Please heed our call: A thorough, impartial probe on the bombings, massacres in Sulu

Sulu landed the headlines last week because of another bombing incident which again sacrificed the lives of innocent civilians.  Automatically and conveniently, the news pointed to the notorious Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) as the perpetrators of this recent atrocity.  And life could have gone back to “normal” for Sulu with the ASG absorbing the blame for the latest spate of bombings as the Tausogs continue their struggle to transform this embattled island from “a war zone to economic zone.”

Sulu landed the headlines last week because of another bombing incident which again sacrificed the lives of innocent civilians.  Automatically and conveniently, the news pointed to the notorious Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) as the perpetrators of this recent atrocity.  And life could have gone back to “normal” for Sulu with the ASG absorbing the blame for the latest spate of bombings as the Tausogs continue their struggle to transform this embattled island from “a war zone to economic zone.”

But life had a strange twist of fate last Monday because instead of apprehending Abu Sayyaf, the Police caught two Marines soldiers in flagrante delicto within the vicinity of the crime scene.  Ironic because with the avowed mission of protecting the people of Sulu, it is now the military institution trying to exonerate itself from alleged acts of terrorism it is supposed to fight against.  Not long ago, the Magdalo group in Oakwood revealed that it was the military which authored the twin-bombings in Davao in 2003.

Of course the military was quick to say that their men are innocent, but, perhaps, had they not been soldiers, they must have been immediately flown to Malacañang for the President to present to media as another gain in its counter-terrorism campaign.

The news that three ranking Sulu-based military generals, in a meeting with civil society organization representatives at Tabang Sulu last Thursday, promised to turn over to civilian authority the Marines-suspect to the bombing that killed seven and wounded 13 others last week has delighted the Mindanao PeaceWeavers, which earlier called for an “impartial probe on Marines hand over the killings, bombings in Sulu.”

At a meeting in Davao City Friday, the PeaceWeavers decided to come out with another statement hailing the decision of the generals, which considered the move a bold step towards an impartial investigation.  The appreciation of the move was bolstered with the  commander of the anti-terrorism Task Force Comet, Gen. Alexander Aleo’s declaration that the turn over would allow due process to take its normal course.

But even before the statement could see print, the PeaceWeavers is dismayed to learn that the supposed turn-over never did happen. Instead, the military simply presented the suspect, Marines Pvt. Eng. Sabturaji, to Jolo Mayor Butch Izquierdo where the former told journalists that he was innocent and simply happened to be “at a wrong time and place when the bombing occurred.”

Our call is very simple.  Turn over the Marines-suspect to the civilian authority and let our criminal justice system takes its natural course.

The claim of innocence by the suspect was not surprising, but the PeaceWeavers finds improper the pronouncement of his commander, Col. Gene Mariano, that his man “did nothing wrong” and thereafter insisted on bringing him back to their barracks in Buhanginan, Patikul, in open and blatant disregard of regular criminal investigation processes.

While the PeaceWeavers stands by the constitutional right of the suspect to due process, it questions the actuations of the marines who posture like they are above the law in Sulu.

The call of the PeaceWeavers for an impartial probe into the alleged involvement of the Marines officer in the bombing is anchored not only on the dire need of the victims for justice but also on its anxieties brought about by allusions of Marines personnel’s involvement in previous killings and another bombing in the province in the first quarter of the year alone.

We call on the vigilance and cooperation of all sectors of our society to subvert any move to sow violence and conflict in Mindanao.  Let us not allow Mindanao and Sulu to be used as venues for military adventurism and arms trading.

It is only through our unity and solidarity can meaningful peace founded on justice will reign back in this very promising land of the peace-loving Tausogs.

MINDANAO PEACEWEAVERS
27, Galaxy Street, GSIS Heights
Matina, Davao City
Tel: (082) 299-2574 to 75
Fax: (082) 299-2052

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