Amnesty For Muslim Prisoners Sought
COTABATO CITY – Two Mindanao-based human rights groups have appealed to presumptive president-elect Rodrigo Duterte to include all Muslim prisoners who were falsely accused as terrorists after the politician announced his plans to grant amnesty to political prisoners.
Suara Bangsamoro and Kawagib Moro Human Rights said most of those who are being held in prisons were victims of military crackdown conducted since 2001 against innocent Muslims accused as Abu Sayyaf members.
They said more than 200 Muslims from the provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, even as far as Manila and other parts of southern Philippines had been arrested and detained– many illegally – and were also tortured and forced to sign documents to admit they are members of the notorious Abu Sayyaf group.
The two groups are also seeking the review of the case of 224Muslims accused as members of the Moro National Liberation Front, who were arrested during the 2013 Zamboanga siege and detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.
“Suara Bangsamoro and Kawagib Moro Human Rights hope that through the amnesty program of the presumptive president, justice will be rendered to the victims and their families and will help address the historical injustice of military solution to the conflict in the Moro areas, of using discriminatory policies against the Moro people such as equating terrorism to their identity and struggle,” they said in a joint statement sent to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.
The Communist Party of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines have welcomed Duterte’s plan to grant amnesty to political prisoners. The communist groups said over 500 political prisoners – mostly members of the CPP and NDFP and its military wing, the New People’s Army are languishing in jails across the country.
Duterte is eyeing the resumption of the stalled peace talks with the CPP and the NDFP in an effort to end decades of fighting in the country. He also offered four cabinet positions to communist leaders.
Last year, communist rebels accused President Benigno Aquino’s peace adviser Teresita Deles of muddling efforts to restart stalled peace negotiations with Manila. Daniel Ibarra, a spokesman for the New People’s Army, said Deles peddled lies and black propaganda against the rebel group to discourage Aquino from pursuing peace negotiations.
Government peace talks with the New People’s Army collapsed in 2004 after rebels accused then President Gloria Arroyo of reneging on several agreements, among them the release of all political prisoners, and the removal of the terrorist tag on the Communist Party of the Philippines and its political wing, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
Manila also suspended the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees after the peace talks failed. The rebels have been fighting for many decades now for the establishment of a communist state in the country.
Moro National Liberation Front members (Mindanao Examiner photo - Mark Navales)