DOJ: Zambo siege suspects tortured
ZAMBOANGA CITY—Authorities used torture on some of the suspects in the Sept. 9, 2013 terror attack by followers of Moro leader Nur Misuari on this city, according to a report by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Details of the torture were contained in the 63-page resolution of the DOJ on its reinvestigation of charges filed against 287 suspects in the attack.
The department had earlier recommended the dropping of charges against 60 of them for lack of evidence, such as gunpowder residue and witnesses’ testimony.
According to the report, those tortured said their heads were wrapped in plastic bags, their feet hit by baseball bats, and their genitals stapled.
They said they were being forced to confess participation in the attack and membership in the Misuari-led Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
Some of the victims were identified as Jeffrey Umandak, Makrin Manambahi and Botes Mahamud, all residents of Barangay (village) Sta. Barbara here.
Umandak owns a house at Ayer Village in Sta. Barbara. Among his neighbors are Manambahi, a utility worker of Sta. Barbara Elementary School, and Mahamud, a pedicab driver.
The three left their homes after the government announced a forced evacuation on Sept. 14. With white cloth on sticks, they ran toward government soldiers.
“However when they were within reach, soldiers hit them with the butts of their rifles, made to lie flat on the ground, and their hands and necks tied with a rope,” said the DOJ report, a copy of which was obtained by the Inquirer.
During interrogation, the report said, the three were “subjected to torture, questioning, forcing them to admit that they are members of the MNLF.”
“They were repeatedly punched, kicked and their heads wrapped with plastic bags,” it said.
The three were brought to Camp Batalla “for another round of interrogation” and later to the city police office, it said.
At the police station, the report said, “police punched staple wires on their (victims’) nipples, their feet bound and their faces covered with plastic bags, and their penises punched with staple wires.”
Lawyer Edylyn Santiago, head of the subregional office of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s Human Rights Commission, said 29 of the 60 whose cases were recommended for dismissal are from Basilan province, eight from Sulu, 14 from Zamboanga City, 2 from Zamboanga del Norte province, and 6 from Zamboanga Sibugay province.
Most of those from Basilan are from Barangay Sulutan Matangal in Mohammad Ajul town.
They “are innocent,” said their mayor, Talib Pawaki, in a phone interview. “Most of them are poor fishermen and boat people who were just contracted by the MNLF to bring them to Zamboanga City.”
Pawaki said more than 10 fishermen from his town were killed during the terror attack, while more than two dozen are in jail.
Commissioner Edilwasif Baddiri of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos said freeing the suspects is taking too long. Julie S. Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao
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