MILF Hails Human Rights Report On Sulu Massacre

February 17, 2008 at 4:39 pm | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment
COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 17, 20080 – The Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, hailed the findings of an independent probe in the killings of eight people by government soldiers in Sulu province.

Muhammad Ameen, chairman of the MILF Secretariat, said the findings of the Commission on Human Rights detailed how troops attacked the village of Ipil in Maimbung town and plundered the houses of villagers, among them an off-duty army soldier and seven civilians. The MILF previously condemned the killings.
The raid February 4, the military insisted, was a legitimate operation that targeted the Abu Sayyaf, which is holding a kidnapped trader, Rosalie Lao, in the town. Seven of those killed by soldiers were two children, two teenagers and a pregnant woman, including a seaweed farmer and a village councilor.
CHR Regional Director Jose Manuel Mamauag said there was no Abu Sayyaf in the village and that seven of those slain in the military attack were innocent civilians. “None of them was an Abu Sayyaf member. Seven civilians and a government soldiers were killed in that attack,” he said.
The MILF also praised Mamauag for his unbiased report of the CHR investigations into the killings. “Conscience-guided men, like Mamauag, deserved to be commended by everyone, despite differences of loyalties and orientations,” he said, adding, only men of conscience and commitment to the rule of law could decide on the side of truth and justice, especially if the victims were only lowly seaweed workers.
Mamauag has recommended the filing of criminal charges against the soldiers involved in the raid. The military restrained the more than 50 soldiers who took part in the operation and most of them are members of the so-called elite and US-trained Army Light Reaction Company and the Navy’s Special Warfare Group.
The military has ordered a separate probe of the killings after Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan vowed to file criminal charges against the soldiers. The killings also sparked massive protests from international and local human rights organizations and civil society groups.
“We will respect the outcome of the investigations,” said Army Maj. Gen. Ruben Rafael, commander of the military forces in Sulu.Survivors of the carnage testified in investigations that soldiers opened fired on villagers as they pleaded for their life. Four of those killed were shot at sea as they fled for safety on boat.
One of the survivors Rawina Wahid, wife of the slain soldier, Pfc. Ibnul Wahid, said her husband was hogtied and tortured by soldiers before being shot at the back of his head.
“My husband told the soldiers that he is a member of the Philippine Army, but they never listened and dragged him out of the house, bound his hands behind his back and then shot him. They did not listen to our pleading and they killed my husband,” she said.
She said she saw four US soldiers on a navy boat where the body of her husband was brought. “I saw four American soldiers on the boat before Filipino troops blinded folded me,” she told reporters. Wahid said she boarded the boat that took her husband’s remains to a military base in Jolo town.
Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro assured the governor that there will be no cover up in the ongoing investigation into the killing of the civilians. He said President Gloria Arroyo ordered a probe into the incident. “The instruction of President Arroyo is to have a credible investigation,” he said.
Teodoro met last week with families of those killed in the raid and heard the testimony of Wahid. Tan branded the killings as “barbaric and dastardly”.
One of the victims had been shot at close range in the forehead, his right eye was gorged out and right ear missing. One had a missing finger while another had burns on his body and legs.
The slain civilians were identified as Marisa Payian, 4; Wedme Lahim, 9; Alnalyn Lahim, 15; Sulayman Hakob, 17; Kirah Lahim, 45; Eldisim Lahim, 43; Narcia Abon, 24. Two of the raiders were also killed and four others wounded after armed villagers retaliated.
Reps. Yusop Jikiri, of Sulu province and Mujiv Hataman, of Basilan have separately called for a congressional investigation into the killings in Maimbung town.
Jikiri, a former rebel leader of the Moro National Liberation Front, said the off-duty soldier killed along with seven civilians was shot in front of his wife.
“Wahid was reportedly hogtied first before he was shot in front of her. The wife, in fact, showed the military uniform of her husband, but the soldiers merely ignored the plea of Mrs. Wahid. Later, Mrs. Wahid was taken by the soldiers to the rubber boat allegedly driven by an American soldier,” Jikiri said in a privilege speech.
Hataman also filed a resolution seeking for an urgent investigation of the killings, which he described as “despicable, loathsome and ruthless.” He said: “There is no valid reason, especially for the soldiers who are supposed to be the protector of the people, to kill innocent civilians, particularly children.” (Mindanao Examiner)

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