Church Groups Seek Release of Moro Detainees

Accused of alleged connections with the Abu Sayyaf Group, 130 Moros have spent five years at a military camp south of Manila and Moro advocates and interfaith groups are calling for justice.


Moro detainees and advocates from the Muslim and Christian sectors marked on Dec. 4 the International Human Rights Week through an interfaith solidarity jail visit at the Special Intensive Care Area (SICA), Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City, south of Manila, where some 134 Moro detainees are detained for alleged connection with the Abu Sayyaf Group.

Organizers of the visit, the Moro-Christian Peoples’ Alliance (MCPA) and the Friends of Moro Detainees (FRIENDS), called for the release of the Moro detainees, most whom, they said, are victims of mistaken identity and “terrorist tagging.”

The event, “Reaching out to the Moro People Behind Bars, Strengthening the Bridge of Understanding,” underscored the significance of Muslim and Christian unity amid the “worsening attacks on the human rights of the Moro people.”

“Many church workers,” said Fr. Dioni Cabillas, co-chair of the MCPA from the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), “have been fervent in their commitment to continue the ministry to forge greater solidarity with the Moro detainees. Many human rights workers have been religiously advocating the welfare of the Moro detainees and have been with them in their fight for justice since they have been illegally arrested and detained.”

The Moro detainees were arrested in a series of military-led warrantless arrests in Basilan, Zamboanga and Sulu, southern Philippines, and in Metro Manila between 2001 and recently.

Fifteen of those arrested have been released following the dismissal of their cases by the court for lack of evidence.

Killed in police raid

Twenty-two were, however, killed on March 15, 2004 in a police of Camp Bagong Diwa allegedly to foil an escape by some of the detainees.

A report by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said that most of fatalities were summarily executed by the police assault team.

Father Cabillas said, “Theirs (the detainees) is a clear case of how Moro civilians suffer from the war on terror campaign of the U.S.-Arroyo government. More than the civilian, it is the whole family unit that is shattered.”

Kelly Lawig, a spokesperson of FRIENDS- ISNMPP (International Solidarity Network for Muslim Peoples in the Philippines) said, “The streets are even scarier than the SICA building in Camp Bagong Diwa. Most of the detainees are innocent of the crimes charged against them – they are just like us, but they were victims of a maligned war on terror plan of this immoral government.”

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, Religious of the Good Shepherd Sisters (RGS) and other foreign and local human rights defenders joined the activity. (

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