Islam and Muslims in Philippines: Rights Violations Defy Mindanao Peace
- Rights Violations Defy Mindanao Peace
By Rexcel John Sorza, IOL Correspondent
Thu. Jan. 17, 2008
MANILA Peace prospects in the Muslim-dominant
southern island of Mindanao will remain elusive as
long as Muslims continue to fall preys to gross rights
violations and heavy-fisted policies, a human rights
group has affirmed.
"This report would contradict the statement of
President Gloria Arroyo that she will bring peace to
Mindanao," Sittie Rajabia Sundang, the
secretary-general of Kawagib Moro Human Rights
Organization, told IslamOnline.net.
In its annual report, the group says government's
pledges to bring peace to long-battered Mindanao, the
birth place of Islam in the Philippines, are belied by
gross rights violations.
"There is still no atmosphere of peace in the Moro
areas in Mindanao," it underlined.
Kawagib said that from January to November 2007 alone,
there were 21 cases of human rights violations
committed by the military, police and intelligence
agents against Muslims in the southern provinces.
"These include violation of civil and political
rights, violation of right to life and violation
More than 75,000 civilians have been displaced in the
Muslim provinces of Basilan, Midsayap and Sulu.
"Sulu was the hardest hit by a combination of ground
troops commandos and indiscriminate aerial
bombardment, with a total of 58,500 persons displaced
due to three military operations," said the watchdog
the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)has been
struggling for an independent state in the
mineral-rich southern region of Mindanao since 1978.
At least 125,000 have been killed in the conflict.
The government has announced an intention to draft
constitutional amendments to allow the creation of a
federal homeland for Muslims in the south.
Manila and MILFhave already agreed to the scope and
boundaries of "ancestral domain" or communal land that
Muslims lost when the colonial government introduced a
system of land titles.
The rights organization blamed Muslims' plight in 2007
on "the combined anti-terror policies of the US
government and the Philippine government."
These policies brought about a "militarized community"
where civilians were "becoming more vulnerable with
the deployment of massive government forces and
foreign troops in their communities."
Worse still, the group predicts that 2008 could even
bring more troubles for southern Muslims.
"This year, there will be another round of Balikatan
[Philippine-US military exercises] in different parts
of Moro provinces," Sundang, the group chief, told
"As what we have experienced in the past few years,
the presence of the US worsens the human rights
situation," she added.
According to testimonies of many southerners, she
explained, American troops participate in actual
combat operations with the army rather than just
observe or provide expert advice.
"They are disregarding the will of the Moro people,"
The US is the main defense ally of the Philippines.
American troops engaging in military exercises and
other activities in the country are immune by the
Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which provides legal
protection for any soldier charged with a crime in the
"We expect more human rights violations as we all know
what kind of government we have," Sundang contends.
To help them fight for their rights, Kawagib plans to
give Muslims in the southern provinces training
The group will take its awareness courses "to the
grassroots and village levels, especially in those
communities that are highly militarized like Sulu,
Basilan and Central Mindanao."
It also hopes the Moro people will be "empowered with
basic human rights principles and equipped with the
know-how to protect and assert their rights.
"We are calling on our Muslim brothers and sisters to
be more vigilant this year."
Philippines: Islamic group condemns priest's murder
Cotobato City, 16 Jan. (AKI) The Philippines'
largest separatist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation
Front (MILF), has condemned the killing of a Catholic
priest gunned down on Tuesday on an island in the Sulu
archipelago in the southwest of the country.
Jesus Reynaldo A. Roda was killed during an alleged
kidnap attempt in Tabawan Island, in the province of
Tawi-tawi one of the main islands of the Sulu
The archipelago is the stronghold of the homegrown
Islamic terrorist organisation Abu Sayyaf, famous for
its kidnap for ransom activities and beheadings.
Sheikh Mohammad Muntassir, head of the MILF Dawah
or Call to Islam - Committee, attacked the killing.
We condemn this killing in the highest possible
terms and the killers deserve hell for their barbaric
act, he said on Wednesday.
Quoted in the MILF official portal Luwaran,
Muntassir added that the lives of non-combatants,
including priests, were considered inviolable in Islam
even in a combat situation.
The killing is an indication of the worsening
situation in the Philippines that spared no one from
the scourge of violence, he said.
Roda was a member of the Oblates of the Mary
Immaculate (OMI) congregation and the director of the
Notre Dame School of Tabawan as well as the head of
the mission there. He had been living in Tabawan for
the last ten years.
According to Ramon Bernabe, the priest who heads the
OMI provincial chapter, Roda was killed in an apparent
kidnapping attempt while he was praying at the chapel.
He was praying in the chapel, as he used to do every
night, when armed men barged in and tried to take him.
He struggled and resisted being taken away, and
explicitly said that he preferred to be killed right
there and then, Bernabe said in an email message to
fellow Oblates and friends.
A witness said that he was beaten and then shot
dead. The armed men also took some valuables from his
office before fleeing, taking with them a male teacher
of Notre Dame of Tabawan who happened to be there, he
Roda, a member of the OMI congregation, was ordained
as a priest in 1980.
Philippines 'bomb plotter' Islamic envoy: Egypt cleric
Dec 23, 2007
CAIRO (AFP) An Egyptian man held in the Philippines
for allegedly plotting a Christmas bomb attack is an
envoy of Sunni Islam's highest seat of learning who
was arrested by mistake, the insitution's grand imam
said on Sunday.
Al-Azhar's Sheikh Mohammed Sayyid Tantawi told Egypt's
official MENA news agency that he was personally
following up the case of Sheikh Mohammed al-Sayyid
Ahmed Mussa who was arrested by police in the
Philippines on Tuesday.
Tantawi aide Sheikh Abdel Fattah Allam said he
expected Sheikh Mussa to be released on bail "in the
next few hours".
"The envoys of Al-Azhar abroad are chosen according to
strict criteria to encourage moderation in Islam and
the renunciation of violence and terrorism," he added.
The religious affairs ministry issued a statement
saying that Sheikh Mussa was being well treated but
that there were contacts at the highest level between
the two governments to try to secure his release.
"Sheikh Mussa is a man of faith who represents a
prestigious religious institution," the ministry said.
"There are 29 Al-Azhar envoys in the Philippines
teaching Arabic language and Islamic religion in
accordance with an agreement between Cairo and
Manila," he added.
Mussa, identified by Philippine police as Mohamad
Sayed, was arrested during a raid on a flat in the
Majad Islamic School in the southern city of Cotabato.
An explosive device fashioned from a 60-millimetre
mortar round and ball bearings attached to a timing
device were recovered from his room.
Philippine police said the Egyptian was captured after
surveillance and that intelligence reports suggested
he planned to detonate the bomb at an undisclosed
location in the city on Christmas Day.
Among the items they said were recovered from his room
was a booklet on the organisation of the Moro Islamic
Liberation Front (MILF), a rebel group that has been
fighting to set up an Islamic state in the southern
Tantawi said he hoped Mussa would be released "within
the coming couple of days" and that the arrest was a