Tuesday, April 14, 2009

No complaints filed before our office - CHR

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – The Commission on Human Rights investigating team returned from Sulu empty handed and the 7 “freed alleged Abu Sayyaf conspirators” have not filed any formal complaint before the commission.

“They have not filed any complaint,” before the Commission on Human Rights, said Reymundo Ituralde, Chief, Investigation Division.

Ituralde’s group was expecting for the legal counsel of the 7 alleged conspirators to file a complaint before their office after their release.

“We can not do anything unless they will file,” a complaint before the commission said Ituralde.

The team also received information, aside from the 7 individuals accused of conspiring with the Abu Sayyaf, there were 36 others who were allegedly invited by police for questioning.

The group however was not able to meet any of the 36 “invitees” during their investigation in Jolo over the weekend.

“We were looking for them, wala talaga,” Ituralde claimed.

The seven were part of the individuals invited and arrested in the crackdown following the declaration of state of emergency in the province.

Ituralde claimed, they also tried looking for the 36 individuals who were allegedly invited by police. The number of invited individuals came from the legal counsel of the network of civic groups in Sulu.

They are interested to know the manner of invitation done to the “suspects” through an interview.

Ituralde said, they expected to “reduce the statement to affidavits,” if they were able to at least interview one of those invited by the police.

For human rights lawyers, invitation is legal if “not tainted by coercion” from the part of the police. Their interest lies in the manner how the “arrest” of the accused.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Bunot, INDANAN, SULU, Philippines – The Civilian Emergency Force have been in the bushes here for weeks staying in make shift tents, abandoned houses and farm huts making sure the Abu Sayyaf will not be able to cross the “constricted area”.

Hassan Abdulajid, 35, resident of Bilaan, Talipao is with a team of the Philippine National Police who were assigned here to take part in the “blocking force” of other joint CEF-AFP forward elements in the hinterlands of Indanan.

They ate the provisions of the Police supplied by the municipality of Indanan and Provincial government.

Abdulajid claimed, he is more concerned if the Abu Sayyaf can break the “cordon” which the government has set. In Tausug, he said “the area is so porous, where at times the Abu Sayyaf can sneak out”.

Their base camp is the burned municipal hall of Indanan.

Abdulajid is part of the 150 CEF from Talipao now assigned in the periphery of Indanan together with the CEF of the barangays in the hi-way of Indanan.

Kasim Sajili, 28, resident of Pasil, Indanan is also stationed next to barangay Poblacion, Indanan. With Sajili are around 30 CEFs from Pasil and Barangay Bunot.

Both Sajili and Abdulajid are eager to see a resolution to the crisis soon. However, Sajili hoped lives will not be wasted in the resolution of the conflict. He is also ready to defend his community “kahit na makapatay ako ng tao.”

The CEF were recently visited by Police Regional Director P/Chief Supt. Bensali Jabarani.

Jabarani reiterated the need of their cooperation considering the crisis has put the country to shame. “Sa Sulu lang may nangyari pagkidnap ng tauhan ng ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross)”, (Only in Sulu where personnel of ICRC was kidnapped) Jabarani quoted saying in Tausug to CEF here.

“We appreciate your sacrifices,” Jabarani told the CEF under Indanan Mayor Hussin I. Ahajan.

The pressure to the Philippine government is high as it “involves ICRC and foreign nationals,” Jabarani explained to CEF here.

Abu Sayyaf now internet savy

JOLO, SULU, Philippines – The Abu Sayyaf has shifted its tactics from mere frontal media propaganda to internet-based media release, a military intelligence operative here observed.

“Gumagamit na sila ng MP4 video at dinadaan sa internet,” (The Abu Sayyaf are using Mp4 videos and use internet) in disseminating their propaganda, the source who requested anonymity due to sensitivity of information said.

The source claimed, the video that circulated in the Philippine media where the three ICRC volunteers – Swiss Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba, was filmed using an MP4 device was disseminated using as “an email attachment” sent to media personalities.

The 3rd Marine Brigade confirmed, the Abu Sayyaf together with at least 4 Jemaah Islamiya (JI) “advisers” is closing in to where there are cellular phone signal.

The Task Force ICRC in Sulu has shut off cellular communication sites in the general area of Indanan and Parang, all in Sulu island.

“There are areas there where you can get signal,” despite shutting off the cellular sites in Indanan and Parang, said 3rd Marine Brigade Commander Col. Eugene Clemen.

Clemen brushed off the information regarding the Abu Sayyaf’s shift of propaganda medium. However, he said, there are JI operatives who are with the Abu Sayyaf that are more advanced than the home grown terrorists.

Of the four JI operatives, the military informants has identified, two are identified by their guerilla “first names”.

These JIs are involved in bomb making, strategy and tactics, communications and at times in some decision makings. “They are teachers and advisers,” of the Abu Sayyaf, Clemen said.

The Marine brigade however, declined to give the names of other JI operatives except that of the Singaporean Indian looking Muawiya.

Sources also claimed, Muawiya’s right hand, a young energetic teacher was seen in the last video of the Abu Sayyaf where the group presented the three hostages.

“Yung nasa kanang bahagi ng screen, na kalbo at binansag na si Parad ng media ay JI hindi si Parad,” (The one at the right side of the screen, the bald person whom the media said was Parad was a JI and not Parad) the source said.

The source declined to make public the name of the said JI, but said he was the one “bringing a laptop” in the group.

Sulu evacuees reached 7600

JOLO, SULU, Philippines – The number of evacuees here has now reached to 7,600, mostly housed in evacuation centers in four municipalities in Sulu, Task Froce ICRC disclosed today.

The evacuees are housed in school buildings in the municipalities of Indanan, Tapilapao, Maimbung and Parang, said Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan, Chairman, Task Force ICRC.

The provincial government has recorded so far the number of individuals or families who went to evacuation centers provided by the government. Tan claimed, there “could be more” as others are staying in their relatives in adjacent municipalities of Idanan, Talipao and Maimbung.

The military however is surprised on the rising number of evacuees since there is no impending military operation against the Abu Sayyaf. The Abu Sayyaf is holding two foreign ICRC volunteers hostage for 88 days.

Task Force ICRC Spokesman Col. Edgard Arevalo said, there is “no direct information of military operations” to civilians.

Most of the evacuees claim, they fear being caught by the crossfire. Male evacuees said, they rather be at evacuation center ‘to prevent being arrested or invited by military of police.

Civilians see a semi-martial in Sulu Island, as they no longer move freely in the dark.

Arevalo said, a civilian does not have to be apprehensive of the “State of Emergency” “kung wala silang kasalanan, hindi problema yun,” he added.

Arevalo said, the evacuation was stemmed from the “misinformation” being done by unscrupulous civilians” in Jolo proper.

The provincial social welfare office is in charge of the documentation and distribution of relief goods to “internally displaced people(IDPs)” who are now in the different evacuation centers in the province.

Evacuees received initial food assistance from the government like rice, noodles, eggs, and flour and basic medicines.

The biggest numbers of evacuees in the town proper of Parang, said Arevalo.

Parang is very much affected with IDPs because it is where Abu Sayyaf leader Al-Bader roam with his captives.

Civilians flee AFP cries another ASG tactic

Brgy. Bunot, INDANAN, SULU, Philippines – Civilians here staying in areas where the Abu Sayyaf roam, have fled to evacuation centers due to military presence, but the military termed it “misinformation campaign” by the enemies.

The military acknowledge there are “misinformation” campaign being conducted by the Abu Sayyaf being passed to communities in the hinterlands of Indanan and Parang.

“Mayroon talagang naglalakad at nagpapasabi na simulan namin ang operasyon,” said 3rd Marine Brigade Commander, Col. Eugene Clemen.

In Tausug, Hajirun Sapayani, 55 said they were informed by their elders in the community of “a pending military operation.”

Sapayani is a father of 7 and resident of Taran, Indanan, Sulu now seek shelter in Poblacion Elementary School, in Indanan.

Clemen believed that was part of the “misinformation” by the Abu Sayyaf through its sympathizers and supporters.

Barangay Taran, about 7 kilometers from Poblacion Indanan, is accordingly both sanctuary and lair for the Abu Sayyaf, said Clemen.

Sapayani said, they fled their homes for fear of being caught in the cross fire. Aside from their house and some farm animals, Sapayani said, they also left their fruit bearing trees ready for harvest.

He said, they rather be safe and accept the lost of the produce of their fruit trees – like Durian and mangosteen. Sapayani’s family shares a classroom with 4 other families from Taran, Indanan.

Sapayani claimed, they have not seen the hostages and their captives passing in their community, but admits the community is frequented by the group before.

Clemen on the other hand said, the Marines have established a detachment in Taran together with the CEF (Civilian Emergency Force) assuring residents of their safety. “Bakit sila aalis, wala namang eminent threat,” (Why are they leaving, there is no eminent threat) he said.

The military continue to add pressure to the Abu Sayyaf holding two foreign Red Cross workers for more than 80 days, using CEF as forward elements in the “constricted area”.