Tag Archives: Zamboanga City

[Statement] Human Rights Watch on Zamboanga relocation of IDPs

HRW statement on Zamboanga relocation of IDPs

“The Zamboanga City government should ensure that the rights of the IDPs (internally displaced persons) in the Cawa-cawa evacuation camp are protected as the city government acts to relocate them in the coming days,” Phelim Kine, Human Rights Watch deputy director for Asia, said today. “Any relocation should be done peacefully and fully respecting the rights and well-being of IDPs who have already been traumatized by the Zamboanga violence late last year.”

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“Any security forces deployed to assist with the relocations should prioritize the rights and safety of the IDPs” Kine said.

“Philippines’ security forces – including any involved in the Cawa-cawa evacuation camp relocation – are obligated to follow the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials,” Kine said. “Those Principles set out international law on the use of force in law enforcement situations and provide that security forces shall as far as possible apply nonviolent means before resorting to the use of force,” Kine said.

BACKGROUND:

On September 9, 2013, armed men from a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front went into Zamboanga City, in the southern Philippines. Fighting ensued between the men and soldiers from the Philippines military, resulting in the displacement of more than 100,000 people, mostly Muslim residents. Dozens were killed while more than 10,000 homes in at least 5 villages were burned down at the height of the conflict and even when the fighting was declared over three weeks later.

Seven months after the conflict, more than 64,600 IDPs remain in evacuation camps and so-called transitional shelters, with many living with relatives and friends. The evacuation camps at a coastal area called Cawa-cawa and at the Joaquin Enriquez Sports Complex hold more than 20,000 IDPs and they are the worst affected by the squalid conditions, mainly problems with sanitation and hygiene that helped the spread of such diseases as dengue fever, pneumonia and diarrhea. At least 108 have died from these diseases in the evacuation camps of Zamboanga. M0re than 4,000 IDPs have pitched tents on a shoreline in Cawa-cawa, most of them Badjaos, a tribe that depends on the sea for their livelihood.

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Zamboanga, please visit:
Philippines: Investigate Zamboanga Detainee Mistreatment
http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/10/03/philippines-investigate-zamboanga-detainee-mistreatment

Philippines: Mistreatment, Hostage-Taking in Zamboanga
http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/09/19/philippines-mistreatment-hostage-taking-zamboanga

Philippines: Residents Trapped in Zamboanga Fighting
http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/09/15/philippines-residents-trapped-zamboanga-fighting

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[Statement] Teachers decry p300 additional poll duty pay -TDC

Teachers decry p300 additional poll duty pay

The Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) said they appreciate the P300.00 additional honorarium for teachers who served during the 2013 barangay elections held on October 28 and special elections on November 28 held in Bohol Province and Zamboanga City. The announcement came from the budget department yesterday as its response to the Comelec’s appeal for increase in teachers’ pay.

TDC

“This is an admission that the Comelec gave us less than what we deserved. However, we would be more thankful if they provided a truly just pay commensurate to our tasks.” Said Benjo Basas, the group’s national chairperson.

The TDC prior to the elections protested what they call “a legalized exploitation” of teachers thru the compulsory election duties that they said exposes them to “all sorts of dangers- health risks, harassment, legal charges and physical attack.”

“Yet at the end of all these sufferings,” Basas continued “teachers will only get a very minimal compensation- not even enough for transportation, paracetamol, food and energy drink to keep us awake, often, the honorarium comes very late, as late as a month or more.”

Basas cited the October 28 elections in which the group received reports of non-payment of the P2, 000.00 honorarium as late as one month after the polls. Meanwhile the payment for those who served as canvassers (amount varies depending on the number of clustered precinct) as well as the P500.00 transportation allowance have not been paid in such areas as Palo, Leyte and Olongapo City, respectively, that is two months after the elections.

Basas also criticized the government for paying “huge amount of honoraria and bonuses to those who practically just sit in their respective offices, including the bosses of government corporations and financial institutions” and giving away people’s money to the “discretionary funds of incompetent and corrupt officials” while providing very little to the lowly rank and file employees.

The group long before the elections asked the government to pay those who sit as board of election tellers (BET) more. “The amount of honorarium should have been doubled, it should not be less than P4, 000.00, same as our total per diem during automated elections, because barangay elections use manual system which is more physically exhausting.” Basas added.

Basas, again reiterated his group’s call for the abolition of the mandated poll duties of teachers.

“These are the reasons why we push for the optional election duties. We cannot refuse the assignment to sit as election workers, even if this task may expose us to harm, even death. We cannot negotiate with the Comelec on the amount they want us to be paid. We can never demand for a lawyer to defend us when we are in trouble. The mandated poll duty of public school teachers is a legal excused for the government to perpetuate exploitation.” Basas ended. #

Reference: Benjo Basas, National Chairperson 0920-5740241/ 3853437

PRESS STATEMENT
December 30, 2013

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[Statement] “RHRC Condemns the Death Threat and Illegal Arrest of its Personnel Committed by P/Supt. Rey Dante Soledad”

“RHRC Condemns the Death Threat and Illegal Arrest of its Personnel Committed by P/Supt. Rey Dante Soledad”
16 December 2013

The Regional Human Rights Commission (RHRC) condemns the act of P/SUPT. REY DANTE SOLEDAD in directly threatening the lives of RHRC’s two human rights investigators and three support staff on December 13, 2013 at San Ramon Penal Farm, Zamboanga City.

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Threatening their lives directly by saying “Buti pa kami na ang unang papatay sa inyo” is not acceptable. We further deplore his subsequent act of illegally arresting them at a time when they were performing their official mandate in rendering free legal service to the minors and internally displaced persons who were illegally seized and unlawfully detained as an aftermath of the Zamboanga Siege.

P/Supt. Soledad unlawfully committed these acts despite the fact that it was made clear to him that RHRC is rendering legal aid to detained minors and IDPs who are all residents of ARMM. This is authorized under Republic Act 9054 as implemented by Sec. 11 (d) of MMA Act 288, which mandates the RHRC to “provide legal aid services to the underprivileged residents of the Autonomous Region whose human rights have been violated or need protection.” The RHRC is aware that it has no jurisdiction in Zamboanga City to investigate human rights violations.

RHRC Statement on the Death Threat and Illegal Arrest Committed by P P/SUPT Rey Dante Soledad, PNP IX-Regional Public Safety Battalion, against RHRC’s Human Rights Investigators and Support Staff

reported by Inquirer at

Human rights workers arrested after visiting jailed MNLF men

RHRC ARMM
Regional Human Rights Commission (RHRC)
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM),
1F JICA Building, ORG Compound, Cotabato City 9600, Mindanao, Philippines

Telephone: +63 (0) 64 552 0436
E-mail: rhrcarmm@gmail.com
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RHRC, ARMM
The Regional Human Rights Commission (RHRC) of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in the Philippines is a statutory agency created under Section 16 of Republic Act 9054 (2001) and operationalized by Muslim Mindanao Autonomy Act 288 (ARMM Human Rights Commission Charter of 2012). It is mandated to perform within the autonomous region, the functions of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) of the central government.

BHRN
The Bangsamoro Human Rights Network (BHRN) is a network of over 40 agencies and individuals that are committed to addressing and improving the human rights situation in Muslim Mindanao. It was formed and facilitated by the RHRC, ARMM in March 2013 and meets regularly in various locations in ARMM. Participants of the BHRN represent government agencies, the security sector, other state and non-state actors, civil society groups including NGOs and academia, and international agencies such as the UN and various embassies.

Please contact us for more information on RHRC, ARMM and/or BHRN. Like us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RHRCARMM or follow us on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/ARMMRHRC. If you wish to stop receiving e-mail updates from RHRC, please notify us at rhrcarmm@gmail.com.

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[In the news] Human rights workers arrested after visiting jailed MNLF men.-INQUIRER.net

Human rights workers arrested after visiting jailed MNLF men.

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Two government special investigators assigned to the Commission on Human Rights  in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and three members of their staff were arrested after visiting suspects in the September attack on Zamboanga City who are locked up in the San Ramon Penal Colony in Zamboanga del Sur province, a CHR regional official said Friday.

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Police denied that the human rights workers had been arrested but confirmed they were being questioned for alleged breaches of security that endangered police guarding maximum security prisoners.

Lawyer Edy Santiago of the CHR-ARMM told the Inquirer the Zamboanga City police,  particularly those assigned to the Ayala Police Station, committed grave abuse and harassed the CHR team.

She identified those arrested as Special Investigator II Al-Ghosaibi M. Jupli, Special Investigator I Umma Omar Edding, administrative aide Nasser Halapto, data enumerator Madzsalman Cifria and driver Hermie Omar.

Read full article @http://newsinfo.inquirer.net

Follow INQUIRER: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

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[Press Release] Political Detainees freed on Human Rights Day -TFDP

Political Detainees freed on Human Rights Day

Three (3) Muslim victims of arbitrary arrest and detention were released last December 10, 2013, Human Rights Day after the Taguig Regional Trial Court’s decision that they were victims of mistaken identity.

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Mujeener Dagam Cabalo and his two other co-accused were released from the Special Intensive Care Area of the Camp Bagong Diwa under the decision of Taguig City RTC 266 Honorable Judge Toribio E. Ilao, Jr. The three were released because it was proven that they were not the same person charged in the information issued by authorities.

According to the human rights group Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), on March 5, 2013 at about 9:00am, around ten joint operatives of the Mindanao Area Police Intelligence Office (MAPIO), Regional Intelligence Division (RID),Regional Public Safety Battalion 9, Police Regional Office (PRO) 9, arrested Mujeenar Dagam Cabalo, allegedly a suspect in a bombing incident that happened in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato in October 2007.

Based from TFDP’s documentation, the victim was arrested right after he was discharged from Ciudad Medical Zamboanga due to his heart ailment in February 2013. He was brought to the police station in the Municipality of Sta. Maria in Zamboanga City, where he was interviewed and taken mug shots and documentation. Mujeenar narrated that at the station, the police confiscated his mobile phone, then moments later they returned it to him but he noticed that all of his contacts had been deleted.

According to Cabalo, the police showed them a warrant of arrest for a certain “Aman Kabalu”, of which the family said that it was not him. The police showed a picture of a pale and thin picture of him that was probably taken recently and contained the name of certain Aman Kabalu. The police refused to be identified after being asked by the victim’s wife and the victim himself.

Cabalo is a resident of Latuan Baluno, Isabela City, Basilan Province, Island of Mindanao and a madrasah teacher since 2007. He was confined at Ciudad Medical Zamboanga, Zamboanga City in Mindanao on February 22, 2013 due to heart ailment.

“There are instances that there are Muslims being arbitrarily arrested on the basis of similar names. And there are reports that this is being resorted to because there is reward money,” said Emmanuel Amistad, Executive Director of TFDP.
Mujeener Dagam Cabalo is one of the more than three hundred political prisoners and detainees who were victims of arbitrary arrests and detention, torture and political incarceration in the country.

“Unfortunately, the victim (Cabalo) is afraid for his safety because of information received from sources that he might be arrested again. This information came from Mindanao that the Police still looking for possibilities to implicate him in another case.” Rita Melecio, Deputy Executive Director of TFDP said.

“Despite the Peace Talks, arrests and detention of Muslims continue under the banner of “war on terror’,” added Melecio.

The two (2) co-accused of Mujeenar namely, Muaweya Masabpi and Tohame Usman whom the prosecution witness failed to identify during the Preliminary Investigation were also released on Human Rights day. ###

For more details pls contact:
Egay Cabalitan, TFDP Advocacy Staff, 09288443717, egay.advocacytfdp@gmail.com
Rita Melecio, TFDP Deputy Exec. Director, 09352016738, rita.tfdp@gmail.com

PRESS RELEASE
December 13, 2013

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[Urgent Appeal] Arrest and alleged torture of a 16-year old boy in Zamboanga City by members of the AFP -TFDP

URGENT APPEAL

Dear Friends,

Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, writes to inform you about an arrest and alleged torture of a 16-year old boy in Zamboanga City by members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on September 20, 2013. He is an alleged member of the Moro National Liberation Front.

Case Details

Mudzmer Abdulla, 16 years of age, was arrested along with seven other men suspected to have taken part in the siege in Zamboanga City, Philippines by the Moro National Liberation Front.

According to Mudzmer, they were all wounded when they were forced to surrender. He said that the military commanded them to put their hands over their heads and to drop flat to the ground. After, the military in boots stepped on them and tied them up with a rope. After, they were kicked and punched as they were being forced to admit being MNLF fighters.

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Mudzmer claimed that one of his companions was slashed to death by one of the military personnel when he denied involvement with the MNLF. Fearing for their lives, they all admitted to be members of MNLF under duress.

He was blindfolded and taken to a venue he believes to be the Southern City College since he overheard his captors. Mudzmer was interrogated and asked about the other men. In fear, he confessed that he is originally from Sulu and was part of a certain Commander Nasser Adja’s team. His commander has already been killed by the military.

Mudzmer had shrapnel wounds in his left ankle, right knee and his thighs that needed medical attention but rather than provide him health care, he was punched in the eye, kicked on his injured knee and stabbed at his right hand.

At dawn, Mudzmer was taken to Zamboanga City Central Police Station. According to him, this is when his captors took off his blindfolds. He was put in a detention cell with other alleged members of the MNLF. He said that though he was given bread that day, he along with the other detainees, were not provided food for five days. They were only given water.

Now, Mudzmer has been transferred to the San Ramon Penal and Prison Farm. He said that he was given a dental examination to verify his age but is yet to receive the result of the test.

He said that his co-detainees inside the cell have been treating him harshly and that some even takes his share of food during mealtime.

Mudzmer said that his father, who was an MNLF member, convinced him to join a peace rally to Zamboanga City. He was promised that they will be given five thousand pesos each and that after taking part in the peace rally, they will be becoming integrees of the government. They were given an armalite rifle and an MNLF uniform before leaving Sulu for Zamboanga.

Action requested:

Please write to the authorities in the Philippines to urge them to:

1. Transfer the custody of Mudzmer Abdullah from the San Ramon Penal and Prison Farm to the Department of Social Welfare and Development to ensure the protection of his rights and his best interests.

2. Call upon competent authorities to carry out prompt, effective, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the arrest and alleged torture of a minor and ensure that those who committed the crime be held accountable.

3. Guarantee the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards.

Please send your letters to:

1. His Excellency Benigno Simeon Aquino III

President

Republic of the Philippines

Malacañang Palace

JP Laurel Street, San Miguel

Manila 1005

Philippines

Fax: +63 2 7361010

Tel: +63 2 7356201

Email: op@president.gov.ph

2. Hon. Leila M. De Lima

Secretary, Department of Justice (DOJ)

Padre Faura Street

Ermita, Manila 1000

Republic of the Philippines

Fax: =63 2 5239548

Tel: +63 2 5211908

Email: lmdelima@doj.gov.ph

3. Hon. Corazon “Dinky” Juliano-Soliman

Secretary, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)

Batasan Road, Quezon City

Republic of the Philippines

Tel/Fax: +63 2 9318191

Twitter: @dswdserves, @dinkysunflower

4. Hon. Loreta Ann P. Rosales

Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights

Fax: +63 2 9290102

Tel: + 63 2 9285655

Email: chair.rosales.chr@gmail.com

5. Gen. Emmanuel T. Bautista

Chief of Staff, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)

DND Building, Camp Aguinaldo

Quezon City

Philippines

Email: http://www.afp.mil.ph

6. Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin

Secretary, Department of National Defense (DND)

Camp Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo

Quezon City 1110

Philippines

Fax: +63 2 982 5640

Tel: +63 2 982 5638

Email: info@dnd.gov.ph

7. Hon. Teresita Quintos-Deles

Secretary, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process

7th Floor, Agustin 1 Building

F. Ortigas Jr. Road,

Ortigas Center, Pasig City

Philippines

Tel: +63 2 6360701

Email: stgd@opapp.net

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[Petition] Concerned Agencies: Support the IDP’s return home and rehabilitation -Change.org

Concerned Agencies: Support the IDP’s return home and rehabilitation
Petition by
Al Bahra
Zamboanga City, Philippines

IDPs Zamboanga

Screen grab of change.org petition

A RESOLUTION MANIFESTING THE UNANIMOUS, INFORMED-CHOICE OF THE INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS [IDP] OF ZAMBOANGA CITY TO RETURN TO THEIR PLACE OF RESIDENCE WITH FULL SUPPORT FROM VARIOUS SECTORS FOR THE EXERCISE OF THEIR RIGHT TO RETURN VOLUNTARILY TO THEIR HOMES.

WHEREAS, there are more than 100,000 people from at least 7 dominantly Musim barangays of Zamboanga City who were involuntarily displaced and are still languishing in different evacuation up to now with no certain end in sight under unsuitable conditions as a result of the armed conflict between the MNLF and the government forces that lasted more than 20 days.

WHEREAS, the UN Guiding Principles on the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s), Geneva Convention IV Art. 49 and 147, the International Humanitarian Law, Rules 129 and 132, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights, provide for the right of the IDP’s to voluntarily return to their homes or places of origin immediately after the cessation of the causes of their involuntarily displacement; and said laws further enjoin the states to respect these rights of the IDP’s in their respective territorial jurisdictions.

WHEREAS, Art. 2 of the Constitution provides that the Philippines adopts the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land, thus all the aforementioned international legal instruments are ipso facto incorporated into the Philippines laws;

WHEREAS, in the RIO-HONDO—MARIKI areas, there are two (2) parcels of the land, declared as settlement sites for the Muslims by virtue of Proclamation No. 472 issued on October 11, 1965 by Pres. Macapagal and Proclamation No. 1458 issued on July 7, 1975 by Pres. Marcos respectively; the first site containing an area of 5.7 hectares and the second consisting of 23.5 hectares or a total areas of 29.2 hectares; these areas were reserved by the Philippine Government for the exclusive use and benefit of the Muslim Filipino Communities therein which by law and jurisdiction are supposedly under the administration of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos which inherited if from the defunct Office on Muslim of Affairs, which in turn was passed on to it from the defunct Sothern Philippines Development Administration and which also originally devolved from the defunct Commissions on National Integration.

WHEREAS, a person’s domicile or place of habitual residence and origin, which is close to his place of work or source of livelihood, conducive to his culture, tradition and religion, is where his heart belongs, his comfort zone, to which he would always wish to return, no matter how humble his abode maybe, but for him it is his palatial kingdom which he calls his only “HOME”;

WHEREAS, the right of the people to determine what is best for them must be accorded utmost respect and any decision or response mechanism to be made by the powers that be on the plight of the IDP’s must be a result of a thorough and honest consultation of the concerned IDP’s themselves.

WHEREFORE, after a series of multi-sectoral consultations with the principal involvement of the concerned IDP’s of Zamboanga City, it is resolved, as it is hereby resolved by the DARUL IFTA’ of Region 9 and Palawan (Supreme Council of Muslim Ulama or clerics), by the internationally Displaced Persons of Zamboanga City, concerned Barangay and local government officials, the civil societies, and the Muslim residents of Zamboanga City, that the Office of the President and the Crisis Management Committee of Zamboanga City be informed of the unanimous decision of the concerned IDP’s of Zamboanga City, outof their free will and volition, which they deem to be in their best interest, to RETURN HOME to their respective barangays as soon as possible in order to rebuild their shelters with a corresponding plea to the government to facilitate their voluntary return without any further delay upon cessation of the causes of their forced displacement AND at the same time, to call on any kind-hearted, philanthropic individual, group or agency, local or foreign, to lend humanitarian assistance in the rehabilitation and development of the affected areas. It is further resolved to furnish copies of this resolution to the Office of the President, the two Houses of Congress, the Crisis Management Committee of Zamboanga City, the City Council of Zamboanga City, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation , the UN-Commission on Human Rights and the UN High Comission on Refugees , Amnesty International, the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, International Committee of Red Cross and the Commission on Human Rights and other concerned agencies and organizations.

Please support and sign petition @www.change.org

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[Press Release] Investigate Zamboanga Detainee Mistreatment -HRW

Philippines: Investigate Zamboanga Detainee Mistreatment
Ensure Access to Lawyers, Family Members, Rights Monitors

(Manila, October 4, 2013) – The Philippines government should investigate alleged mistreatment of detainees, including children, by security forces in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines, Human Rights Watch said today.

Photo by HRW

Photo from Human Rights Watch

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The government has detained dozens of suspected Muslim rebels from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) since fighting began in the city on September 9, 2013.

Knowledgeable sources told Human Rights Watch that rebel suspects have reported being beaten and otherwise mistreated by military and police personnel before being turned over to the San Ramon Prison and Penal Farm, a government prison facility on the outskirts of Zamboanga City where most suspected rebels are being held. Torture of alleged MNLF suspects is reported to have occurred at the Southern City Colleges, a school in downtown Zamboanga where much of the September fighting occurred.

“The Philippines government should promptly investigate all credible accounts of detainee mistreatment, take appropriate action to stop it, and punish those responsible,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Philippines security forces’ past record of detainee abuse demands that authorities be doubly vigilant in Zamboanga.”

As of October 1, there were 277 suspected MNLF rebels in police custody, 229 of them at the San Ramon Penal Farm, 41 at the Zamboanga Central Police District, 1 at the police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group facility, and 6 children at the Department of Social Welfare and Development. As of the end of September, 97 of these detainees had been charged with rebellion, while charges are still being prepared against the others.

On September 9, MNLF rebels took over five coastal villages in Zamboanga City and took dozens of residents hostage. Fighting continued through October 1, though all of the hostages were released.

Human Rights Watch documented one incident, reportedly repeated elsewhere, in which rebels used hostages as “human shields” and the Philippines military attacked the rebels, causing civilian deaths and injuries. The fighting killed 202 rebel fighters, soldiers, and civilians, displaced nearly 120,000 people, and resulted in the destruction of more than 10,000 homes.

Allegations of mistreatment
Human Rights Watch received reports from several knowledgeable sources of beatings and other mistreatment of suspected MNLF rebels in detention. Because Human Rights Watch has not been granted access to detention facilities, we have been unable to corroborate these accounts or investigate the extent of the problem.

A 77-year-old man alleged that soldiers pushed him to the ground and then kicked and stomped on him repeatedly after he was arrested as a suspected MNLF rebel.

Three teenage boys – one aged 17 and the others aged 15 – alleged that security forces detained them in the first days of the fighting on suspicion that they were MNLF soldiers. Each said he was blindfolded and then repeatedly punched, slapped, and kicked. The three showed Human Rights Watch cuts and bruises that they said were from mistreatment. The three denied that they were MNLF rebels, but said that MNLF rebels forced them to help feed hostages during the height of the fighting in Santa Barbara village, Zamboanga City. It is a violation of international law for forces to use children under 18 for any purpose.

“They told us to admit that we were MNLF,” one 15-year-old told Human Rights Watch. “One of them pushed me to the ground and kicked me in the back.” The 17-year-old said security forces beat him to try to force him to admit he was a rebel fighter. He said he eventually lied and said he was with the MNLF to get the beatings to stop.

The other 15-year-old said security forces tied his hands so tightly that the rope cut into his wrists. He said he was whipped with a rope that left a bruise on his side. The three youths told Human Rights Watch that security forces only removed their blindfolds on September 26, when they were turned over to a police precinct which in turn brought them to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) facility for children in conflict with the law.

At least three other children arrested by the security forces were detained and mistreated as suspected MNLF fighters. Police handcuffed two of them to adult suspects and forced them to sit on the floor beside a detention cell used by female MNLF suspects for nearly two weeks without charges.

Restricted access to lawyers, relatives, and rights monitors
Various sources told Human Rights Watch that detainees have had very limited or no access to lawyers and family members. Police and military personnel continue to interrogate the San Ramon detainees, including those charged with offenses, without the presence of legal counsel, a violation of Philippines and international law guaranteeing legal representation. Lawyers from the Public Attorney’s Office represent dozens of the detainees at San Ramon, but it is not clear if these court-appointed lawyers have been present for all interrogations.

Prison authorities have interfered with the ability of the lawyers for several detainees to confer with their clients, Human Rights Watch said. Prison authorities had initially insisted that any meetings with MNLF suspects be done while the suspect remained inside his cell. Eventually, however, the prison authorities relented and allowed private meetings with lawyers.

Multiple sources told Human Rights Watch that prison authorities have also barred families of MNLF suspects from access to the San Ramon facility and other detention sites.

The family of Sattar Duran, a 52-year-old suspected MNLF rebel arrested during the early days of the fighting, told Human Rights Watch they only learned on October 2 that he had been detained in San Ramon. “We have been looking for him but nobody told us where he was or where he was brought,” said Tita Duran, his wife.

Other Zamboanga residents told Human Rights Watch that several people from the five affected villages where the fighting was heaviest remain unaccounted for and are considered missing, among them an imam, or Muslim preacher. It is not known if those missing individuals are among the detained suspects at San Ramon.

The Philippines authorities are permitting access to the detainees to representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the governmental Commission on Human Rights. However, the government has denied access to nongovernmental human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, to the San Ramon facility and other sites holding MNLF suspects.

International law
International law prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of people in custody. Individuals apprehended by the government should be promptly brought before a judge and charged with a credible criminal offense or released. The government has an obligation to investigate those responsible for the mistreatment of people in custody and discipline or prosecute them as appropriate.

The Philippines is party to several international treaties that address the issue of children and armed conflict. According to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, armed groups such as the MNLF are prohibited under any circumstance from recruiting or using in hostilities anyone under the age of 18. Placing children in detention with adults violates the government’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other treaties. If these children have indeed been used in the fighting by the MNLF, they are entitled to psychological services and assistance in social reintegration.

The use of Southern City Colleges by security forces to detain suspects also violates Philippines domestic law (Republic Act No. 7610), which prohibits the use of public infrastructure, such as schools, for military purposes.

“The Philippines government has an obligation to conduct its investigations of rebel suspects in a transparent manner that respects due process and the rights of the accused to meet with lawyers and family members,” Adams said. “Blocking access to detention facilities heightens the risk of serious mistreatment.”

To read the Human Rights Watch news release, “Philippines: Mistreatment, Hostage-Taking in Zamboanga,” please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/09/19/philippines-mistreatment-hostage-taking-zamboanga

To read the Human Rights Watch news release, “Philippines: Residents Trapped in Zamboanga Fighting,” please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/09/15/philippines-residents-trapped-zamboanga-fighting

To read the Human Rights Watch Dispatch, “War Children in the Philippines,” please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/09/20/dispatches-war-children-philippines

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on the Philippines, please visit:|
http://www.hrw.org/asia/-philippines

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[From the web] War Children in the Philippines by Carlos H. Conde/HRW

Dispatches: War Children in the Philippines
By Carlos H. Conde
Human Rights Watch
September 20, 2013

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The day before the clashes started, 15-year-old Hassan’s grandfather took him from their village on Basilan Island in the southern Philippines to attend what his grandfather described as a “peace rally” in nearby Zamboanga City. Three days later, I encountered Hassan in a cramped Zamboanga jail cell along with young menarrested for being alleged members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

The toll from the fighting between the Muslim rebels and government forces, which began on September 9, includes dozens killed and wounded, 10,000 houses burned, and 120,000 residents displaced. Many civilians are still being held hostage by the rebels. But children, like Hassan, pay their own steep price.

Hassan denies that he’s a child combatant for the MNLF and the authorities have since relocated him to a youth detention center. Other alleged child soldiers include Kiram, 14, and Abdul, 17, who had spent five days in police custody when I met them on Wednesday, handcuffed to three adults inside a police station.

Human Rights Watch has previously reported on incidents in which the Philippines armed forces have falsely identified children as “child warriors” and paraded them before the media. But even if Hassan, Kiram, and Abdul really are child combatants, they’re victims. According to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, armed groups such as the MNLF should not, under any circumstance, recruit or use in hostilities anyone under the age of 18. The conditions of these children’s detention – that they’re sharing facilities with adults – also violate the government’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the Philippines ratified in 1990. If these children have indeed been used in the fighting by the MNLF, they are entitled to psychological services and assistance in social reintegration.

Over the past week, Human Rights Watch has also documented the rebels’ use of children as hostages and human shields, some of whom have been killed and wounded during military operations. Meanwhile, Zamboanga’s evacuation centers, including a sports stadium, overflow with thousands of children who are homeless and unable to go to school.

Long after the guns go silent and the soldiers go home, the children of Zamboanga will wrestle with the traumas of these days of violence.

http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/09/20/dispatches-war-children-philippines

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[Press Release] Abuses by Government, Rebel Forces in Zamboanga Conflict, Both Sides Need to Do All They Can to Prevent Further Loss of Civilian Life -HRW

Philippines: Abuses by Government, Rebel Forces in Zamboanga Conflict
Both Sides Need to Do All They Can to Prevent Further Loss of Civilian Life

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(Zamboanga City, September 19, 2013) — Philippines security forces and Muslim rebels have committed serious abuses during fighting in the southern city of Zamboanga, Human Rights Watch said today. After taking over five coastal villages on September 9, 2013, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) took dozens of residents hostage, though many have since been released. The Philippine military and police have allegedly tortured or otherwise mistreated suspected rebels in custody.

In one incident, rebels used Christian hostages as human shields, whom Philippine government forces attacked, apparently indiscriminately, Human Rights Watch said.

“A confrontation in Zamboanga in which the rebels hid behind hostages and the army fired on them shows how ugly this fighting became,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Both sides need to do all they can to prevent further loss of civilian life.”

The government responded to the rebel intrusion by sending in thousands of troops, blocking off the villages, and “clearing” most areas of rebel elements, officials said. More than 112,000 residents have been displaced by the fighting as of September 18, according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Human Rights Watch has interviewed villagers held hostage, MNLF rebel suspects, relatives of victims, police officials, and officials from the Commission on Human Rights.

Allegations of Mistreatment

On September 18, Philippine authorities announced that rebellion charges were being prepared against 70 of the 93 suspected members of the MNLF in custody. A dozen detainees who spoke to Human Rights Watch alleged mistreatment in custody by the police or military.

Human Rights Watch interviewed six suspected MNLF rebels jailed at the Zamboanga Central Police Office who alleged that they had been mistreated. Five said police or military agents interrogated them by putting a plastic bag over their head, suffocating them. They said they were also punched and kicked by their interrogators. The suspects said their interrogators sought to force them to confess to being MNLF members. One told Human Rights Watch he admitted as much because he “couldn’t stand the pain anymore.” An elderly detainee alleged that his interrogators blindfolded him and dunked his head into a toilet bowl twice. Another said alcohol was poured into his nose to get him to confess.

At the Philippine National Police’s Camp Batalla in Zamboanga City, three men and two boys aged 14 and 17 were handcuffed to each other since September 12. They were arrested after police found a gun on one of the adults in the group. The five said they knew each other as bottled water vendors at the city port but denied being members of the MNLF. Police officials said on September 18 that the five were no longer suspects and would soon be released.

Police officials told Human Rights Watch that they had arrested dozens of people since the fighting erupted but had since released most of them. One of those arrested was a man with a mental disability who was accused of being an MNLF rebel – the police at first refused to release him or permit his family to see him, but eventually freed him without charge.

Under Philippine law, authorities must charge criminal suspects within 36 hours or release them. Most of the rebel suspects in custody had not been charged after up to 10 days in cramped jails. Interior Secretary Mar Roxas told a media briefing on September 18 that charges had not been brought because the offices of the Department of Justice in Zamboanga City have been closed since the crisis began.

“The government has a responsibility to ensure that everyone taken into custody, including suspected rebels, are treated humanely,” Adams said. “Closing down the Justice Department offices is no excuse for seeing that those arrested are properly charged or released.”

Rebel Hostages and “Human Shields

The MNLF rebels that took over the coastal villages at one time held perhaps hundreds of residents hostage in different locations and used them as human shields to deter Philippine army attacks, Human Rights Watch said.

Michelle Candido, 27, told Human Rights Watch that she, her husband George, and son Jeomi, 2, were inside their home on Lustre Street in Zamboanga City on the morning of Monday, September 9, when they heard gunshots. “We didn’t get out of the house until my uncle told me moments later that we are evacuating,” Candido told Human Rights Watch. They sought refuge at a Christian church down the street but were intercepted by the rebels. The rebels herded them into the church where they were joined by more than 50 other residents, six of them Michelle’s relatives. All were Christians as the rebels had freed those who were Muslim.

“They did not hurt us but they warned us that if we tried to escape, they would shoot us,” Candido said. At 10 p.m. that night, the hostages, including many children, were moved to a daycare center where they were fed snack food and soft drinks.

Two days later, on September 11, the rebels tied up the hostages and directed them to move to the center of the street outside. For two days, amidst sporadic sniper and automatic weapon fire in their area, from 10 a.m. until evening, the hostages would stand outside under the sun. They would shout “Ceasefire!” every time a helicopter passed by or if they saw soldiers aiming their rifles at them, to avoid being attacked.

On September 13, Candido said she heard the rebels talking about a two-hour ceasefire that was to last between 10 a.m. and noon. The rebels told the hostages that they would soon be released. “They wanted us to escort them and then they will leave us,” Candido said.

At around 10:30 a.m. the hostages were ordered out into the street with rebels armed with rifles taking cover behind them, using them as human shields. Candido said that as soon as they were out, gunfire erupted between the military and the rebels. “The shots came from afar,” she said. “It’s as if they didn’t care about the hostages.” One of the hostages was struck by gunfire and killed.

The hostages and the rebels tried to seek cover. For several hours, until 4 p.m., the shooting continued, stopping intermittently, Candido said. She said a helicopter dropped confetti in which the pieces were in the shape of doves. “We were happy because a dove means peace,” she said. “It would soon be over.”

Three military vehicles, which Candido described as tanks but likely armored personnel carriers that were widely used in this conflict, then arrived:

We got up and shouted “Ceasefire!” But the tanks started shooting at us. One old man was hit and died. One man in a yellow shirt died, too. The firing went on and on until we had no choice but jump into the sewer, whose cover had been removed by the rebels so they can turn it into a shield.

“The shooting was relentless,” said Monica Limen, a 50-year-old housewife who was among the hostages with two of her children. Gunfire struck her in the head while her daughter Nerica, 7, sustained a small wound in her right foot. Limen later found out that her son Rubin, 20, was killed. “We have not found his body yet,” she told Human Rights Watch at her hospital bed.

Another hostage, Lemuel Agucita, 17, described how terrified he was when the shooting started. “It was like a massacre,” he said. “The shooting just went on and on. We dropped to the ground, some jumped into the sewer.”

While in the sewer, Michelle and her husband tried to keep their son Jeomi’s chin and head above the sewage but she said even she could not help but swallow some. The shooting continued and suddenly there was a huge explosion right above the sewer. “We must have lost consciousness for a moment,” Michelle said. When she came to, she felt Jeomi’s head and it was bloodied, but he was alive. Her right pinkie finger had been hit. Her husband was unharmed.

Once the shooting stopped, the rebels told the hostages to return to the daycare center, where Michelle administered first aid to her son. They stayed in the daycare center until the next day, fearful of being shot if they went outside. The next day, the rebels let Michelle and her child go, but not her husband. Joemi died at the hospital 24 hours later and George was among those released on September 17.

International Law

In the fighting since September 9, both state security forces and the MNLF have acted in violation of international law. The “taking of hostages” and “cruel treatment” by all parties to a conflict is specifically prohibited by international treaty law. Customary international law also prohibits deliberate attacks on civilians, attacks that do not discriminate between civilians and combatants, and attacks in which the anticipated harm to civilians is greater than the expected military gain. Parties must take all feasible steps to protect civilians and avoid deploying in densely populated areas. The use of “human shields” – deliberately using non-combatants to deter an attack – is a serious violation. However, violations by one side never justify violations by the other. Thus, the holding of hostages and use of human shields by the MNLF does not permit the Philippine army to conduct attacks in disregard of the civilians who have been placed at risk.

International law prohibits torture and other ill-treatment of persons in custody. Individuals apprehended by the government should be promptly brought before a judge and charged with a credible criminal offense or released. The government has an obligation to investigate those responsible for the mistreatment of persons in custody and discipline or prosecute them as appropriate.

“When the smoke finally clears in Zamboanga, the government will need to investigate what happened, including holding accountable members of the military and police who committed abuses,” Adams said.

To read “Philippines: Residents Trapped in Zamboanga Fighting,” please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/09/15/philippines-residents-trapped-zamboanga-fighting

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on the Philippines, please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/asia/-philippines

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[Press Release] Protect Civilians in Southern Fighting; Some 70,000 Displaced; Residents Trapped in Zamboanga Standoff -HRW

Philippines: Protect Civilians in Southern Fighting
Some 70,000 Displaced; Residents Trapped in Zamboanga Standoff

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(Manila, September 16, 2013) – The Philippine government should take all necessary measures to reduce the risk to civilians while conducting military operations against Muslim rebels in the southern city of Zamboanga, Human Rights Watch said today. The fighting began on September 9, 2013, when several hundred fighters of the Moro National Liberation Front moved into five coastal villages of Zamboanga City and allegedly took dozens of residents as hostages.

An undetermined number of civilians remain trapped in at least five coastal villages as a result of an armed standoff between rebel forces and the Philippine military and police. Several residents who escaped the villages told Human Rights Watch that many civilians left in the villages could not leave for fear of getting caught in the crossfire or are being prevented from leaving by Philippine security forces because they lack identification documents and thus are suspected of being rebels.

“Both sides to the fighting need to be doing more to protect civilians from harm,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Government forces should not be making blanket assumptions about whether individuals are rebels based on whether they have proper documents or not. Officials can check those leaving the conflict zone, but they need to ensure that civilians have safe passage and are not put at unnecessary risk.”

Residents who had escaped their coastal villages told Human Rights Watch they feared that civilians left behind would be accused of being rebels and could be subject to government attack or mistreatment in custody. Aside from demanding documentation, it is unclear how the authorities are distinguishing civilians from rebel fighters as required by international law. Police sources told Human Rights Watch that more than half of the individuals arrested since September 9 have subsequently been released.

In the village of Rio Hondo, dozens of civilians, perhaps as many as 300, are trapped in an ice plant building, having abandoned their homes for the safety of the concrete structure, one resident told Human Rights Watch. Several residents told Human Rights Watch that many of them decided to stay in the villages to safeguard their homes and belongings. Others could not leave because they did not have the money to pay operators of outrigger boats, which became the only safe way to escape the coastal villages caught up in the fighting.

The government responded to the rebel occupation of the coastal villages on September 9 by sending in thousands of troops, blocking off the villages, “constricting” the area, and, by September 14, “clearing” some villages of rebel elements, officials said. Between 70,000 and 84,000 residents – or about 10 percent of Zamboanga City’s population of around 810,000 – have been displaced by the fighting, according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development and local nongovernmental organizations.

The fighting has resulted in numerous fires, including one that burned down dozens of homes. As of September 14, officials said as many as 500 homes in Zamboanga City were razed. Authorities alleged that rebels started the fires, with rebel snipers targeting the fire trucks that responded to the blazes. Human Rights Watch could not confirm these allegations.

Philippines military forces may also have violated the laws of war by turning the largest hospital in Zamboanga City, the Zamboanga City Medical Center, into a veritable garrison, Human Rights Watch said. After the hospital staff evacuated all the patients on the first day of the crisis, the military promptly moved its forces into the hospital, parking their trucks inside the hospital compound and even sending snipers to two spots on the rooftop to fire on rebels a few hundred meters way.

There have been reports that the fighting has spread to nearby Basilan island, where officials said the Moro National Liberation Front rebels have forged an alliance with the armed Abu Sayyaf militant group to stage attacks to ease the pressure on the rebels in Zamboanga. Local human rights monitors on Basilan Island have reported that the Philippine army has fired 105mm artillery shells that have struck near populated areas. Heavy artillery that has a large blast effect should not be used against enemy forces near civilian areas because of its indiscriminate effect, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch expressed concern that all sides to the fighting abide by international humanitarian law, or the laws of war, particularly with respect to ensuring the protection of the civilian population.

The intensity of the fighting between Moro National Liberation Front forces and Philippine government security forces in Zamboanga City has risen to that of an armed conflict and the laws of war are applicable. Under the laws of war, all sides are prohibited from deliberately attacking civilians, conducting attacks that do not discriminate between civilians and combatants, or could be expected to cause disproportionate civilian harm.

Forces must take all feasible precautions to minimize harm to civilians and to avoid deploying in densely populated areas. Civilians must be allowed to safely leave combat areas. It is unlawful to take hostages or use individuals as “human shields” by deliberately using them to prevent enemy attacks. Civilian structures, including hospitals, are protected from attack, unless they are being used for military purposes. Medical personnel, transport, and facilities have special protections.

Parties to an armed conflict must treat everyone in their custody humanely. The government must promptly bring anyone apprehended before a court and either charge or release them.

“Civilians who fled their homes without proper documents are still civilians and must be treated that way,” Adams said. “Even though this is a very complicated situation, the military and the police cannot take shortcuts by jeopardizing the rights of the civilian population.”

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on the Philippines, please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/asia/-philippines

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[Press Release] Teachers appeal for peace in Zamboanga -TDC

Teachers appeal for peace in Zamboanga

TDC

The Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) expresses their sentiments amidst the on-going armed confrontation in Zamboanga and other parts of the country.

“Innocent civilians, especially helpless children suffer most in every armed conflict.” Said Benjo Basas the group’s national chairperson.

The group reacted on the escalating conflict in Zamboanga City which is now on its fifth day since a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) members attempted to seize the city last Monday allegedly in accordance with Nur Misuari’s declaration of Bangsamoro independence few weeks ago. Authorities confirmed that the fighting has now spilled over to Lamitan City in nearby island province of Basilan.

“Classes are suspended in affected areas and schools often suffer heavy casualties after the fighting. In a conduct of war, schools and children should be spared and civilians should not be used as human shields.” Basas continued.

Basas said that aside from Zamboanga and Basilan, schools are also affected in Central Mindanao especially in Cotabato and Maguindanao where fighting between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) against the AFP and their former comrades in the MILF erupted because of some leaders’ opposition to peace talks with the government.

The group said there were also reports of air strike and strafing in New People’s Army (NPA) camp in Sagada, Mountain Province late last month were the military forces are allegedly stationed in a school. “Sagada is declared as peace zone, thus, government forces and the rebels should refrain from entering Sagada and engaged in fighting in the area.” Basas added.

“We call on all parties to resolve this issue through a peaceful and sincere dialogue. The MNLF should give peace agreement a chance.” Basas said. “A military solution may not be the best option at this time.”

As to the conflict between the government and the NPA, Basas said, “We ask the government and the rebels to give priority to peace negotiation as an option and not armed confrontation. The people in the countryside and the nation suffered much from this four decade-old conflict. We want lasting peace.” Basas ended.

Last September 2, members of the TDC joined hundreds of peace advocates in a caravan from Quezon Memorial Circle to Plaza Miranda in Manila to call for the immediate resumption of peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF). September is declared as peace month. #
Reference: Benjo Basas, National Chairperson 0920-5740241/3853437

NEWS RELEASE

September 13, 2013

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[Statement] Call for sobriety, dialogue, not armed action -Mindanao CSO

Mindanao CSOs Statement
Zamboanga Stand-off
September 9, 2013

Call for sobriety, dialogue, not armed action

Mindanao PeaceWeaver

We, the undersigned civil society groups, express our deepest expressions of concern, prayers and support for the innocent civilians caught in the ongoing crossfire between elements associated with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and government security forces in Zamboanga City that unfolded before us this Monday, September 9. We also likewise extend our deep condolences to the families of the armed actors themselves – the police, military authorities, and MNLF fighters felled during the incident.

WE HOPE AND PRAY that this matter is resolved quickly, justly and peaceably, and that equanimity prevails in the restoration of peace and order in Zamboanga City and its surrounds. We express pity for the growing thousands of displaced evacuees now streaming into safe havens in Zamboanga, wherever they can find them. We call on all concerned to avoid knee-jerk reactions that only feed into the distrust and discord we all want to avoid. We encourage all involved to explore dialogue in resolving whatever differences and grievances they may bear.

WE ARE SADDENED that such a provocative event happened on the eve of the slated and historic 10-day talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This will be the longest ever continuous meeting in the history of these talks and deserves our utmost support. Nevertheless we also expect that there will always be those displeased with the promising progress of these talks who will try to stop or derail such gains for their own aims and ends. We challenge all stakeholders not to be drawn into such diversions. Instead, let us learn from such events and stay our course of peace, strong and resolute in our shared vision of a more united and progressing Bangsamoro benefiting all.

WE APPEAL to all involved in making peace work in our beleaguered region to patiently and consistently find ways in establishing structured opportunities towards meaningful inclusion of other stakeholders in the peace process. The ongoing standoff in Zamboanga City between the MNLF and the government forces may indicate “imperfections” in the peace process, but there are legitimate issues that need to be addressed with a sense of just finality in the seemingly complicated peace process of the MNLF with the government. But we still denounce the very act of resorting to an armed action just to send its message across at the risk of lives, limbs, and security of innocent citizens.

WE REMAIN ENCOURAGED that despite this event, both the GPH and the MILF have expressed trust, confidence and support heading into the 40th round of these exploratory talks. This is the spirit that we believe should be engendered not only in the nascent Bangsamoro but through-out the country as well. Let us continue to support dialogue as a primary tool for peace building. Let us not allow the guns to drown out the voices we need to hear, the ones who call for peace. These are the voices that truly speak for us, driving our singular struggle, quest and vision for true and lasting peace in Mindanao.
WE SERIOUSLY APPEAL IN CALLING FOR DIALOGUE and THE IMMEDIATE DECLARATION OF HUMANITARIAN CEASEFIRE in the conflict-affected barangays in Zamboanga City to address the two-day standoff.

Specifically, we urge H.E. Benigno Simeon Aquino III, MNLF Chair Nur Misuari, Mayor Isabelle Climaco, Sec Teresita Deles, and the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) to heed the following calls :

1. We call for an immediate stop to the firefight and a prompt and orderly redeployment of forces – both the MNLF and the AFP to address the alarming evacuee situation;

2. We urge both parties to immediately delineate a humanitarian corridor where civilians and injured combatants may be safely assisted with their humanitarian needs;

3. Generate public support towards broad humanitarian action by allowing full access and the entry of humanitarian groups to complement existing efforts of the local government, Department Social Welfare and Development, and civil society in Zamboanga City;

4. We call for both parties to dialogue and allow for sufficient space for peaceful negotiations to take place;

5. We strongly recommend that those who are responsible for the deaths, destruction of properties and other human rights violations will be held fully accountable;

6. We appeal to the Philippine Government and its Office on the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) to translate its policy in addressing the fate of the MNLF peace process and their legitimate issues;

7. Lastly, we call for the intervention of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) in resolving this issue, sustaining the role they have long-fulfilled in ensuring the hopes for peace in Mindanao.

Declare a Zamboanga City-wide ceasefire now! Spare the civilians from armed hostilities! No to armed action and militarization in Zamboanga City!

SIGNATORIES :

MINDANAO PEACEWEAVERS (MPW)
ALLIANCE OF PROGRESSIVE LABOR – Davao Region
GZO PEACE INSTITUTE
INITIATIVES FOR INTERNATIONAL DIALOGUE (IID)
MINDANAO PEOPLES CAUCUS (MPC)
PEACEBUILDERS COMMUNITY
SIMCARRD INC
SUCCEED, INC
WAGING PEACE – PHILIPPINES

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[Press Release] Thousands of cyclists and advocates to ride and rock for freedom -DAKILA

Freedom Ride and Freedom Concert mark Independence Day
Thousands of cyclists and advocates to ride and rock for freedom

Freedom Ride Dakila

dakila

All roads lead to the Eastwood Central Plaza on June 12, 7:00 am as thousands of cyclists and advocates raise the flag of freedom on Independence Day for the Freedom Ride and Freedom Concert to stop human trafficking and end modern day slavery. Coordinated Freedom Rides shall also be held in Iloilo (June 12, 7am Jaro Belfry), Dumaguete (June 11, 4pm Silliman University Church) and Zamboanga (June 12, 7am, Plaza del Pilar).

“We believe that while it is important to celebrate our freedom from colonial rule, it is also important for us to realize that many Filipinos are still enslaved. We want to celebrate our 115th year of independence by continuing the fight for the freedom of others,” Noel Cabangon, Dakila Vice President, said.

The Freedom Ride is part of the Stop Look Listen campaign of Dakila against human trafficking. The Stop Look Listen campaign kicked off last March 9 with a Freedom Ride held in McKinley Hill, Taguig City participated by around 1,000 cyclists. The bike ride was aimed to popularize the 1343 Anti Trafficking Hotline. The Freedom Ride was also held in different provinces known as trafficking hotspots of the country: Iloilo City (April 20), Zamboanga City (April 27), and Dumaguete City (May 5). This paved way to the biggest bike rides ever organized in Panay Island (500), Dumaguete City (400) and Zamboanga (250).

“Human trafficking is a serious problem especially in our country because we offer cheap labor. A lot of times we only see women being trafficked for sexual exploitation but in fact, human trafficking can happen to both men and women and for different reasons other than sexual exploitation, such as forced labor. There are even cases of professionals such as doctors who experienced being trafficked,” Cabangon added.

Every year around 300,000 to 400,000 Filipinos fall prey to human trafficking in their own country and abroad.

“The cycling community has become involved in this campaign against human trafficking. And we see more and more people who are now becoming interested to become an advocate and a Freedom Warrior. People from different sectors—government, non-government, youth—have been challenged to heed the call to continuously fight for freedom,” Nityalila Saulo, cyclist, musician and advocate, said.

“Anyone can be a Freedom Warrior. By educating ourselves and sharing what we have learned to others, we can help save at least one person from enslavement,” Saulo added.

The Freedom Ride is part of the Project Freedom Campaign of Dakila in partnership with the Manila Fixed Gear, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Department of Justice Inter Agency Council Against Trafficking (DOJ-IACAT) and the Presidential Anti Organized Crime Commission. It aims to raise public awareness on Human Trafficking and empower advocates and citizens to become watchdogs in their own communities by driving them into action through grassroots involvement and amplified action through mainstream and digital media.

A Freedom Concert will be held after the Freedom Ride, at 9:30 am. Performers include Noel Cabangon, Radioactive Sago Project, Up Dharma Down, and many more.

The Freedom Ride and Freedom Concert is free and open to the public. For more information about the Freedom Rides and the campaign, visit http://dakila.org.ph/projectfreedom.
Press Contact:
Jeffrey Reyes 09151780240
Ayeen Karunungan 09175057055
E-mail: mabuhay@dakila.org.ph

PRESS RELEASE
Dakila
10 June 2013

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[Event] Freedom Bike Ride calls on ASEAN Experts Working Group meeting here in the Philippines to come up with a Regional Comprehensive Approach to Combat Human Trafficking-Dakila

Freedom Bike Ride calls on ASEAN Experts Working Group meeting here in the Philippines to come up with a Regional Comprehensive Approach to Combat Human Trafficking


dakilaAs the Philippines plays host to the third ASEAN Experts Working Group against human trafficking, Dakila, an artist collective organizing the Freedom Rides for a Human Trafficking Free Philippines, urges the ASEAN Experts Working Group to come up with a regional comprehensive approach to fight trafficking.

Ayeen Karunungan, spokesperson of the group Dakila, explained, “While we recognize that our government partners in this campaign – the Department of Justice Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (DOJ-IACAT) under the leadership of Secretary Leila de Lima and Undersecretary Jose Vicente Salazar, and the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) led by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., have been pushing for stronger measures and initiating programs to help solve the problem of human trafficking in the Philippines, there is still a need for a more comprehensive action plan to address this regional problem.”

“We hope that the ASEAN Experts Working Group meeting here in the Philippines will come up with a more integrated, cohesive and structured mechanisms to report and monitor human trafficking in Southeast Asia.”

Dakila launched its Stop Look Listen Campaign with the support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Department of Justice Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (DOJ-IACAT), the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC), cycling groups like Manila Fixed Gear, Bikers 101, NOBA and iFOLD, and several NGOs to help curb human trafficking in the country. The Freedom Rides being held across the country gathers cyclists and advocates as Freedom Warriors promoting the 1343 Action Hotline on human trafficking.

The campaign kicked off last March 9 in Metro Manila with 1,000 cyclists including His Excellency Ambassador Ton Boon von Ochssee and Mrs. Martine Boon von Ochssee of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, H.E. Josef Rychtar of the Czech Embassy, and H.E. Guy Ledoux of the European Union, participating in the Freedom Ride. Another Freedom Ride held in Iloilo last April 20 mobilized 500 participants – the biggest and broadest bike tour ever in Panay island.

Musician, advocate and cycling enthusiast who leads Dakila’s campaign said, “The success of the past Freedom Rides only shows that human trafficking is an important concern to the Filipino public as more and more people are expressing their support to combatting human trafficking. Dakila hopes to inspire public vigilance on human trafficking and engage more people to be Freedom Warriors.”

“By imploring the help of the country’s growing cycling community, we want to put the message across that everyone can contribute to help stop human trafficking. The promotion of the 1343 action hotline is one of the ways we can empower the public to be vigilant in looking out for the signs and to know what to do when they are being trafficked or knows someone who is being victimized by human trafficking.”

A Freedom Ride was also held in Zamboanga last April 27,at the Plaza del Pilar. A storytelling session was held simultaneously with the ride where in members of Zamboanga based Project Banig told stories of human trafficking to fellow Zamboangenos to educate them on the campaign. Atty. Darlene Pajarito of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) and the Commission on Filipinos Overseas joined the program.

The Freedom Ride is organized by the artist collective, Dakila, a group creatively inspiring involvement in social transformation, in partnership with Project Banig Zamboanga, Bikers 101, Demolay, and The City of Zamboanga, with the support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Department of Justice Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (DOJ-IACAT) and the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC).

For more info, contact Ayeen Karunungan at 09175057055 or email mabuhay@dakila.org.ph.

PRESS RELEASE
Dakila
26 April 2013

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[Statement] The last human rights’ defender of Sulu is under seige -Kilusan

The last human rights’ defender of Sulu is under seige

kpd logoTemogen “Cocoy” Tulawie belongs to a prominent and notorious clan in Sulu. Instead of succumbing to the workings of the clan to gain political advancement, he chose to serve the poor. Cocoy simply wants to create space for ordinary people to regain their dignity and self-respect amidst the endless recurring clan wars and the military’s impunity to violate human rights of the individual Tausug and their communities.

Immediately after his studies in Manila, Cocoy Tulawie started organizing the local organization named “BAWBUG”, which means “Serve, Respect and Protect” to address the human rights violations during the military operations in the islands. Cocoy Tulawie was also an active member of the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue (CHD) from 2004-2008 and a council member of the Non-Violent Peace Force in the province of Sulu. He served as a municipal council of the capital town of Jolo from 2004-2007. During his term, he was one of the organizers of the Concerned Citizens of Sulu that fought for the democratization of local politics, transparency in governance and upholding the rights of the residents of Sulu.

After the release of the two International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) members, Gov. Sakur Tan of Sulu issued a state of emergency on March 31, 2009 resulting to the arrest of 42 persons including two or more policemen, vendors, and barangay captains. Among those arrested is the younger brother of the OIC mayor of Indanan, Sulu. Eight of them were brought to Zamboanga City for further interrogation but after ten days, all were released due to lack of evidence.

Consistent with his human rights advocacy, Cocoy Tulawie confronted the governor on his declaration of state of emergency and on the subsequent mass arrests. Later, on April 4, 2009, he sent a petition before the Supreme Court, questioning the legality of such declaration. Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that the declaration of state of emergency in Sulu was unconstitutional.

Cocoy organized fact-finding missions which exposed Gov. Sakur Tan’s culpability by virtue of omission in relation to the rise of cases of gang rapes and sexual violence against women in Sulu. Victims who were interviewed all pointed to the sons of political warlords and members of the Civilian Emergency Forces as perpetrators of the heinous crimes. But justice was not served because the perpetrators are people who have connections with or are working for Gov. Sakur Tan.

Cocoy Tulawie was subjected to a very systematic smear campaign. All those who have attempted to extend support to him have been harassed and ridiculed, as if he was a bearer of a curse. On May 13, 2009, a radio transceiver-controlled bomb placed in a motorcycle parked in the capital grounds exploded when the convoy of the governor was directly beside it. Tan was unscathed but nine people were injured. Two suspects were arrested and tortured for three days inside the compound of the governor. Based on the confessions of the two arrested suspects, Cocoy Tulawie was allegedly named as one of those behind the attempted assassination of Gov. Tan together with other named politicians. Expectedly, based on trummed-up charges, a warrant of arrest was issued against Cocoy Tulawie last October 5, 2009. Believing he has no chance of being tried fairly in Jolo, Cocoy transferred residence while waiting for the Supreme Court decision on his motion for transfer of venue of trial to Davao.

Cocoy was arrested in Davao City last January 13, 2012.

His accusers want him to be separated from his fellow Tausugs and human rights advocates. Cocoy Tulawie is not a murderer. He is not capable of doing such dastardly act. Throughout the years when the Tausugs were subjected to continuing human rights violations, he remained steadfast in his advocacy. He remained in the island to extend protection and assistance to these victims when others retreated to their comfort zones. He is constantly called to facilitate resolution of conflicts like banta or redo. He was instrumental in frustrating the implementation of an ID system as initiated by then Col. Ecarma of the Philippine Marines last January, 2008. He is held in high regard by the ulamas and gurus because of his resiliency in fighting against oppression.

The arrogance of Gov. Tan stems not solely from being a warlord, for he is not alone in wishing that Cocoy Tulawie is effectively neutralized. The Philippine military, under the notorious Task Force Comet also wants to silence Cocoy Tulawie.

The United States of America is also interested in getting rid of Cocoy Tulawie. Cocoy Tulawie has been at the forefront of an anti-imperialist movement in the island. When the US Troops were about to enter the island, the local anti-imperialist movement registered (in their thousands) their refusal to allow them. When the US troops manipulated their way into the island, Cocoy Tulawie Tulawie stood firm in demanding their immediate pull-out.

Let us not allow the conspiracy of the triumvirate – the US, the Philipine military, and the warlords in Sulu to triumph in rough-shoding Cocoy Tulawie’s rights and keeping him in jail.

We call on all human rights advocates, people’s movement, lawyers’ groups and associations, church individuals and institutions and progressive people in the academe to help in the Free Cocoy Tulawie Campaign. Together with our brother Tausugs, we will never submit to fear.

KILUSAN PARA SA PAMBANSANG DEMOKRASYA
February 1, 2013

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[Statement] Statement of Temogen “Cocoy” Tulawie on the first anniversary of his arrest and incarceration as a human rights defender

STATEMENT OF TEMOGEN “COCOY” TULAWIE ON THE FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF HIS ARREST AND INCARCERATION AS A HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER

Dear Friends, Comrades, Supporters and Fellow Human Rights Defenders,

Assalamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh!

Cocoy Tulawie HRDExactly one year ago, January 14, 2012 just at the stroke of midnight, I was with my two sons, Eeman, (17 years old) and Ameer (13 years old) in a rented house at Catalunan Grande, Davao City when combined elements of the Regional Special Action Force and Regional Intelligence Unit of the Philippine National Police led by PSupt. Fernando Ortega forcibly broke in the door in order to arrest me. As the assaulting team was still alighting their vehicles, I already noticed them from inside the house and I immediately turn on the lights. The men were in full combat attire, with long high-powered firearms, bullet-proof vests and laser night vision googles as they were under strict orientation that I am a highly dangerous target who possessed bombs and weapons.

There was still every chance for me to escape but I did not consider that option as it will just cause unnecessary commotion in the already quiet and sleeping neighbourhood. I peacefully submitted myself to the arresting team who then brought me to the Davao Medical Center for physical check-up which is a standard operating procedure.

Due to direct threats against my life, I had been running the life of a fugitive since I left my hometown in Sulu in 2009. Since then, I had been sensibly imagining the day of my arrest and have also psychologically prepared my two sons, Eeman and Ameer, on what they should do when that event will actually happen. Both of them have clear instructions whom to call on, what to do, how to conduct themselves when I will be arrested. We had been talking about this fateful event for several times. But even with the amount of preparation, nothing in my imagination actually prepared me for that day. The first thing that crossed my mind was what if they will summarily execute me. The Philippine state is notorious in its record for summary execution and political killings and Davao in particular is also infamous for the Davao Death Squad and so the idea that I may never even reach the nearest police station scared me like hell. I tried so hard to maintain presence of mind and engaged the arresting team members in a conversation. I asked them to bring me to the nearest police station so they can duly record the conduct of my arrest into the police blotter. I recalled this standard operating procedure being taught in our past human rights seminars and I have never realized until such time that such procedure could spell life and death for a person in custody.

I was fortunate enough that the arresting team led by Col. Ortega faithfully observed the procedures in conducting arrest and dutifully brought me to the Talomo Police Station. After that, I was brought to the Davao Medical Center for physical examination. There, I pleaded with Col. Ortega to return back to my house in order to check on the situation of my two minor children and to give them access to my whereabouts. Without hesitation, the good officer went back and was able meet my two lawyers who were already in the house frantically calling all police stations and military camps for my whereabouts.

Prayers throughout the night
As I left my children alone in the house that night, I prayed very hard and entrusted everything to Allah’s mantle of protection. I kept praying “Hasbunallahu Wa Ni’mal Wakeel” I trust no one besides you Ya Allah. I recited this over and over again in the course of such perilous journey where anything could just happen. There were two critical roads which I greatly feared. Going out of the subdivision, we turned left towards downtown. At that juncture, I thought, if we will turn left towards Tacunan, then something will be very very wrong as I could easily be executed there. I prayed so hard and invoked Allah’s mercy. It was such a relief that the vehicle turned right and we went towards the national highway. At that point, again, if this will turn left towards the diversion, it will another dangerous turn. I insisted that we go straight ahead because I knew that the Talomo Police Station is towards that direction. In fairness to the arresting team, they were indeed heading towards the nearest police station.

Private plane waiting
While at Camp Catitipan, I noticed that the arresting team was in a hurry and I asked why. One of them informed me that after conducting all the SOPs e.g. medical check-up, picture-taking, documents’ turnover, etc., I will already be turned over to the Military Intelligence Group who came all the way from Zamboanga City. The MIG reportedly has arranged for a private plane to take me to Jolo, Sulu. The assigned officer of the PNP asked the MIG why they are so interested on Cocoy Tulawie that they are even willing to charter a private plane to transport him to Sulu. At that point, I realized that the Governor of Sulu is obstinate in delivering a very resounding statement. That it is simply foolish of me to fight against a highly powerful and influential politician who will never hesitate to spend millions in order to silence any dissent and take full control over his own fiefdom. The chartered private plane symbolizes power, machismo, and ostentatious display of wealth which is simply a criminal act given the wallowing poverty and the suffering of the people in Sulu.

Despite a Supreme Court Order transferrin g the venue of the case from Jolo to Davao City, the MIG operatives from Zamboanga City simply wanted to deliver me to their patron so they could then collect the handsome reward. Since no amount of reasoning could convince the arresting team to wait until Monday when the courts are already open, my legal team had to call key cabinet members over the weekend just to delay my transfer to Jolo. It is noteworthy to mention here that the late Secretary Jessie Robredo readily helped us by instructing the PNP Superintendent in Region XI to suspend the transfer to Sulu to give my legal team a reasonable time to confer with the Supreme Court. The Chair of the Commission of Human Rights also burned the mobile phone lines to reach out to the Supreme Court even on a weekend.

One year after.
It has been a year since that fateful arrest on January 14, 2012. A lot of things happened since then which can perhaps be the subject in forthcoming letters from prison. What is clear though is the fact that despite the sustained campaigns and legal strategies, money and political influence remain to be my foremost obstacles to freedom. It is sad to note that despite the rightness of my cause, the public sympathy, the earnest efforts of HR groups and the CHR, the international support and a solid legal defense, my accuser can still afford to prolong my incarceration by the simple excuse of delay and by paying off each and every legal remedy via known tricks of well-oiled law firms.

From the confines of my prison though, I have learned to respect time. Never have I fully understood the virtue of “sabar” (patience) until I have lived the life of a prisoner. I have no choice but to follow routines like head count, search of contrabands, etc. It is also part of routine that I get to wear a yellow t-shirt all the time which for me could subconsciously rob me of my own identity. I realized I need to struggle to maintain my health, psychological well-being and the political will to sustain my fight not only for myself and my family but also for my people and other human rights defenders who are into far worst conditions than the one that I am currently experiencing.

I have also learned to resign everything to God’s plan and mercy. Listening to the plight of hundreds of inmates that I have encountered here, I realized that despite all the odds I am facing, I am even more fortunate than many of them. So that keeps me humble, patient and grateful with each day’s worth of blessing. In my long years as a human rights activist, it is only now that I have fully appreciated the importance of our shared advocacy and the global solidarity that connects our struggle. I feel overwhelmed by the love and support of leaders and organizations from Hong Kong, Germany, Ireland, US the European Union and all over the world most of them I have never even met before.

Just last week, during one of the weekend visits of my family, my son Ameer cried when he learned that I will have to be transferred again from Davao City to Manila after the Supreme Court approved Gov. Sakur Tan’s petition for transfer of venue. He asked me why I seem to be helpless over my own situation now when all their growing years, they looked upon their own father as a fearless defender of the rights of others. In his desperation, Ameer asked me why I could not defend my own self? Ameer’s question gave me a pang in the heart and almost crushed my spirit as a father. If I had not been tempered by the day to day survival measures of prison life, I could have just broke down and cried. Yet, I accepted his question for what it is worth. I know I have not given him a satisfactory response. I may not have the answer now but I know deep in my heart that Allah will answer my prayers in His own time.

I wish to end this letter with a thanksgiving and a deep sense of gratitude for all your support, hard work, generous assistance, prayers and well wishes in the last 12 months when I had been robbed of my freedom. Thank you for working so hard for me and my family. Let us continue working together to defend all human rights defenders in the Philippines and all over the world. I have full faith that Insha Allah, I will be able to return back to Sulu as a free man in order to continue my important mission as a human rights defender of my people.

Sincerely yours,

TEMOGEN “Cocoy” Tulawie

LETTER FROM PRISON
January 14, 2013
Davao City Jail
Maa, Davao City, Philippines

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[In the news] Peace Forum kicks off Mindanao Week of Peace 2012 -MindaNews.com

Peace Forum kicks off Mindanao Week of Peace 2012
By Frencie Carreon
November 26 2012

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/25 November)– A multi-sectoral peace forum on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), dubbed as the “roadmap to peace” in Mindanao, was held here Saturday to kick off this year’s Mindanao Week of Peace, which is set on November 29 to December 5.

Leading the discussion for the Mindanao Peace Forum was lawyer Johaira Wahab, a legal adviser to the peace panel of the Government of the Philippines. She represented government peace panel chair Marvic Leonen, who was recently appointed as Supreme Court Associate Justice.

With the full endorsement of the Bishops-Ulama Conference (BUC), this year’s celebration carries the theme ‘Love of God and Love of Neighbor, A Challenge for Mindanao.”

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[In the news] Subanen leaders call on PNoy to rid Zambo Peninsula of paramilitary, private armies -MindaNews

MindaNews » Subanen leaders call on PNoy to rid Zambo Peninsula of paramilitary, private armies.

By Violeta M. Gloria
September 7, 2012

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews / 7 Sept) – Leaders of the Subanen tribe, timuays and baes all, from the Zamboanga Peninsula are calling on President Benigsno Simeon Aquino III to help them rid their communities of paramilitary personnel and private armies of mining companies following the ambush attempt on a tribal leader actively opposing mining and logging activities.

While Timuay Lucenio Manda survived the ambush in Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur last Tuesday with only minor injuries, his 11-year-old son Jordan, who was being groomed to succeed him, died.

“Our hearts are burning for justice. Thus, we ask President PNoy and other authorities to take all proper measures in identifying and apprehending perpetrators of this terrible crime,” said Bae Marjorie Paulin, who heads an association of Subanen women, as she read a statement from the Subanen and Higaonon tribes.

“We raise our voices together, knowing that if we do not, this situation will be ignored and forgotten,” said Paulin.

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[In the news] Zambo police rescue 18 human trafficking victims -MindaNews

MindaNews » Zambo police rescue 18 human trafficking victims.

August 31, 2012

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/30 August) – The Women and Children Protection Desk (WCPD) of the Zamboanga City Police Office (ZCPO) has rescued 18 victims, including six minors, of human trafficking at a private wharf in this city, a police official revealed Thursday.

Senior Insp. Gemma Luna, WCPD chief, disclosed that the victims were rescued around 9 a.m. Wednesday while they were about to board a ferry bound for the province of Tawi-tawi at a private wharf in Barangay Baliwasan, this city.

Luna said the rescue of the victims came after operatives from her office, in coordination with the Sea-Based Anti-Trafficking Task Force (SBATTF), responded to a report that human trafficking victims were sighted at Baliwasan seaside.

The rescued victims told the police that they were hired to work as fishermen in Tandubas municipality, Tawi-tawi.

Luna said the victims identified their recruiter as Melzar Ujatimuay Danda, of Kabasalan town in Zamboanga Sibugay, and their employer as Magellan Mohammad Ali-Naugan.

The rescued victims were turned over to the Visayan Forum Foundation (VFF), a non-government organization (NGO) which works on issues of domestic work, child labor and human trafficking, especially of women and children, Luna said.

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