After being missing for six days, an abducted Moro activist was found in Camp Crame, slapped anew with kidnapping charges already dismissed in 2005. A human rights leader expressed fears that a police crackdown on Moros has been launched, yet again.
BY DEE AYROSO
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
For six days, Ahmad Hamja had desperately searched for his abducted father Mohammad Diya Hamja, going back and forth to Camp Crame in Quezon City, and the police offices in Taguig City. Such was his desperation that when he recognized his father’s foot through a partly opened door at a police office, he rushed inside to hug him, and shouted, “Nandito ang tatay ko! Nandito ang Tatay ko!” (My father is here! My father is here!)
Mohammad Diya Hamja, in his 50s, was abducted on Nov. 28 as he went out of the Blue Mosque after his afternoon prayers in Maharlika Village, Taguig City. Armalite-armed men wearing ski masks forced him inside a white vehicle with plate number XHC-238. The abduction happened just opposite a detachment of the police Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) group.
Hamja is a member of the Moro-Christian People’s Alliance (MCPA) and the Victims of the Arroyo Regime for Justice (Hustisya!).
From Nov. 29 to December 4, Hamja’s son Ahmad, went the rounds of police headquarters, along with officers of Hustisya!, the Families of Desaparecidos for Justice (Desaparecidos) and the Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights (Karapatan). Their search was in vain as police officers at the headquarters of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and other sub-offices in Camp Crame, and the Southern Police District in (SPD) Taguig all denied having Hamja in custody.
On December 3, Ahmad, accompanied by Karapatan and Desaparecidos sought the help of Leila de Lima, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairperson, who then ordered a CHR team to assist Ahmad in his search. The next day, Dec. 4, Ahmad and two CHR officers went to the SPD headquarters, where a police officer again denied having Hamja in custody. Instead he pointed them, again to the CIDG in Crame.
At the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) CIDG, Ahmad received information that his father was at the second floor. While the CHR officers were left at the front desk, Ahmad rushed straight to the second floor offices, where policemen even tried to shush him when he started shouting upon seeing his father.
“Syempre umiyak na ako, halo-halo na nararamdaman… grabe ang pagkaano sa kanya,” (Of course I cried, having mixed emotions upon seeing his condition) Ahmad said. He said his father’s eyes were blood-red, apparently from being tightly blindfolded for days.
Police told Ahmad that his father was arrested on the basis of a warrant. He was charged with kidnapping and serious illegal detention with ransom, the same charges against him that were dismissed in 2005.
Hamja is one of the Basilan 73, the Moro fisherfolk who were abducted by soldiers from their homes in Basilan in 2001. Ahmad recalled that one early morning in November, armed men kicked open their door and took his father at gunpoint from their home in Maligi Kumalaran, Isabela City.
“Nagkaoperasyon sa lugar namin, kasagsagan ng War on Terror ni GMA, nagdeklara siya sa Basilan, Jolo, Zamboanga ng crackdown. Isa sa hinuli ang tatay ko, kinaso sa kanya, Abu Sayyaf Group,” (There was a military operation in our place, at the height of GMA’s [Gloria Macapagal Arroyo] War on Terror; she declared a crackdown in Basilan, Jolo and Zamboanga. My father was one of those arrested, he was charged with being an Abu Sayyaf member) Ahmad said.
Ahmad said his uncle Ahmil Hamja was also taken but was immediately released after he signed a blank paper. His father refused to sign and was kept in detention at the Zamboanga City Jail.
The Basilan 73 were tortured, detained and implicated in the bandit group’s kidnapping cases in Punong Mahaji in Zamboanga, Dos Palmas and Lamitan. Fearing an attack on the jail by the ASG, they were transferred to Bicutan where they were tried at the Pasig Regional Trial Court. Some of the Basilan 73 detainees were among those killed in the bloody March 2005 Bicutan siege, when police stormed the detention center and killed 22 Moro inmates after a failed escape by ASG leaders.
Hamja was released in 2005 after all charges against him, including the 52 counts of kidnapping filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ), were dismissed. His son Ahmad and the rest of his family had left Basilan when Hamja was transferred to Bicutan, and resided in Taguig.
Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Karapatan secretary general, said that they are still confirming reports of eight other Moro residents who were abducted in Maharlika Village last week. Before Hamja’s abduction, residents reported seeing armed men roaming the area at past midnight.
“This is clearly another wave of crackdown on the usual suspects. It’s the Muslims who are again being victimized, in Mindanao and even in Metro Manila,” Enriquez said, adding fears that the other released members of Basilan 73 might also be abducted and detained anew based on amended charges.
“Eto, namumuhay na nang tahimik, dinukot nila, at ano na naman ang gagawin nila? Iregular na amend sila nang amend ng charges,” (He has been leading a quiet life, then they abduct him, for what? It’s irregular that they keep amending charges against these people), she said.
Enriquez said that Hamja’s rights and that of his family were already gravely violated when he was detained for four years on baseless charges. Hamja filed a complaint to claim compensation for his unjust detention, but he later gave up due to the difficult process.
Hamja’s recent arrest came in the wake of the Mumbai attacks in India where Al-Qaeda-linked Muslim dissidents were being blamed for the killing of 195 people. In Shariff Kabunsuan, police swooped down on Bangladeshi mechanic Mohammad Rafiquellah whom they tagged as a “Jemaah Islamiyah bomb expert.”
Enriquez said that given the public furor over Charter change, the state is trying to distract the people’s attention from the Arroyo regime, and turning it against the Muslims.
“Mukhang tama ang sinasabi ng mga taga-Basilan na sila ang pinagkakakitaan ng pera. Laging me conflict dahil ang mga heneral, napo-promote, nabibigyan ng pera dahil sa kagigyera,” (Basilan residents are being proven right when they said that they are being used for profit, by generals who get promotion and money for waging war), she said. (Bulatlat.com)