2 groups question arrest of fish vendor
If Isnajir Sakkam really took part in the 2001 hostage-taking at Golden Harvest Plantation in Lantawan town in Basilan, he would have been among the youngest to be involved in the crime at the age of 7 or 8 years.
Sakkam, a fish vendor at the old public market here, was arrested by police last week.
According to Director Samuel Pagdilao Jr., head of the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, Sakkam is Abu Fatima, a “subcommander” of the Abu Sayyaf bandit group.
But a military intelligence officer, who asked not to be named for lack of authority to speak on the matter, said “the real Abu Fatima (whose real name is Wahab Opao) was killed in Tawi-Tawi in 2008.”
Abu Sayyaf raid
On June 11, 2001, Abu Sayyaf bandits raided Golden Harvest Plantation, taking with them 15 workers. Two of the hostages were later found to have been beheaded, while the rest were freed one by one.
Lawyer Galuasch Ballaho, executive director of the Mindanao Human Rights Action Network (Minhrac). said that based on his group’s investigation, Sakkam never set foot on Basilan.
“If the police report were true, then the fish vendor would be 7 or 8 years old then when he joined the hostage-taking—that is, if the fish vendor arrested is indeed a member of the Abu Sayyaf,” Ballaho said.
Rommel Banlaoi, executive director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research (PIPVTR), told the Inquirer that it was difficult to consider Sakkam as having been directly involved in the 2001 hostage-taking. “He was a first grader at that time,” he said.
Banlaoi’s organization keeps tracks and records of antiterrorism campaigns in the Philippines.
“We have documented several cases in different jails and, sad to note, our enforcers are not that cautious in double-checking their information,” he said.
“There are many cases of illegal arrests and mistaken identities. It is easy to arrest and put the person in jail, but it takes quite long to bring them out.”
Minhrac has documented discrepancies in the arrests made by law enforcers, including the case of kidnapping suspect Jan Jamiri.
“There are two Jan Jamiris in jail—one at the Zamboanga City Reformatory Center and the other at the Basilan Provincial Reformatory Center,” Ballaho said.
He said the real name of the Basilan detainee is Jan Hashim, while the real Jan Jamiri is under the government’s witness protection program.
Hashim, 22, was also accused of being involved in the hostage-taking at Golden Harvest Plantation. Julie S. Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao
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