Zamboanga siege evacuee arrested after posting ‘no to relocation’ signs outside tent
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—For posting “No to Relocation” streamers outside his tent, an evacuee was arrested by police allegedly upon the orders of an employee of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
Senior Inspector Joseph Ortega, spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Regional Police Office, said the arrest of Badjao evacuee Abdel Sakandal was based on the complaint filed by Abner Mundoc, a DSWD employee assigned to look after the evacuees at the RT Lim Boulevard, also known here as Cawa-Cawa.
Ortega said Mundoc accused the evacuee of “violation of public order” when he posted streamers, fashioned from sacks, outside his tent.
Sakandal is one of hundreds of evacuees who refused to be relocated to government-designated sites. The evacuees want to return to their homes, which were razed during the fighting between government troops and members of the Moro National Liberation Front in September last year.
“We were told that whether we like it or not, we need to leave the evacuation area before May 15. This is why we collected money to buy sacks and paint to make the streamers to express our demand not to be relocated,” Sakandal told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
“I did not violate any law,” Sakandal added.
Still, Sakandal was arrested on Monday morning. He was released hours later after agreeing to remove the streamers.
DSWD regional director Zenaida Arevalo was not picking up calls made by the Inquirer.
Human Rights Commissioner Jose Manuel Mamauag said Sakandal was just expressing his right against forced relocation.
“He didn’t commit a crime so why arrest him and why order an arrest of an IDP (Internally Displaced Person)? His arrest is illegal. If the local government forces the IDPs to transfer against their will, then that becomes forced eviction,” Mamauag said.
Human Rights Chair Etta Rosales, in a press briefing here Tuesday, reminded the local government that it should be more patient and consultative in dealing with IDPs.
“IDPs are the most vulnerable and marginalized sectors and I really want to talk and write to Mayor (Isabelle) Climaco (Salazar). We should do something because the situation of IDPs is really very bad, a lot of children dying of malnutrition,” Rosales said. The CHR is also looking into what Mundoc has done.
Sakandal said he was advised by the DSWD and the police to remove the streamers as “these catch the attention of those passing by Cawa-Cawa.”
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