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

Vol. V,    No. 9      April 10 - 16, 2005      Quezon City, Philippines











Web Bulatlat


(We encourage readers to dialogue with us. Email us your letters complaints, corrections, clarifications, etc.)

Join Bulatlat's mailing list



(Email us your letters statements, press releases,  manifestos, etc.)



For turning the screws on hot issues, Bulatlat has been awarded the Golden Tornillo Award.

Iskandalo Cafe


Copyright 2004 Bulatlat


A Special Report on Human Rights in Sulu: 

The Hidden War Continues
Second of 3 parts

The direct attacks that civilian communities in Sulu suffered are undeniable proofs that the military does not distinguish combatants from non-combatants. In fact, civilian-populated communities were the targets of most of the bombings, according to the fact-finding mission team.


A School No More:  Panglima Indanan Elementary School in Indanan, Sulu now a military camp            

Photo courtesy of Suara Bangsamoro

9 to 10 bombings a day

MAIMBUNG, Sulu - The Padiwan massacre served as the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. According to the Fact-Finding Team-Kalinaw Mindanao, composed of human rights, peace advocates and church officials, concluded there have been continuing human rights violations in Sulu, with the Padiwan massacre as the last straw that resulted in Moro guerrillas retaliating.

The violations were reportedly perpetrated by the 53rd IB, 6th IB, and the recently formed Task Force Comet under Brig. General Agustin Dema-ala.

In its statement, the fact-finding mission cited violations including indiscriminate aerial bombing and shelling on civilian populations using artillery, mortar, cannons and OV-10 warplanes. The bombing resulted in the massive evacuation and displacement of civilian populations in the municipalities of Panamao, Indanan, Patikul, Maimbong and Parang.

The Moro-Christian Peoples’ Alliance (MCPA), which is a member of the Kalinaw Mindanao, reported that evacuees have reached around 50,000 individuals.

Residents from Panamao said that since Feb. 8, around 80 to 100 bombs hit their communities for nine consecutive days or an average of 9 to 10 bombings on a single day.

Schools turned into barracks

What was appalling, according to the mission, was that after the bombings, military troops were deployed to schools and villages where the evacuees have sought refuge.  

In Hadji Panglima Tingkahan Elementary School in Barangay Kaha, Parang and Kahuy-Sinah Elementary School, evacuees told the mission teams that around 10 to 20 soldiers set up camp on school grounds for a week and interrogated the refugees regarding rebel presence.

The mission itself saw how the Indanan National High School in Lampaki, Indanan has turned into a military camp. Two cannons, an armored personnel carrier (APC) and other heavy artillery have been stationed in the school grounds while soldiers pitched tents all over the school.

They noted that this "glaring and incessant violation has resulted in the disruption of classes thus affecting children."

As a result, the many evacuees chose to stay at their relatives' homes than stay in schools where soldiers would come in to interrogate them. This, according to the fact-finding mission team, was a new phenomenon.

Meanwhile, even the mosques were not spared. A number of them were bombed while some, like those in Maimbung and Parang, were turned into military camps like the schools.

Some civilian houses were also reportedly used for military purposes, without permission from owners and endangering the lives of civilians. Such cases were reported in Maimbung, in Barrio Upper Tambaking where 200 soldiers were deployed to a community of 194 families. While in Barrio Lower Tambaking, a platoon held camp for almost a month, and installed waiting sheds in the barrio.


In addition, displaced persons reported to the mission members that the roofs and walls of their houses were taken by the Marines in order to build more camps within the area.

The mission also documented hamletting and encirclement of communities, terrorizing the residents. The mission gathered testimonies stating that the military gave them only a short period to visit their farms. By 3 p.m., they have to be at their houses or risk being shot at by military patrols.

In District Indanan, there was a reported arrest of 21 civilian men, two of whom were badly beaten up after they were caught by the Marine soldiers visiting their coconut farms. After receiving several reports of killings and beatings for coming home late because of farm work, Kalinaw Mindanao coined the term “guerilla farming” wherein farmers sneak into their homes and take a look at their farms.

Most of those displaced reported having been looted. Babu Hai and her neighbors in fact said they saw their kettles and other kitchenware at the military camp. They also their domestic animals such as goats and cows being slaughtered.

Bapah Sam, 70, left his home in Bakud, Panamao at midnight after high-powered bombs hit their community. Returning home after several days, he saw his properties all gone, including four goats and 20 chickens. The bombings, he complained, damaged 50 of his coconut trees and scorched his house.

Babu Hamsia also suffered the same. She lost all her clothes and kitchenware, as well as the six goats and 40 chickens from which she draws her daily sustenance.

Both Bapah Sam and Babuh Hamsia cried, “Where are we going to get our source of income now?”

Meanwhile, the mission also reported that a water installation in Barrio Lampaking, Parang was "intentionally bombed, sabotaging the water supply of the town affecting even nearby municipalities."

According to the mission, "(The bombing of water installation) plus the use of private dwellings and public schools as military camps prove that civilians are the direct targets and victims of these intense military operations."

Kalinaw Mindanao: Arroyo is responsible

In its statement, Kalinaw Mindanao held the administration of President Arroyo responsible for the escalating war in Sulu through its all-out war policy against the Moro secessionist group.

"The women and children of Sulu bear the brunt of this all-out war policy," the statement says. "Children directly affected by the armed conflict have been traumatized by aerial bombings, the presence of government soldiers and high-powered firearms. This has affected their psychosocial well-being such as the erosion of self-esteem and self-confidence, and whose development is adversely affected by the inculcation of a culture of war and violence at their early age."

The mission further drives the point that the war "is but a part of (Arroyo's) campaign against so-called terrorists in blind obedience to US' war of terror. In effect, the legitimate struggle of the Moro people for self-determination and recognition is being undermined and maligned as terrorist acts."

Kalinaw Mindanao laid down five recommendations: an immediate stop to the military operations and pull out of the military in Sulu; holding of peace talks between concerned parties; review of the Tripoli Agreement and other peace agreements; independent investigation on the cause of the Sulu war; and indemnification of civilian victims and allowing them to go back to their homes, their properties and other structures rebuilt and their livelihood restored".

Finally, the mission said "Serious efforts should be undertaken by the government to address the problem of peace and development of the Moro people. Foremost of which is to respect the right to self-determination of the Moro people."

The Sulu Mercy Mission was composed of representatives from Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao (InPeace); Karapatan National and its chapters in Southern Mindanao, Socsksargen, Caraga, Western Mindanao and North Central Mindanao; the Moro Christian Peoples Alliance, Suara Bangsamoro Party; Promotion of Church People's Response National and its chapters in Southern Mindanao, North Central Mindanao, Western Mindanao; Health Action for Human Rights; Mindanao Interfaith Peoples Conference; Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace; HALAD Western Mindanao; CONCORD; JAGA Human Rights-Basilan and Tanjuh. Bulatlat



© 2004 Bulatlat  Alipato Publications

Permission is granted to reprint or redistribute this article, provided its author/s and Bulatlat are properly credited and notified.