The Faces of Terror in Mindanao: Accounts of Victims
Volume 20 Number 3
Saturday, 30 September 2006 00:00

by Lemuel Artiaga

The anti-terror campaign of the government continues to claim innocent, hapless Muslims as victims. Branded as terrorists, our Muslim brothers have been accused of responsibility in several bombing incidents.

In the areas of Mindanao, TFDP recently documented two cases of illegal arrest which involved four (4) Muslim individuals in Cotabato City and Maguindanao Province.

A case in point is the illegal arrest and detention of Uztadz Kusain Abedin, a community development worker of United Youth for Progress and Development (UNYPAD) in Cotabato City. He was forcibly arrested, a gun pointed at him by elements of the Task Force Tugis last August 3, 2006 at 6:45 in the evening within the Weena bus terminal.

Abedin was brought to the Task Force Tugis headquarters and was handcuffed for tactical interrogation. He was asked his involvement with Jemaah Islamiyah, an alleged Indonesian terrorist group. He denied all the allegations and reiterated that he had no knowledge about it as he is a community development worker and a peace advocate partner of Bantay Ceasefire a local peace monitoring group. On August 04, 2006, Abedin was released due to the persistent demand of several caused oriented groups and no case filed against him.

Abedin recounted that his experience brought fear and trauma to his well being. As a result, he cannot function well in his work.

On August 27, 2006 at about two o'clock in the afternoon three Muslim-Maguindanaon, Wahab Ramalan, Sammy Gampong and Radzak Macarimbang on board super ferry 16 bound for Manila were arrested by a composite team of Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG), Task Force Tugis, and 603rd Infantry Brigade.

According to Macarimbang, while they were taking a nap, several unidentified military men approached them and asked for their tickets for inspection. Upon showing their tickets to the authorities they were informed that their tickets will be taken for further investigation. After a few minutes, the military men came back to inspect their baggage in their presence and found nothing.

Macarimbang said they were asked to wait because the military men will have to confer with the ship captain. Minutes later, they came back and told the three to step down from the vessel. They were brought to the port’s office for interrogation on the alleged possession of illegal explosive device and their baggage confiscated. They asked why their baggage was confiscated, but the military replied “doon na lang tayo magpaliwanagan sa taas”. After interrogation they were forced to ride in a white Toyota FX vehicle. Inside the vehicle they were blindfolded and handcuffed by their captors. They traveled for about thirty minutes and they were transferred to another vehicle which they suspected as a six by six military truck.

Ramalan said they were brought to an unknown place, blindfolded and handcuffed. He was interrogated several times by three unidentified military asking about his involvement in the upcoming September 11 bombing plot. Ramalan denied all the allegations. He was boxed several times and was hit in his stomach and back during interrogation which lasted for about three (3) hours.

Macarimbang recounted that he was interrogated for about two hours. He was boxed and was hit in his stomach several times. He was repeatedly slapped and was hit in the back by a piece of wood.

Sammy Gampong narrated that he was told to admit involvement and membership with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who planned a terror plot in commemoration of the September 11 bombing of the Twin Towers. He answered that he was going to Manila for economic reasons. His interrogators boxed him several times and he was hit in his stomach and shoulders. He was also slapped repeatedly. He was interrogated for about two (2) hours. The three claimed that they were deprived of food for two days.

On the following day, several men came to visit them who identified themselves as human rights lawyers. They were asked about their involvement in any political group such as the MILF and the alleged bombing plot. They denied any political affiliation and involvement in any terrorism act and they insisted that they were civilians.

On August 29, the three were informed that they will be transferred to Manila but instead they were brought to CIDG at PC hill compound Cotabato City for custody. During their stay at the CIDG they were also interrogated.

On the same day, a criminal case was filed against them for a violation of R.A. 8249 (Illegal Possession of Explosives). Sammy Gampong and Radzak Macarimbang were turned over to Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center in PC Hill, Cotabato City. Wahab Ramalan was turned over earlier due to his standing warrant of arrest for murder issued last 2003.

The three (3) victims insisted that the allegations and evidences against them are all planted. On August 31, they were able to post property bond worth two hundred thousand pesos each (P 200,000.00) and they were released.

These two cases are a clear manifestation of the discrimination against the Muslim people that display a serious violation of human rights. The practice of torture to extract information or confession remains a method in police or military interrogations. This is aggravated by the bias against and discrimination of our Muslim brothers and sisters who are branded as “terrorists”.

The terror that now reigns in Muslim communities is the terror of being suspected, arrested and tortured for a crime one has no knowledge of. This is the face of terror in Mindanao - government wielding its armed might with impunity against defenseless and innocent civilians who most often than not are Muslims.

Lemuel Artiaga is a staff of TFDP-Mindanao

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