawless elements,” the groups said.
“While we abhor terrorism and equally denounce violent extremism, there is no legal and moral justification to kill any human being without due process of law especially innocent civilians,” they added.
The groups wanted the CHR to probe the killings, mostly happening in Polomolok town, so that appropriate charges can be filed against those involved.
They also appealed to Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez, Jr. and Philippine National Police Director General Guillermo Eleazar to mobilize peace and protection mechanisms to stop the Moro killings and to bring the perpetrators behind bars.
Herbert Demos, the group’s focal person, stressed that despite the soaring number of killings, the police allegedly failed to act and bring the perpetrators to the bar of justice.
“Moro communities in barangays Koronadal Proper, Sumbakil, Rubber, Lapu and Bentung in Polomolok town continue to live in fear and (under) constant (threat) that a husband, a son or a father could be the next victim,” he said.
Citing the testimonies of the victims’ families and witnesses, Demos said the victims were made to appear that they resisted arrest, fighting with firearms allegedly “planted” by the arresting team.
Police deny EJKs
Col. Jemuel Siason, South Cotabato police director, denied that there are EJK cases or presence of vigilantes in the province.
He defended the conduct of police operations against “wanted persons who are the subject of manhunt” saying these are legitimate and covered by warrants issued by the courts.
Earlier, Siason reported that terrorists groups like the Dawlah Islamiyah–Maguid Group operates in Moro communities in Polomolok town and that some of them were killed after resisting arrest.
Aida Silongan, a member of the interim parliament of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), has listed 61 victims who were killed since 2017.
In Silongan’s list, there were six killings in 2021, 36 in 2020, five in 2019, eight in 2018, and six in 2017.
Of the 61 killings in the list, 54 involved residents of Polomolok town, six from Tupi town, and one from Koronadal City.
Anathema to peace
The most number of deaths happened in November 13, 2020 and January 21, 2021 with five victims each, four of whom belong to one family.
Demos said the “decimation” of the Moro population in Polomolok “is anathema to the ongoing peace process in Mindanao.”
He urged the government and the foreign community to not turn a blind eye on the plight of Moro civilians outside of the BARMM who are subjected to “highly abnormal living conditions.”
Demos clarified that the various groups that signed the statement of concern have no intention of standing in the way of law enforcement operations, but that they only wanted due process and the civil and political rights of individuals respected.
In July last year, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, which governs the BARMM, expressed deep concern over the series of killings of Moros in the towns of Polomolok and Tupi in the last two years, some of whom were members of the MILF.