Sweeping arrests in Basilan feared
ZAMBOANGA CITY—Virtually half of an entire village was recommended charged in connection with the Oct. 18 attack that led to the killing of 19 soldiers in a Basilan town, prompting the province’s bishop and the guerrilla group Moro Islamic Liberation Front to call for a review of a list of suspects prepared by the military.
Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad and the MILF said the list was unbelievable. “Ginoo ko (My God),” Jumoad said in a phone interview.
Jumoad sounded shocked at the sheer number of people in the charge sheet because it exceeded the number of adult males in Barangay Cambug in Al-Barka town.
The charge sheet recommended the filing of charges against at least 308 people, mostly unidentified but residents of the village. Eight of those were members of the MILF.
Jumoad said it would be better for government to review the list and to conduct “good research.”
The bishop said authorities should coordinate with village officials to prepare a more credible list of suspects. He said it appeared that the list was done in haste.
The MILF said that based on records from the Commission on Elections, Cambug has a total voting population of 604.
“Of the 604 voters, less than 300 are male,” the rebel group said in a post on its website.
“Our authorities must be clear on who are the people that they are really going after,” Jumoad said.
Allan Pisingan, chair of the Bantay Ceasefire in Basilan, said the listing of practically all males in Cambug could result in massive human rights violations in Basilan.
“The issuance of arrest warrants without the benefit of an investigative mission may again result in massive arrests of innocent civilians in the area, thus resulting in another wave of human rights violations in the province,” Pisingan said.
Al-Barka Vice Mayor Sacour Haron agreed with Pisingan.
“The number of persons to be arrested exceeded the (male) voting population of Cambug,” Haron said.
He said this could be a big problem. Haron said the fact that the list contained “300 John Does” could justify indiscriminate arrests.
“They could have easily identified those allegedly involved. The problem with John Does is they can arrest anybody, including minors,” Haron said.
Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang, spokesperson of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said the unidentified men on the list did not refer to the male population of Barangay Cambug.
“They are the number of estimated followers of (MILF commander) Dan Asnawi and (Abu Sayyaf leader) Long Malat,” he said. Julie Alipala and Allan Nawal, Inquirer Mindanao
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