Justice for Arip, Justice for All Political Prisoners
Volume 21 Number 1
Tuesday, 24 November 2009 13:37
What makes the story of Arip Malacaw poignant is that his life, though marked by extreme hardship, continues to give a sense of hope. He derives his strength from the love of his children and his struggle for justice. Indeed, what is most striking about his story was the account of his detention. Quite apart from the fears was the vividness with which he recalled the atrocities he suffered in the hands of the military and the manner by which he was arrested. His story tells the situation and the gravity of the experiences of the Muslim political detainees languishing in jails that one can also feel their pains.

Arip's story is no farce. It is tragedy.

On May 21, 2003, the members of the Manila Police District (MPD) and Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) came to Isla Puting Bato in Tondo, Manila and began a crackdown on Muslim communities in search for alleged bombers out to sow chaos at the National Capital Region (NCR). The police and intelligence agents rounded up seventy Muslims in the dead of the night to confess to being Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members sent to Manila to conduct destabilization activities.

Arip was one of them.

A native of Cotabato City, Arip set off to find his fortune in Manila in the middle of 1995. He came to Manila with his first wife who was then pregnant. He went to Isla Puting Bato in Tondo, Manila through the influence of his nephew Abdul Basit Marcol Malacaw. In Tondo, he became a pedicab driver while making a living as a construction worker, which he did for the next eight years until 2003.

Arip began to hope for happier days for himself and his wife. They dreamt of a better life for their children. In 1995, Samier, his first child was born. Arip worked hard and saw to it that he found time to be with his family. Another year later, Samera, his next child was born. His wife died in 1997 due to cancer. Three years later, he married Tandong Gani also a native of Cotabato City.

On May 21, 2003, Arip’s dream of a better life for his family was shattered. He was arrested without warrant for a crime he did not know. The police officers just knew that he is a Muslim and he was involved in a plot to bomb key areas in Metro Manila. He was charged with illegal possession of firearms or violation of Presidential Decree No. 1866 as amended by RA 8294, along with seven other Muslim brothers. The police threw them in jail. Except for Arip, his fellow Muslim brothers were able to post bail and were freed.

What haunted him was the thought of his wife and children going hungry. But now, with him locked behind bars, his family has close to nothing. They have neither land nor property to sell. They only have themselves. Another tragedy befell him when his second wife, Tandong, died.

Arip is languishing in Manila City Jail for more than three years now. He thinks that the lives of his two kids, Samier, 11, and Samera, 10, are at risk because of the culture of violence that thrives in society. Arip said that he was moved by the image of his children when they visited him in jail through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). At present, Arip’s children are studying and are under the care of Arip’s in-laws.

Samera is so fond of his father that he told him that they will get him out of jail by putting him inside a sack and bringing it outside the jail. Samier and Samera could just be like ordinary kids, naive and playful, except that they live in a world where the government aggravates the sufferings and discrimination against fellow Muslims.

Arip’s hope has not waned as he continues to tell his story with a great deal of faith in Allah. His story, like that of many other Muslim political detainees (65 according to TFDP documents), has dispelled the illusion and shown the world that this country’s democracy thrives in sheer lies. Arip’s situation is a reminder of the repression and injustice prevailing in this modern society.

The human rights situation in the country has taken a turn for the worse since GMA took office in 2001. Cases of arbitrary arrest and detention increased. Activists and human rights defenders either disappear or end up dead. A culture of impunity has persisted.

The Human Security Act of 2007, more known as the Anti-Terrorism Law, has itself caused deep concern. Behind the enactment of the Anti-Terrorism law is the exposure of an Orwellian truth. Mrs. Arroyo is letting out the dogs of war and is doing things the Marcos way. Twenty-one years may have passed since Marcos was ousted, but the shadows of dictatorship and repression are very much present today.

According to Arip, the Human Security Act is not enough to catch the suspected “terrorists”, the primary target of which are the Muslims. The government must work together to root out the causes that lead to the making of “terrorists” in the first place. The government is wrong to suppose that through legislation against terrorism, it is doing its duty to protect the peoples’ security and safety. That is no way to “fight” terror; that is just a way to stoke fire among the hearts of the weary.

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