The still fragile peace situation in Muslim Mindanao was seriously threatened by the abduction and enforced disappearance of Sheik Basher Mursalum, an Alim or Muslim scholar, last Jan. 22 by suspected operatives of the Philippine Center on Transnational Crime and the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force. Sheik Mursalum was on his way home to Barangay Labuan, Zamboanga City. Until now, he is still missing. The western Mindanao police and the head of the Task Force Zamboanga have not acknowledged custody of the victim.
Two days after Sheik Mursalum’s abduction, Muin Hamja, a 40-year-old fisherman of Barangay Kumalarang, Isabela City in Basilan, was arbitrarily arrested by elements of the PNP last Jan. 24 at around 2:30 p.m. at his residence. The Basilan PNP denied it had custody of the victim when his family inquired about him at the police camp in Isabela City. For four days, Hamja was missing until the PNP surfaced him at the Basilan Regional Trial Court on Jan. 28. He was charged with kidnapping and tagged as an Abu Sayyaf.
These two abduction incidents of Moro civilians in Zamboanga City and Isabela City in Basilan have a chilling effect on the Moro people despite the grand signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Oct. 15, 2012, in Malacañang. The FAB seeks to establish a Bangsamoro autonomous region and achieve peace in Mindanao and the country.
But we in Hustisya-Moro can’t help but wonder: Is this President Aquino’s path to peace in Bangsamoro?
President Aquino declared that the FAB will bring peace in war-torn Mindanao. The President just signed the Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012 which criminalizes enforced disappearance. His new Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff, Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, author of the national security plan Oplan Bayanihan, also boasts of a reformed and human rights-oriented military under his reign. But the abduction and enforced disappearance of Sheik Mursalum and the arbitrary arrest and terrorist-tagging of Hamja, a lowly fisherman in Basilan, betray their words and expose to high heavens the Aquino administration’s and the AFP’s hypocrisy. The continuing human rights violations against the Moro people unmask the deceitful and devious character of this administration in pursuing and promoting a just and lasting peace in Muslim Mindanao.
Maharlika Village, Taguig City