A call for an impartial probe on Marines involvement in the killings, bombings in Sulu

The series of bombings and killings in Sulu implicating the Marines is very alarming and has caused more anxieties among the innocent victims of these tragedies who ought to be afforded justice. The Mindanao PeaceWeavers, aside from strongly condemning these incidents in Sulu, calls on the Armed Forces of the Philippines to let the Police investigation takes its due course with the AFP’s paramount cooperation, rather than coddle the Marine-suspects.

On March 27, 2006, a bomb explosion wrecked the church-organized Sulu Consumers Cooperative Building now owned by teachers, employee, and communities in the province.

Reports reaching the Mindanao PeaceWeavers confirmed five fatalities and 15 others wounded, though some newspaper reports presented bigger figures. Expectedly, the incident was blamed on the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group and so-called extortionists.

Ironically, however, like a number of incidents in the past that were blamed on law enforcers themselves, the local Police has arrested two suspects, all belonging to the Philippine Marines in the area. When accosted at the vicinity of the ruined Coop building minutes after the explosion, the suspects reportedly had handguns and radio transceivers but could not present proper identification to the arresting officers.

What saddened us was the report that the Marine-suspects were, hours later, released after a truck-load of fellow Marines came to rescue them, causing a near shoot-out between them (Marines) and the policemen and, thereby prejudicing a supposed investigation by the Police.

On January 28, 2006, at around 7:15 p.m., a group of innocent civilians who have just gone out from a mosque in Duhul Bato, Barangay Mauboh, Patikul, were fired upon, killing one and wounding 10 others. The suspect belonged to the Philippine Marines whom Gen. Alexander Aleo of the Task Force Comet said was already being investigated but until now the investigation result has yet to be known to public.

On the night of February 2, 2006, six other civilians were killed in a strafing incident that left six others wounded Palar, some 50 meters away from both the Marines and 104th Brigade headquarters in Busbus, Jolo. A child survivor said the brutal gunmen ran towards the Marines detachment after the horrendous bloodbath.

On February 10, 2006, a civilian-witness to a police investigation on the January 28, 2006 incident was beheaded and its severed body parts were strewn around the vicinity of the Jolo Police Station. The brother of the beheaded corpse, whom witnesses said were allegedly picked up by uniformed men on February 9, 2006, has since been missing.

These series of incidents implicating the Marines in Sulu is, indeed, very alarming and has caused more anxieties among the innocent victims of these tragedies who ought to be afforded justice.

The Mindanao PeaceWeavers, aside from strongly condemning the bombings and killings in Sulu, calls on the Armed Forces of the Philippines to let the Police investigation takes its due course with the AFP’s paramount cooperation, rather than coddle the Marine-suspects.

We call on Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Generoso Senga and Task Force Comet Commander Gen. Alexander Aleo never to allow a cover up, but instead ensure a thorough, impartial and unhampered investigation on the alleged involvement of men in uniform in all the above mentioned incidents. We even suggest that the Army conduct a parallel court marshal proceedings against the suspect, if indeed it is sincere in affording justice to the victims, rather than resorting to what appears to be a very convenient excuse of putting the blame on terrorist/extortionist groups.

We urge Police Director Gen. Arturo Lumibao to prop up the morale of his men and build up a strong support mechanism enough for the Police of Sulu to assert its supremacy over the military and perform its investigative function even if the subject of investigation are uniformed men.

We appeal on Sulu Gov. Ben Loong to stop acting like an Army marionette and be true to your avowed commitment to serve, protect and defend your policemen and constituents, rather than interceding for the release of the Marine-suspects.

We also call on Congress to immediately conduct a separate fact-finding mission to look into the reported involvement of government soldiers in these killings, including military food blockade that has been going on in interior barangays of Sulu since the past three years.

We appeal to all sectors of society, both from government and private organizations in Sulu, Mindanao and the entire country, to let our voices be heard and together strongly condemn the recent bombing and demand justice for all victims of ruthless killings in Sulu.

Lastly, we reiterate our earlier call for government to rally behind in strengthening local civilian authorities’ supremacy over the military in this island-province that has long been virtually ruled by the mighty gun-wielding soldiers.

Mindanao Peaceweavers

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