‘Muslim type?’ NBI sorry for sketch
ZAMBOANGA CITY—The artist’s sketch was meant to inform the public of the man behind Friday’s bombing of a bus here, which left a girl dead and 33 others wounded, except for one disgusting description: “Muslim type.”
Fernando Lavin, director of the National Bureau of Investigation for Western Mindanao, said he was taking full responsibility for the lapse and apologized for it. “I think this matter (release of artist’s sketch) was mishandled, and if there were lapses in handling this sensitive information, I have and I am apologizing,” he told reporters in a news briefing here on Monday morning.
Senior Supt. Angelito Casimiro, city police chief, later admitted to the Inquirer that he was the one who released a copy of the sketch to a television news crew on Saturday.
“It was confidential when the sketch was provided to us by the NBI. However, we deemed it necessary to release the sketch to the public so we sought the approval of Chief Supt. Miguel Antonio, the regional police chief,” he said.
Over the weekend, Facebook users, including Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and his wife, Amin Rep. Djalia Turabin, roundly criticized the use of the “Muslim type” label on the artist’s sketch.
Using the #enddiscriminationnow hashtag, Hataman and Turabin led netizens in questioning the manner by which authorities were conducting their investigation.
“To describe a suspect as a ‘Muslim type’ speaks volumes about deeply rooted prejudices that many people have, and to have people in law enforcement who have this kind of prejudice is no small matter,” Hataman said in a text message. “This is the same bigotry and prejudice that is used to wrongly justify trumped-up charges, illegal arrests and human rights violations against our Muslim brothers and sisters,” he said.
Abdulwahid Lutian, a member of Ulama Council of Zamboanga Peninsula, said he could not believe that government authorities themselves were the ones discriminating against Muslims.
“Muslim means a person who surrenders herself or himself, a complete submission of self to the will of Allah. Now they should tell us how did they come up with a description of a Muslim to one bus-bombing suspect? Do they have a template of how a Muslim and a non-Muslim look like?” Lutian said.
Earlier, Casimiro and Lavin explained that the words “Muslim type” did not come from the investigators. They said an artist from Manila drew the sketch based on the description taken from two witnesses.
“We did not coach the witnesses, they just shared whatever they recalled and the artist just sketched and placed some details based on the description made by the witnesses,” Lavin said. He refused to name the artist or the witnesses.
Lavin, who was not aware that Casimiro was the one who released the sketch, said in the press briefing that an internal investigation was being conducted to find out how the drawing was leaked to the media. Casimiro fell silent when Lavin, who came in late, spoke.
Casimiro said there could be more than one suspect as the hooded guy in the sketch was seen talking with someone on the phone for about three minutes before the bomb went off.
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