Rights group slams Aquino directive to file charges vs Moro rebels

February 1, 2015

Several of the 44 Philippine National Police-Special Action Force are given departure honors in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City on Jan. 30. <b>Kodao Productions</b>

Several of the 44 Philippine National Police-Special Action Force are given departure honors in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City on Jan. 30. Kodao Productions

Moro human rights group Suara Bangsamoro slammed President Aquino’s order to Justice Sec. Leila de Lima to file a case against several leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) for the botched operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao that led to the death of 44 police commandos, 18 Moro rebels and at least two civilians.

“This would only bolster the police and military to conduct massive manhunt,” said Amirah Lidasan, spokesperson of Suara Bangsamoro.  The group feared that human rights violations will escalate once elements of the police and military implement the order.

On Sunday, media outfits reported that Interior and Local  Government Sec. Manuel Roxas III said that Aquino ordered De Lima to study filing criminal charges against MILF and the BIFF.

“This will be a joint effort between the DOJ (Department of Justice) and the PNP (Philippine National Police). The PNP’s board of inquiry will provide the testimonies of the operatives who were present during the operation and provide other things necessary for the cases to evolve,” Roxas said to media.

But Suara Bangsamoro said that as with many other cases of government crackdown against supposed insurgents, that civilians might be targeted.

“With the department’s (DOJ) penchant of using John and Jane Doe’s , we fear that civilians will be sacrificed again,”Lidasan said.

Lidasan said that in previous anti- terror manhunt, innocent Moro civilians were allegedly arrested and falsely charged. “They were tortured and forced to admit involvement,” Lidasan said, citing many cases, including the arrest of dozens of civilians in 2001 after the Abu Sayyaf hostage-taking incident in Sipadan, Malaysia.

The progressive alliance Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), meanwhile, insisted that an independent investigation be undertaken to ascertain the facts on the Mamasapano debacle.

Renato Reyes Jr., Bayan secretary-general, identified that Aquino, suspended PNP Gen. Alan Purisima and the US government must be thoroughly investigated.

“They were the brains of the operations. They were the ones calling the shots. They were the ones who conspired to violate the chain of command and imperil the SAF troopers, the civilians and the peace talks,” said Reyes.

Reyes added that Aquino is trying to appease public outrage by ordering the filing of charges against some MILF and BIFF commanders.

“This does little to uncover the truth behind the Mamasapano operation. The public is demanding accountability from the highest official of the land for authorizing a covert operation, under the direction of a foreign government, undermining the peace process and sacrificing the lives of the SAF and local residents,” he added.

Instead of  calling for all-out war against the MILF and the BIFF, the progressive labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno called on the Filipino people to direct their anger in condemning Aquino over the death of the 44 PNP-SAF and at least five civilians.

“We are calling on Filipinos to direct our anger over the death of the SAF 44 at Aquino, the ‘comman-death in chief’. The PNP-SAF’s operation in Mamasapano was doomed to fail, and the fault lies squarely with Aquino,” said Elmer Labog, KMU chairperson.