A closer look in­side an MILF de­ten­tion fa­cil­ity

Manila Bulletin - - Mindanao News - By KEITH BACONGCO

PIKIT, North Cota­bato – Sit­u­ated in the plains of this marshy town, heav­ily armed men are sta­tioned around a for­ti­fied struc­ture that serves as de­ten­tion fa­cil­ity for erring vil­lagers.

But this is not a gov­ern­ment-ran fa­cil­ity. In­stead, it is be­ing main­tained by the Moro Is­lamic Lib­er­a­tion Front (MILF).

The cell, which sits in­side a barb wire-fenced com­pound, is called the East­ern Min­danao Re­for­ma­tion Cen­ter, which is, it­self, lo­cated in­side the sprawl­ing Camp Ra­ja­muda of the MILF.

MILF East­ern Min­danao Front Com­man­der Jack Ab­bas told The Manila Bul­letin that the Re­for­ma­tion Cen­ter serves not just as de­ten­tion fa­cil­ity for crim­i­nals, but as a re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­ter for drug de­pen­dents as well.

Ab­bas pointed out that the pun­ish­ment for push­ers are dif­fer­ent than users. “Drug push­ers are de­tained as crim­i­nals while users un­dergo re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion,” he said.

“(Drug de­pen­dents) un­dergo not just phys­i­cal re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, but spir­i­tual re­newal, as well,” he added say­ing that an Us­tadz vis­its the fa­cil­ity ev­ery week to teach them Is­lamic val­ues.

Ev­ery month, the MILF of­fi­cial added, a physi­cian ex­am­ines the health con­di­tion of the de­tainees.

Ab­bas, one of the vet­eran MILF com­man­ders, added that the num­ber of drug de­pen­dent de­tainees have al­ready dropped fol­low­ing the gov­ern­ment’s re­lent­less war on drugs.

On Au­gust 21, the MILF gave Manila Bul­letin an ex­clu­sive first look of the de­ten­tion fa­cil­ity. Dur­ing the visit, there were only three de­tainees shar­ing one of the three cells, with an es­ti­mated size of about 16 square me­ters each.

The fa­cil­ity has a com­mon kitchen and a re­stroom.

Right at the gate of the com­pound stands a mosque where the de­tainees are al­lowed to say their noon­time prayer along with their guards and vil­lagers.

Yu­soph Mo­ham­mad, the MILF jail war­den, told The Manila Bul­letin that many have al­ready been re­leased after they have com­pleted the max­i­mum four-month de­ten­tion.

“But for high pro­file or crim­i­nal cases, they are trans­ferred to an­other fa­cil­ity in Camp Dara­panan. This Re­for­ma­tion Cen­ter mainly func­tions as re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion or dis­ci­plinary ac­tions to drug de­pen­dents,” Mo­ham­mad ex­plained.

Camp Dara­panan is the MILF’s main head­quar­ters lo­cated at Sul­tan Ku­darat town in Maguin­danao.

Mo­ham­mad added that the fa­cil­ity could ac­com­mo­date up to 30 per­sons. How­ever, at the height of MILF’s anti-drug cam­paign in 2016 to 2017, the de­tainees cramped in the cells bal­looned to 60.

Since they could not be ac­com­mo­dated in­side the fa­cil­ity, he bared that some were al­lowed to sleep in the nearby madrasah and sen­try huts. “They could not just slip away, the are a lot of heav­ily-armed guards around.”

One of the de­tainees, who asked not to be named, told The Manila Bul­letin that his par­ents turned him in to the MILF due to ex­ces­sive drug use.

He has been de­tained for over four months al­ready. He ad­mit­ted that he was com­fort­able in the Re­for­ma­tion Cen­ter be­cause he has learned a lot on the teach­ings of Is­lam.

“Mas ma­g­a­nda dito dahil naka­pag­dasal pa ako at mas kom­portable dito dahil hindi masikip at mainit,” the 38-year old fa­ther of seven told Manila Bul­letin.

Mo­ham­mad ex­plained that some de­tainees’ term needed to be ex­tended be­cause their par­ents have re­fused to take them back.

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