Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. V,    No. 8      April 3 - 9, 2005      Quezon City, Philippines











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‘Cops Shot ASGs After Assault’ – Bicutan Inmates

The mainstream media reported 27 prisoners died last March 15 when the siege at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan ended. Prior to the assault, Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Arturo Lomibao estimated that casualties may reach 50, which now gives an impression that the police did a good job in minimizing the number. Bulatlat, however, managed to secure the testimonies of some inmates who had a different story to tell, a story that reflects religious bigotry and disregard for human rights. The inmates described the incident as a “massacre.”


(Editor’s Note: The Arabic words in italics are used to identify sources whose real names are withheld for security reasons. Sadaqat means truth; Adil, justice; Jaan, life; Talat, prayer; Dilawar, brave; Fazil, victory; and Abyaz, innocent.)

Sadaqat thought he would die when the Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF) attacked the Special Intensive Care Area (SICA) building at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan (15 kms from Manila) in the morning of March 15.

According to PNP Director General Arturo Lumibao, the assault was a consensus of the Crisis Management Team headed by Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Angelo Reyes. The team was formed to stop an alleged jailbreak attempt by suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

Camp Bagong Diwa prisoners
are led to their cells

As of this writing, the mainstream media have only reported the side of the PNP and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP). Fortunately, Sadaqat, along with other inmates, survived to tell their story about what happened that fateful morning which they called a “massacre.”

Inmates’ version

Their wounds and scars may be gradually healing but the inmates’ memory of what happened last March 15 at the SICA building remains.

At around 7 a.m last March 14, six jail breakers seized from the guards the latter’s guns during a headcount. In the ensuing exchange of gunfire, three jail guards and two jail breakers died.

Although the escape was planned by the group of Alhamser Manatad Limbong, also known as Commander Kosovo, Sadaqat said the jail breakers told them they did not intend to involve other inmates in their attempt. But because they were ill-equipped, they were forced to do so. Other inmates, however, locked themselves in their cells when Commander Kosovo’s group started threatening and forcing them to join their group.

Sadaqat, being on the first floor where the jail breakers stayed throughout the assault, told Bulatlat there were only six jail breakers. Contrary to the reports and photographs that they possessed long firearms, he said each was armed with only a .45 caliber pistol. They included Commander Kosovo, Muhaizer Tilao a.k.a. “Abu Iman,” and Hasbie Daie a.k.a “Abu Muslim/Ka Lando.”

However, media reports said that 27 inmates died. This means that all but six were innocent civilians, according to him.

Kosovo’s group, composed of not more than 10 detainees, asked to talk to Muslim-converted actor Robin Padilla, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Parouk Hussin and Anak Minadanao Party-list Rep. Mujiv Hataman. The last two were able to talk to them while Padilla was in Australia at that time.

The government’s Crisis Management Team was later formed comprising of Hussin, Hataman, Reyes, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Chief Avelino Razon Jr., Taguig Rep. Rene Cayetano and Taguig Mayor Freddie Tinga.

While on same floor with the jail breakers, Sadaqat heard negotiations over the phone between jail breaker Ka Lando and a member of the team. He said Ka Lando demanded media coverage, a speedy trial and release of suspected ASG members, an investigation of human rights violations among detainees and the observance of the inmates’ rights even after the crisis and an assurance that they will not be bodily harmed. In return, the jail breakers agreed to surrender at 6 p.m. The agreement was put in writing.  Reyes initially refused to sign but relented on the condition that the group would surrender their arms.

Sadaqat said the surrender did not happen because the Muslims had to pray by 6 p.m. The detainees were not given food after the prayer. The new deadline was set at 9 p.m which was later extended to 12 midnight.

At 9:15 a.m. the next day, March 15, Reyes gave a 15-minute extension of deadline. At exactly 9:30 a.m., the assault started. Sadaqat said that at that time, Kosovo was talking to somebody over the phone.

A bazooka fire broke the silence, said Adil, another inmate. It was followed by explosive teargas and constant firing by SAF elements who immediately killed Commander Kosovo, recounted Jaan. The 64-man assault team immediately penetrated the building. Other inmates went upstairs of the four-floor SICA building, thinking they would be safe there. To their shock, Dilawar said SAF elements fired indiscriminately on the second floor even if they shouted “Sibilyan kami! (We are civilians!).”

Though SAF elements shouted, “Lahat ng sibilyan, lumabas na! (All civilians, come out!)” at the detainees, Jaan said they still fired continuously. They were then asked to place their hands behind their heads while lying facedown. In this position, Dilawar saw inmates Ahmad Arawangsa and Badran Abdulhamid already dead. Adil, on the other hand, noticed that inmate Abdulrasid Lim was also dead.


Of those who reportedly died, insiders claimed that many of them were still alive even after the clearing operations.

Abyaz saw a SAF element commanding Adil to lift inmate Galib Andang, a.k.a Commander Robot, from his wheel chair. But the SAF member later told Adil to get out of Commander Robot’s cell when the latter claimed that he was not with Commander Kosovo’s group since he was already paralyzed. The detainees then heard gunfire from Commander Robot’s cell after Adil left him. Commander Robot died of gunshots on his chest. Jaan belied the report that Commander Robot’s body was planted with explosives.

Inmate Ibrahim Joe was still alive during the clearing. Sadaqat said SAF members asked Joe to go back to his cell. They knew the following gunfire meant his death, he said.

Commander Global had the same fate. Several detainees saw him on the rooftop where detainees were gathered after the assault. Jaan said he was also in his underwear just like the other survivors. A SAF member asked who among the detainees was Commander Global. The latter was then taken downstairs after a BJMP guard identified him. Jaan said that other inmates saw Commander Global shot even before he reached the second floor.

Jaan also said that he saw Khair Abdulgaffar Muktar, Jalal Ampaso, Mobasain Maolo, Basoan Pael and another Muslim inmate with a drug-related case still alive. They were shot while taking refuge on the second floor because they were accused of being with Kosovo’s group. Fazil said Maolo, who asked the SAF for the treatment of his wounds, and Muktar, who became dizzy due to teargas, were both asked to go downstairs. Fazil later learned the two were among the casualties. Sadaqat said that the inmate with a drug-related case was asked by a SAF member if he is a Muslim. After saying yes, the SAF member shot him while saying, “Pare-pareho lang kayo! (You are all the same!).”

Even Hadji Ahmad Upao, the 75-year old bedridden detainee who was suffering from Alzheimer's disease, survived the assault. Later, however, Jaan said Upao was shot while being transferred by inmates to the second floor. Upao, along with other minors, had been supposedly released in 2001 for humanitarian reasons as part of the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Meanwhile, Talat saw Jolo Patarasa’s badly wounded stomach so he helped him get out of the cell. But he did not manage to save Patarasa after a SAF member shot his foot.

Assault after the assault

Detainees clad only in underwear hurried upstairs to secure themselves. Though some of them were already wounded, the assault team still kicked them as they crawled upstairs.

At around 12 noon, all wounded government forces were already treated and brought to the Camp’s infirmary and nearby hospitals. Medical workers and volunteers on duty during the assault said no wounded detainees have been hospitalized that day. The new warden, however, said they brought the victims to the Rizal Memorial Center but the detainees’ relatives complained they did not find them there. Sadaqat said that only two wounded detainees, Marvin Uyag Hasim and Muktar Halul, were brought to the hospital but this happened on the following day, March 16.

Instead, wounded detainees stayed under the heat of the sun in the plaza – just in front of the female detainees’ cells -- for more than three hours, wearing only their briefs. Other inmates’ hands, especially of the six suspected escape plotters, were tied behind their backs with tire wires. Sadaqat said the wounded inmates were given only two Amoxicillin capsules. Their wounds were also treated with Betadine.

According to Talat, it was almost evening when they were allowed to enter their cells.

But the six suspected escape plotters were first beaten up by BJMP employees for almost half an hour, said Sadaqat. The BJMP allegedly used their firearms to hit the six inmates. They were again placed under the heat of the sun. They were also held in an isolation cell for about three weeks. They were prohibited to accept visitors in the first week. They were identified as Rajmar Jul, Munid Aza, Omar Abubakar, Alzen Jandul, Said Massud and Ismael Bas.

Only suspected ASGs’ counsel Pura Calleja was allowed to see the detainees. Later in the evening, Remedios Balbin, lawyer of other suspected ASGs, was also allowed to see her clients. But representatives from the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) were prohibited from conducting an investigation. Agapito Laurora, Special Investigator I of the Complaints and Investigations Division of the CHR, told Bulatlat the guards were even laughing while telling them they could not enter.

Survived but not free

Adil said they were allowed to drink but only from a rusting drum, as well as eat, last March 16. They do not have electricity in Detention 1. They could hardly sleep because they were 35 in a small cell. He also said that their guards seem to be angry at them in answering their queries even if they asked courteously.

While mixed with other inmates in other buildings, Muslim detainees also complained of disrespect to their culture and religion. At 6:15 p.m., Muslims pray one of the five obligatory prayers in a day. They also need to be dressed up not showing their knees. However, they could not concentrate with their prayer while other inmates were walking in front of them naked.

There was also a time when the headcount was conducted at the same time with their prayer. Sadaqat said they have heard a BJMP guard saying, “Huwag na kayong magdasal dito dahil ‘di na uubra’yang dasal n’yo dito (Do not pray because your prayers are useless here).”

As of end of March, bullets have not been removed from surviving inmates Marvin Ramiso and Bimbas Abubakar.

Meanwhile, the new warden, Danilo Abelinde, has imposed stricter rules. Suspected ASG members are now required to wear yellow shirts before they could see their visitors. Visitors are also now subjected to a strip search. They are also required to wait under the heat of the sun and may only enter in groups of five. Non-government agencies, on the other hand, are only allowed to visit on Mondays.

The visiting area for suspected ASGs – already separated from the main visiting area – is now padlocked inside. If overcrowded, the visitors now need to appeal to the guards to let them spend visiting hours with the visited detainee outside the padlocked area. A visitor is also restricted to see only one detainee, unlike in the past where one visitor was allowed to visit three.

Hostaged and massacred

The events surrounding the assault made another detainee to quip, “Hinostage na kami ng mga kasama namin, minasaker pa kami ng gobyerno (We were hostaged by our fellow inmates; worse, we were massacred by the government).”

Because of these, relatives of the slain suspected ASG members and wounded detainees, and non-government organizations Suara Bangsamoro Partylist, Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights), and Moro-Christian People’s Alliance (MCPA) have called for an independent investigation of the alleged massacre. Bulatlat



© 2004 Bulatlat  Alipato Publications

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