A Special Report on Human Rights in Sulu:
The Hidden War Continues
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.
LEILA HALUD AND TYRONE VELEZ
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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© 2004 Bulatlat
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