On behalf of the bereaved families and victims of bombings and kidnappings in Mindanao and in the interest truth and justice, the undersigned civil society organizations, human rights defenders and peace advocates strongly call for an immediate and impartial investigation over the suspicious release from detention of high-valued Abu Sayyaf inmates from the Special Intensive Care Area (SICA) of Bicutan Jail sometime in February 2013 through the alleged “facilitation” of a very powerful politician from Sulu.
While Mindanaoans are terrorized with the spate of bombings now rocking the fledgling peace in Mindanao, it is highly repulsive and mind-boggling why national agencies of government like the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), which is under the Office of the President, and the Task Force on Anti-Terrorism of the Department of Justice allowed the release of highly dangerous terrorists who made no qualms that they are involved in bombings and kidnappings.
On February 7, 2013, national print and online media outfits reported the order of the Department of Justice to release 18 suspected Abu Sayyaf men allegedly wrongfully accused of kidnapping as “There appears to be no proof of their participation in the kidnapping much less evidence of their purported membership in the Abu Sayyaf Group.” The 18 were charged for the kidnapping and beheading of Jehovah’s Witness/Almeda Group members in 2002. Because of the dropping of their criminal charges by the DOJ, these 18 walked to freedom on February 15, 2013.
What is shocking is that barely a month from their release from prison, four of these 18 suspects, namely Muhammad Sali Said, Robin Sahiyal, Julhamad Ahad and Mujibar Amon were presented before the Regional Trial Court of Manila-Branch 19 as witnesses of Governor Abdusakur Tan in criminal cases which he has filed against a known human rights defender from Sulu.
In open court, these men have admitted that they are bombers, kidnappers and proud active members of the Abu Sayyaf Group. Sali Said, the star witness produced by the Governor, admitted that he was released from prison through the help of the lawyer of the governor who offered to help him “process (his) papers for release” on the condition that his group will agree to stand as false witnesses for the governor.
Why these Abu Sayyaf inmates released from prison is the biggest question that up to now the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos and the Department of Justice refuse to answer. Who repackaged these highly dangerous terrorists to fall under the legal assistance program of the NCMF and made them appear as innocent Muslims wrongly arrested due to mistaken identity? While we are of course supportive of this type of programs as there are indeed hundreds of innocent detainees now languishing in jail, we strongly condemn the act of “inserting” into the list of innocent Muslims wrongly arrested due to mistaken identity—the names of at least four Abu Sayyaf bombers and kidnappers, namely Robin Sahiyal, Muhammad Sali Said and Julhamad Ahadi who walked to freedom last February 15, 2013.
While our young soldiers are risking their lives and limbs running after the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu, it is simply sickening to the senses and a complete mockery of justice to find our own national agencies like the NCMF and DOJ providing free legal assistance to high-valued terrorists, bombers and kidnappers? How can we ever reconcile the use of taxpayers’ money to set free the Abu Sayyaf Group? How can NCMF and DOJ ever miss the sea of difference between an innocent Muslim wrongly arrested due to mistaken identity and the solid intelligence dossier of these hard core terrorists?
Who placed the names of these terrorists into the list of innocent Muslims wrongly arrested due to mistaken identity? Who made the deal so that the four ASG witnesses of the Governor will be categorized as innocent Muslims? Who closed his eyes on the glaring fact that these four are Abu Sayyaf members? Who repackaged the four terrorists to become innocent, wrongly arrested Muslims so they can qualify into the NCMF legal assistance program?
These questions demand answers from NCMF, DOJ and the Provincial Government of Sulu whose appalling modus operandi has ostensibly exposed the civilian population into such extreme level of risks from these terrorists who are now freely roaming around public places and could now be plotting the next bomb to detonate and kill our own people.
We appeal to the Philippine Senate to immediately call for an inquiry so that the NCMF, DOJ and the Vice Governor of Sulu will be able to answer for all these issues.
In the name of the victims of bombings and other terroristic acts in Mindanao, we urge President Aquino to demonstrate the full force of the law by holding his very own agencies of government and political allies accountable to the “matuwid na daan” policy.