LBO conducts Press Conference on Gokotan incident; urges PNP Regional Director’s Tagum resignation

Cotabato City (January 25, 2022) -The League of Bangsamoro Organizations (LBO) have urged BGen. Alexander Tagum to resign as Region 12 Director of the Philippine National Police (PNP) amid the police bloody operation in Barangay Gokotan, Pikit, North Cotabato at dawn of December 29, 2021. 
This statement was made by LBO chair of Peace Unity and Reconciliation Mahdi Amella during a press conference on January 24, 2022 at Darul Aman Function Hall in Barangay Capiton, Datu Odin Sinsuat Maguindanao. 

In his opening statement, Chairman Amella said that the press conference is intended to voice-out the sentiments of the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and the affected community on the plight of the residents of Gokotan who were victims of un-coordinated raid conducted by PNP 12 under the direct command and supervision of Gen. Tagum that resulted to the death of innocent civilians, lootings and destruction of their properties. 

“Ang original na schedule ng solidarity visit was on January 23, kahapon  at ang plano ay magkakaroon muna ng Caravan o motorcade mula Cotabato City hanggang Pikit na dadaluhan na mahigit kumulang one hundred na mga sasakyan dahil magkakaroon tayo ng peaceful condemnation rally sa Pikt Plaza tapos may Press Con sa Municipal Session hall ng Pikit at tutuloy tayo sa Gokotan upang magkaroon ng dialogue sa mga opisyales ng Barangay at kakausapin na rin natin ang mga relatives ng mga biktima para mabigyan din natin sila ng kaunting ayuda subalit hindi ho natuloy ang nasabing mission sapagkat nag declared ng IATF national kung saan ang North Cotabato ay napabilang sa level 3 category ng Covid 19 kaya na cancelled ang nasabing rally pati na rin ang iba pang mga aktibidades”  

(The original schedule of the solidarity visit was on January 23, yesterday. The original plan was to have Caravan or motorcades from Cotabato City to Pikit that would be attended by about one hundred vehicles because we will have a peaceful condemnation rally at Pikit Plaza, followed by a Press Conference at the Municipal Session hall of Pikit afterwards the team would proceed to the site of the incident in Barangay Gokotan to have a dialogue with the Barangay officials.  We will also have to talk with the relatives of the victims so that we can also give them few assistance but the said mission did not pushed through when the Inter Agency Task Force on Covid 19 (IATF) declared that North Cotabato province is under level 3 category, that is why the conduct of the condemnation rally as well as other activities were canceled. Amella said.

“Ang panawagan po natin dito sa LBO ay mabigyan talaga ng hustisya itong karumal - dumal na pagpatay sa mga inosenting sibilyan. Sinabi natin na karumal dumal sapagkat bukod sa malapitan ang pagkakabaril, double dead iyong nangyari kasi paulit ulit iyong pag baril na pwedi naman mamatay ang isang tao kahit isang bala lang lalo na pag sa ulo ito matamaan ng bala” (Our call here at the LBO is for the justice to be served for this barbaric murder of innocent civilians. It’s a barbaric because apart from the closed range shooting, we found out that it was a “double dead”, (over kill).  One could die even if it’s just one single bullet, especially if a person is hit at the head. But what exactly happened is that the victims were hit by multiple bullets with his brain blown out), Amella added.

He also warned of the possibility of another Mamasapano incident in 2016 if the PNP continues to violate the GPH and MILF ceasefire agreement.  

“We call upon the PNP and the military to coordinate all their operations with the Adhoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) to avoid missed encounter similar to the Mamasapano incident”.

 “LBO is not opposed in the serving of the arrest warrant to criminals as long as it does not violate the ceasefire agreement and civilians are not harmed, so all military or police operations should be coordinated with AHJAG and CCCH to preserve the gains of the peace process between the government and the MILF so that peace and harmony will be reign in our c ommunities’. 

“Tayo din ay nababahala dahil sa kasalukuyan, hindi po na kompleto ang isang bahagi ng kasunduan ng goberno at ng MILF, patungkol sa decommissioning o pag turn-over ng armas ng mga combatant’s ng MILF sa Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB). Tayoy nangangamba na mahihirapan tayong I- convince ang mga combatants ng MILF kung patuloy itong mangyayari dahil baka gawing rason ito ng mga elements ng MILF dahil wala silang kasiguraduhan na ma proteksionan sila ng mga kapulisan kung mawawala na ang kanilang mga armas.”

(We are also concerned because at present, part of the agreement between the government and the MILF, is the decommissioning of MILF combatants that is yet to be completed. We fear that it would be difficult for us to convince the MILF combatants if violations continue to happen because MILF combatants have no guarantee that the police will be able to protect them once they lose their weapons.

The LBO also issued a Manifesto that reads:

The Manifesto read by Emran Mohamad,  LBO Spokesman, said that “the continuing disrespect of the existing ceasefire protocols by state forces can be capitalized by third parties who are spoilers of GPH-MILF peace process to justify their actions in disrupting the gains of the peace process.  Moreover, he said, the Gokotan incident can be a fertile ground for these third parties to recruit even from the ranks of MILF to seek for justice and eventually disregard the peace process.  This violence must be stopped”.
“Considering the foregoing, he said, We the Civil Society Organizations under the umbrella of the League of the Bangsamoro Organizations manifest the following:

1. We condemn in highest possible terms the brutal killings of the MILF members and civilians borne out of disrespect to the existing ceasefire protocols;

2. We call on Pres. Rodrigo Roa Duterte to create an independent probe body to conduct a full-blown investigation of the Gokotan raid and immediately relieve General Tagum;

3. We call on the GPH-MILF peace implementing panels to immediately convene to address the Gokotan killings and formulate mechanism to avoid the repeat of this violence

4. We request the BARMM government and North Cotabato provincial Government to extend full assistance to the bereaved families of the Gokotan victims.

5. We call on the affected families to remain steadfast, continue to respect the rule of law, and trust our leaders in their efforts to bring justice to the victims, Mohammad stressed.

Testimony of a witness:

In the later part of the Press Conference, an unexpected participant Norsalam Dalid; suddenly appeared, and requested   the organizer of the Press Con to give her an opportunity to talk to media to air her call for justice for the “brutal killing of his father Badrudin Dalid and her sister    Arbaya Panisares. She emotionally expressed her sentiments about the incident in Gokotan.
“Bandang alas dos na nang medaling araw noong December 29, 2021 nagising na lang kami dahil sa mga putok ng baril. 

 Pinagbabaril ng mga pulis ang mga kabahayan at patay na rin ang mga ilaw sa labas dahil pinagbabarili na rin nila ito kaya itinakas kami ng tatay namin na si Badrudin doon kami dumaan sa gate sa likod ng bahay, nauna ang tatay namin at pinagbabaril na kami lahat  ng mga pulis kaya unang tinamaan at namatay ang ama naming kasama din si ate na tinamaan ng bala habang bitbit niya ang kanyang tatlong gulang na anak  kasama din ang isang anim na gulang na anak ni Arbaya Panisares” 

(At around two o'clock on the morning of December 29, 2021, we woke up due to sounds of gunfire, so we immediately went outside passing through the back gate but our father was the first to be hit by the police and died immediately along with my sister, Arbaya Panisares while she was carrying her three year old son and her six year old daughter)”

Norsalam also reiterated her call for President Duterte to help them seek justice for the death of her father and sister who are victims of human rights violations. Nananawagan kami kay Presidente na sanay makamit namin ang hustisya para sa pamilya namin.” We call on the President to help us achieve justice for our family”).

According to Norsalam, their properties were also taken by the raiding team of Gen. Tagum, hundreds of pawned motorbikes, main source of their livelihood were confiscated. The police also allegedly confiscated their personal belongings such as laptops, large amounts of money, gold as well as their cellphones and the entire household inside the compound were looted and destroyed. All their belongings were stolen and those things that still remain which are not useful to them were totally damaged.  They also stole her mother’s pan, even the ducks were not spared. 

When asked about the police allegations that the motorcycles were car nap/motor nap, she strongly denied their allegations. 
Hindi totoong mga carnap ang mga motor na sinanla sa amin. Ang katibayan meron kaming business permit at meron ndin kaming certification mula sa BIR” (It is not true that the motors pawned to us were carnap. The proof is that we have a business permit and we also have a certification from the BIR.

Meanwhile, UNYPAD Secretary General and LBO Vice President for Internal Affairs Yosuph Lumambas stressed the stand of the UNYPAD being a member of the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) that they will recommend to the TPMT to sign an exit agreement should be no fill implementation of the peace agreement.  

TPMT is an independent body mandated to monitor, review and assess the implementation of all GPH-MILF signed agreements, primarily the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and its Annexes. Including normalization.
Moving forward:

LBO also called for an impartial investigations not just rely on the result of the investigation conducted by the Intelligence Assistance Service (IAS) so the result of the investigation is credible, thus acceptable to all parties It will continue the call for the resignation of Region 12 PNP Director General Tagum. 

Through the Committee on Advocacy and Lobbying, LBO will initiate dialogue with members of the Bangsamoro Parliament, including Congress if needed.  They will also call the attention of Human Rights Commission and other concern institutions to file an appropriate charges against the PNP Regional Director and his team for the human rights civilians they have committed. LBO assures the family of victims to heed their call for the President to intervene for the immediate resolutions of this case.