Advocates of the Moro people’s struggle for self-determination say the Aquino administration must first render justice to the victims of human-rights violations during the Arroyo regime before it can talk peace.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — Patta Hoyo, a 21-year-old tricycle driver, was arrested on Nov. 3 in front of Tierra Pura subdivision in Tandang Sora, Quezon City. He was charged with kidnapping in relation to the Dos Palmas incident that happened ten years ago when he was only eleven. He is now detained at the Basilan Provincial Jail together with 15 others.
Muhamadiya Hamja was first arrested on Sept. 30, 2001 and was implicated in the Basilan and Palawan kidnappings. After almost four years in jail, he was found innocent and had been released on June 30, 2005. On Nov. 28, 2008, Hamja was again arrested for the same charges and is still languishing at the Basilan Provincial Jail despite a release order from the court.
Their only fault? Both of them are Moros.
In an interview through email, Kawagib secretary-general Bai Ali Indayla said the government’s response to the sentiments of the Bangsamoro people has always been to conduct an all-out war. She said the new Aquino government is no different from the previous ones in terms of its lack of sincerity in addressing the root problems of the Bangsamoro people and its continued denial of their right to self-determination.
Kawagib has documented 26 cases of warrantless arrests, illegal detention and torture of Moros during the first six months of the Aquino government.
According to the Moro-Christian People’s Alliance (MCPA), 43 of the so-called Basilan 73 Moro civilians are still languishing at the Camp Bagong Diwa jail in Taguig City. The Basilan 73 were victims of a crackdown in the aftermath of then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s declaration of a state of lawlessness in Basilan in July 2001. They were implicated in the kidnappings at the Dos Palmas and Lamitan hospital.
“They are unarmed Moro civilians, mostly farmers who were falsely accused as Abu Sayyaf members,” said Antonio Liongson, MCPA national coordinator, in an interview with Bulatlat.com.
Liongson said 14 of the Basilan 73 were killed during the Bicutan siege in March 2005 and only a handful have been freed.
Another Moro detainee who was ordered released by the court, Patta Adjoran, remains in jail in Zamboanga, said Liongson.
Besides the crackdown on Moro civilians, Indayla said, more than a thousand who were victims of a forced evacuation in 2008 remain in resettlement areas. The number of internal refugees in Mindanao reached 600,000 after the government debacle on the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD).
Liongson said the internal refugees rely on dole-outs for survival and could not go back to their communities due to the continuing military operations.
Indayla said instead of solving the problems of the Bangsamoro people and helping Moro evacuees to rebuild their lives, the Aquino administration has prioritized the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Asked about the prospects of peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Indayla was not optimistic. “Because of Aquino’s insincerity, Moro civilians are alarmed that another war will break out,” Indayla said.
Aquino earlier announced that formal negotiations with the MILF will resume after Ramadan. The Aquino government has also formed its peace panel and yet, talks have not yet begun.
Indayla said while Aquino talks peace, government troops are being deployed in the known bailiwicks of the MILF in Maguindanao. “The intervention of US troops in the provinces of ARMM [Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao] also continues,” Indayla said.
Liongson pointed out that the arrest of Edward Guerra, a member of the MILF central committee, in September, is a blow to the resumption of peace talks.
Liongson said the Aquino administration must first render justice to the victims of human rights violations during the Arroyo presidency before it can talk peace.
“He is in power to do this. Start by releasing Moro detainees who have been languishing in jail for ten years,” Liongson said, referring to the Basilan 73. Liongson pointed out that Aquino must have the political will to release all political prisoners and must not hide behind the reason that the matter of releasing political prisoners is up to the courts to decide. “His mother released more than 200 political prisoners, including those who had been convicted of common crimes. Ramos did the same,” Liongson, a former political prisoner himself who was freed during Ramos administration, said.
Liongson also called on the Aquino government to pull out its troops in Mindanao and ensure the rehabilitation of internal refugees.