‘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.”
BY NINGNING STA. CRUZ
(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.)
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).
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.”
Their wounds and scars may be gradually
healing but the inmates’ memory of what happened last March 15 at the SICA
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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