July 31, 2012 News: Last July 13, 2012, the victims of military crackdown in Basilan commemorated their 11th year of injustice under the policy of State of Lawlessness. Collectively known as Free Basilan73, the victims and their families continue to seek legal remedies and mass actions for the release of the remaining innocent civilians who were tagged as Abu Sayyaf members and supporters.
The commemoration include two public forums at the Western Mindanao State University on July 12 and Basilan State College on July 13 where families. Supporters under the Free Basilan73 group gathered, including human rights groups such as Kawagib, Suara Bangsamoro, Liga ng Kabataang Moro and others, and spearheaded march rally to Basilan Provincial Jail. Simultaneously, on July 13, a picket/dialogue at the Department of Justice in Manila led by the Moro-Christian People’s Alliance.
Kawagib, MCPA and Free Basilan73 challenged President Noynoy Aquino’s “daang matuwid” by tasking the DOJ to review the cases filed against Abu Sayyaf and the implications of warrantless arrests, the use of John Does and Rewards for Justice of the US State Department. These counter-terrorism measures have been biased towards Muslims and practically implicated every Muslim in Mindanao.
In 2001, DOJ released Memorandum Circular No. 40 laid the basis for illegal mass arrests and detention of more than 300 Moro residents from Zamboanga (36), Basilan (125) and Sulu (106) to fill the military’s “order of battle” that unjustly claims some 200 civilians as Abu Sayyaf supporters.
Collectively known as Basilan73, these were among those arrested, tortured, illegally detained at the 103rd Brigade in Basilan and forced to sign wavers claiming that they are Abu Sayyaf. They were transferred to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City on December 2001. Over the years, several of them were released due to lack of evidence while some died during the Bicutan Jail Siege in 2005.
However, due to State of Lawlessness and subsequent policies brought about by the government’s engagement in Basilan, several civilians would soon fill the prison cells in Basilan and Taguig City. At present, there are 248 Moro detainees detained at CBD (185), PNP and Crame (9) Basilan Provincial Jail (27) and General Santos City Jail (3). Among those detainees, 24 are members of the MILF and MNLF charged with common crimes instead of political offenses.
Kawagib also challenges President Aquino to finally have concrete steps to resolve the root-cause of the problems in Mindanao and to show the government’s respect not only for the civil and political rights of the Moro people but also for their right to self-determination