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Activists reiterate their call for the lifting of President Duterte’s martial law declaration in Mindanao at the capitol grounds yesterday, alleging that abuses committed against civilians are taking place in the hinterlands. (photo by Joey Nacalaban)

‘Sulu killings send chilling message’

By JOEY NACALABAN
Correspondent .

ACTIVISTS in the city yesterday sounded alarm bells over the shooting deaths of seven young Tausug men in Patikul, Sulu, on Friday, saying it sent a chilling message that it could also happen here and elsewhere in the country, and that the perpetrators could get away with it by merely accusing the dead of wrongoing.

“It could happen to any of us,” said Aida Ibrahim, chairperson of Tindig Ranao during a news conference here yesterday.

On Friday, soldiers shot and killed seven young men on suspicion that they were members of the extremist group Abu Sayyaf, an accusation that the villagers in their community rejected.

But then the military has claimed that the young men were killed during a fierce encounter in Barangay Bakong in Patikul starting at 1:30 pm on Friday, and that at least 17 soldiers were wounded. Task Force Sulu, under Brig. Gen. Divino Rey Pabayo, commended the troops but the Muslim community in Patikul said the dead young men were innocent.

The slain Tausugs were merely carrying boxes of lanzones and mangosteen at the time “the military open fired at them,” Suara Bangsamoro chairman Jerome Succor Aba was quoted by davaotoday.com as saying.

The group said government troops mistook the young men as Abu Sayyaf men.

The young men killed in Patikul, Sulu. (screengrab)

“This latest killing of innocent civilians is an act of terror against the public… We are enraged by the string of senseless killings and massacres against the Bangsamoro in Sulu, Maguindanao, and Marawi City,” Aba said.

Ibrahim said she was disturbed over information her group received because it suggested that what happened in Patikul was a massacre and that there was no encounter at all.

She said there are also reports that villagers there are being watched by soldiers and no longer feel safe to move around.

“Lisud kaayo karong panahona tungod aning martial law. Ang makalolooy ang mga yanong katawhan, mga yanong Muslim nga nanginabuhi lang para naay ipakaon sa ilang pamilya,” Ibrahim said.

Fr. Rolando Abejo of the Iglesia  Filipina Independiente (IFI), chairman of the Movement Against Tyranny, said killings and similar abuses were taking place in other places in Mindanao like Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental and Cagayan de Oro, and that critics of the Duterte administration were targets.

Abejo said the danger is that victims of abuse get away with it with impunity by merely tagging their victims as criminals, terrorists or rebels.

“Grabe na ang patay karon tungod anang giingon nga ‘war on drugs’ ug hulga kunohay sa terorismo. Mupatay sila bisan kanus-a, bisan asa. Unya mosulti lang sila nga ‘drug addict ka’ o di ba kaha ‘NPA or Abu Sayyaf ka,’ tapos na ang tanan,” Abejo said.

The League of Filipino Students in northern Mindanao condemned what it called the “worsening attacks on the Filipino youth.”

“For the past year of Mindanao being under the martial law, cases of human rights violations and killings continue to be unabated. Trumped up cases, illegal arrests, illegal detentions, tortures, and forcible evacuations have been repeatedly happening all over the island,” said Kristine Cabardo, chairperson of the League of Filipino Students in northern Mindanao.

Cabardo cited cases: two Moro girls were killed due to military operations conducted in Butig, Lanao del Sur recently; Rex Hangadon, a farmer, was allegedly shot dead by soldiers in Sitio Bulak, Lower Olave, Buenavista in Agusan del Norte on Saturday, a day after the shooting deaths of the seven young Tausug men in Sulu.

Cabardo said, “‘They are members of Abu Sayyaf Group, New People’s Army or Isis; they are terrorists; the operations were legitimate; they deserve to be killed.’ These lines have always been used to justify the relentless killings…  All the killings were easily dismissed as part of the administration’s ‘war on drugs’ and on terrorism, when in truth, it is a war against the poor and progressives.”

Cabardo added: “It is beyond enraging that the innocent lives are taken as easily as they want to. It is alarming that our lives are at the disposal of this fascist administration and mercenary men in uniform.”

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