HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Camp Bagong Diwa Likened
Muslim detainees appeal for humane treatment
In a privilege speech Oct. 4, Gabriela
Women’s Party Rep. Liza Maza called Camp Bagong Diwa Detention Center as
the Philippines’ version of Auswichtz. Auswichtz was the infamous German
concentration camp that housed Jews rounded up during World War II. Jews
then suffered under inhumane prison conditions, were made to do hard labor,
and the weak were sent to gas chambers.
By May Vargas
Posted by Bulatlat
On Oct. 5, the start of this years' holy
month of Ramadhan, Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza delivered a privilege speech in
the House of Representatives calling Camp Bagong Diwa Detention Center as
the Philippines ' very own, "Auswichtz” where Filipino Muslims are
detained under appalling conditions.
Testimonies of the detainees themselves as
well their families and relatives about the unjust and discriminatory
policy imposed in the detention center have reached the office of the
woman legislator after the August 2005 International Solidarity Mission
(ISM). A team from the ISM conducted a jail visit to gather testimonies
and validate the findings of previous fact finding reports.
Prisoners wave a white flag during the
police assault on Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig that killed more
than 20 inmates, most of them unarmed.
Inhumane prison conditions
The detainees complained that they are
made to sleep on cardboards in a 3x4-meter prison cell without any
ventilation and lighting. The sink and toilet bowl are also cramped in the
small cell. Their privilege to cook their own food and walk under the sun
was removed after the March 15 siege. In addition, their food ration (of
rice-dried fish-puso ng saging) comes only twice a day, causing
their poor health.
They have also been deprived of proper and
timely medical attention. Asthma, tuberculosis, beri-beri, diabetes,
cataract, hepatitis and other diseases are common among the detainees. On
top of these, three are reportedly in need of urgent treatment and
According to the Free Basilan 73 (FB 73),
an organization of detainees and their families, "Ustadz Bashir Majiril is
suffering from advanced tuberculosis and acute diabetes which makes him
virtually blind. Muktar Ahalul, who was hit during the March siege, has a
shrapnel still embedded in his left eyelid. Marvin Uyag, also a survivor
of the siege, is suffering from excruciating pain because of the nine
shrapnels in his body. Doctors have long recommended immediate treatment
and operation for all three of them."
In an urgent appeal submitted by the FB 73
to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the Department of Interior and
Local Government (DILG), and to the Office of Chief Justice Hilario Davide
on Sept. 30 this year, the detainees complained that their situation has
gravely worsened after the March 15 Bicutan siege.
An excerpt from Representative Maza's
speech echoes this concern: "Mr. Speaker, that such inhumane treatment,
such physical and mental ordeal the Moro prisoners are forced to endure
are a punishment for the jailbreak attempt of some Abu Sayyaf members last
March 14, 2005. But let me remind this House that such action is not only
unjust but unjustified."
In the same speech, Maza also said,
"Police had put then the number of jailbreak instigators to some
identified seven Abu Sayyaf members. The PNP assault of the prison
killed 22 inmates, including those who were themselves held hostage by the
ASG. Among those killed were members of the human rights groups
Moro-Christian Peoples Alliance and Free Basilan 73 Committee."
Meanwhile, the CHR responded to the
detainees' appeal by sending one of its representatives, Dr. Renate Basas,
to conduct an unannounced preliminary investigation. However, he was
denied entry to the facility.
The detainees' appeal also highlighted
cultural insensitivity and discrimination. The detainees said "community
praying especially on Fridays and during Ramadan" which is an essential
part of their faith, has been banned. Conservative Moro women on the one
hand are subjected to a "shameful" strip search.
Deploring this policy, the congresswoman
said, "I wonder Mr. Speaker what have happened to the metal detectors
issued to jail guards precisely for that purpose. Mr. Speaker, such
humiliation is doubly outrageous when we speak that the subjects here are
Muslim sisters whose social norms and religious beliefs require them to
always put cover on their body parts as a matter of decency."
The Moro-Christian Peoples Alliance (MCPA),
an organization working for Moro-Christian unity and the Moro people’s
rights, together with Karapatan (or the Alliance for the Advancement of
People’s Rights), and defense lawyer Pura Calleja, denounced the
deplorable conditions of the detainees.
Ren Jallaludin Ropeta, MCPA Vice
Chairperson said: "Muslims they may be but they are not hardened
criminals. They have not been convicted yet and the majority are in fact
mere victims of illegal arrest and torture. They were detained initially
without any charges until the PNP made something up to pin them down.
Despite this, our brothers are treated worse than animals."
Ropeta said proof to his claim was the
recent release of Muhamadiya Hamja who was charged by the Department of
Justice with 52 counts of kidnapping in the Dos Palmas kidnapping case.
Hamja was however released in June this year after Pasig Regional trial
Court Judge Carpio cleared him of all charges.
Hamja said, "Many of my Muslim brethren
who are still in jail are innocent like me. There were more than 100 of us
who were arrested without warrant in Lamitan Basilan in July 2001. We were
tortured by our captors and forced to admit we are ASG men (members of the
Abu Sayaff Group). I was detained for almost 4 years for a crime I did not
commit. I thought my life would end during the siege like the 22 inmates
who died without justice. Four years of my life wasted away in jail, away
from my family."
His son Muhammad Hamja, a volunteer for
the FB73, migrated to Manila after the 2001 Basilan siege to be able to be
with his father as often as possible and assist in the legal defense of
his father and other detainees.
He laments, "It is sad and infuriating to
think that our being Muslims makes us criminals in the eyes of the
government. Our dignity is trampled upon and even our most humble human
sense is being bastardized."
Restoration of basic rights
The detainees stressed that their demands
should not be taken as simply limited to the Ramadhan season. "More than
a special request for a special occasion, what we are asking for is the
restoration of our basic and inalienable rights. Yes, we are prisoners
but our being one does not make us less human."
The appeal was signed by the 129 Muslim
detainees, the total number of Muslims currently detained at Camp Bagong
Diwa in Bicutan, Metro Manila. Posted by Bulatlat
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