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Posted on Monday, April  05, 2004

 

Climate of fear sweeps Muslim communities

By Julmunir I. Jannaral, Correspondent           

(First of three parts)

Before night falls, Rex Dimacuta makes sure he is home. He doesn’t want to linger in the street at night, because that’s the time the police conducts its sweep of Muslims neighborhoods in search of terrorists.

The wave of police raids has alarmed Muslim communities in Metro Manila and Muslim businessmen like Dimacuta.

Last week, several Muslims were arrested without the benefit of a warrant, Dimacuta, the secretary-general of the Greenhills Traders Association, said.

“We now live in fear and under constant tension. We are afraid that the next time around it will be our turn to be picked up by the police,” he said.

When The Manila Times sought Dimacuta for an interview to get the sentiments of Muslim traders over the recent arrests of suspected terrorists, he agreed, as long as it is done before nightfall.

He said that since the raids began, he and his fellow Muslim traders make it a point to go home early.

“We are legitimate businessmen and just like the rest of any citizen in this country. We Filipino Muslims would like to support this government, since we owe our unquestionable allegiance to it,” Dimacuta said.

“But in return we would also like the Arroyo administration to protect us, since as law-abiding citizens, we are entitled to protection from the government,” he said.

The antiterrorist campaign is actually anti-Muslim, since what the police are arresting are innocent Muslims, and not the real terrorists, human rights activist Amirah Ali Lidasan said.

Lidasan said the so-called elite antiterror force formed by the government “is an anti-Muslim machinery that tends to commit human rights violations against our Moro brethren,” she said.

But General Rodolfo Garcia, vice chief of staff of the Armed Forces, who was interviewed in a national television, said the intensified campaign to neutralize the Abu Sayyaf is not directed against the Muslims in general.

Garcia said the military or the police do not target particular groups but people whose involvement in terrorism is beyond questionable doubt. 

National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales gave Garcia’s statement more credence when he said the government has improved its intelligence network by enhancing coordination among the intelligence groups.

Garcia said if there was an arrest made, it was because the intelligence community had gathered enough evidence to justify it.

“What evidence are they talking about?” Ahmad Santos, a member of the Balik-Islam [a Christian who has embraced Islam] and the subject of police manhunt, said when he called up The Times from his hideout.

He said the explosives seized from his room at the AIS Building in Cubao, Quezon City, on March 26, was planted by the police. “I am not a fool to keep explosives in a building, where my family resides. 

Santos’ two wives, Fatimah and Nur-Ain, and their children live in AIS. When the police stormed the building, they did not find him there, so they arrested his wives instead.

The next day The Times received a forwarded text message from Santos which read: “Salam D polis raided my house and planted C4, Fatimah and Nur Ain R arrested. Dey are now N Camp Karingal. Please help us. Salam Bro Ahmad Santos. [Greetings of peace, the police raided my house and planted C4, Fatimah and Nur Ain are arrested. They are now in Camp Karingal. Please help us. With peace, Brother Ahmad Santos].”

The police was quick to deny that Fatima and Nur-Ain have been arrested. They said the two, one of whom was a nursing mother, were brought to Camp Karingal merely for questioning.

When relatives and friends of the two visited them they found them behind bars. The two were set free only after posting bail.

Santos apparently sent the text message to prevent the police from fabricating information against him. In fact, Fatimah had said that they saw in their close-circuit surveillance camera, that some members of the raiding team were carrying a big black bag, which they suspected contained the “planted evidence.”

Some legislators are thinking of re-filing the proposed antiterrorism bill in the coming Thirteenth Congress to add teeth to the campaign against the Abu Sayyaf.

“No way, we will block it and mount another strong protest,” said Lidasan, vice chairperson and a nominee for Congress of the Suara Bangsamoro Party list (Voice of Moro people).

The group of Lidasan and other militant organizations had opposed the passage of controversial antiterrorism bill.

Part 2 |Part 3 |Conclusion |

    
 
 
 

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Francis Andaya, Judee Perculeza, Marizhen Doctora, Shey Silayan
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