Torture of Abu Sayyaf suspect felt ‘like an ambush’ to Marine commander
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Task Force Basilan commander Colonel Alexander Macario said the torture of a suspected Abu Sayyaf member allegedly by some of his men was shocking and frustrating.
“It was like I was ambushed,” Macario said.
The victim, Abdul Khan Ajid, was arrested by soldiers on July 23 on suspicion he was Kanneh Malikilivo, an alleged Abu Sayyaf member.
But his family insisted he was a baker and was never an Abu Sayyaf member.
Ajid had said he was beaten black and blue and suffered serious burns while soldiers forced him to admit he was with Abu Sayyaf.
Macario said he never got a hint that the suspect had been tortured when he was informed that something happened to Ajid, whom he continued to refer to as Malikilivo.
He said he found out about Ajid’s ordeal only when he ordered his men to bring him to court following the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus peitioned by Ajid’s family.
“It was in the court where I saw the suspect. I was really very frustrated,” Macario said.
He said he had no idea that soldiers could do such thing to a suspected Abu Sayyaf.
“I had no idea they were being abusive. I don’t think that there could be justifiable reason – personal or otherwise – to do that,” Macario said.
As a result, he said, he immediately ordered the arrest of Captain Sherwin Guidangen, S/Sergeant Elmer Magdaraog, Sgt. Edgardo Santos and Sgt. George Awing, and recommended them for court-martial proceedings.
Lieutenant Colonel Randolph Cabangbang, Western Mindanao Command spokesman, said all the personnel suspected of involvement in the torture had been placed “under tactical arrest.”
He said the court martial would not affect any criminal case the Ajid family might be planning to file against the soldiers.
As Ajid’s story came to light, another suspected Abu Sayyaf member cried torture in the hands of soldiers in Basilan, according to Nixon Alonzo, executive director of the Basilan Human Rights Center.
Alonzo said the 17-year-old B.S. Education student of the Mindanao State University in Lamitan was recently arrested and was coerced into admitting he was in possession of explosives.
Alonzo said the student was being detained at the Basilan Provincial Jail despite being a minor and has not been turned over to the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development as the law requires.
Rita Nemesio of the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines said the Basilan torture stories were just the tip of the iceberg.
She said from January last year up to June this year, they have documented 57 cases of torture involving authorities nationwide.
“We are asking President [Benigno] Aquino [III] to conduct an impartial investigation of the military establishment,” Nemesio said.
Allan Pisingan of Bantay Ceasefire in Basilan said there might have been other cases of torture in the province but that the victims or their families would rather be quiet about them.
“Impunity is the primary reason why cases like torture exist. People are afraid to speak up. If there are some documented cases, families and victims are afraid to pursue the cases, they are afraid of the troops,” Pisingan said.
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