Are Muslims in Manila in peril?

Macabangkit B. Lanto

Two separate incidents have stirred the concern of Filipino Muslims. Both happened in Manila last week. The vigilance of onlookers and neighbors helped unravel many questions about them. They were caught on video that went viral on social media, particularly on Facebook walls and chat rooms of Muslim netizens.

As a caveat, this is not being judgmental. The issue is presented here based on facts as culled from evidence publicly exposed, the validity and integrity of which were subjected to vetting. It’s for readers to draw their conclusion.

The first incident involved the raid conducted on the house of Muslim traders in San Andres Bukid on 12 June 2020. From the video circulated and accounts of witnesses, the raiding team violated basic principles of rules and laws. The vigilance of their Muslim neighbors helped save the suspects. For a while, the raiding team was held hostage by a group of Muslims sympathetic to the victims, until a reinforcement came to rescue them. Immediately, Muslim congressmen led by Deputy Speaker Mujiv Hataman and Ansaruddin Adiong, including a non-Muslim, filed a resolution in the House of Representatives to investigate the incident alleging illegal search, seizures and warrantless arrest.

The text of the proposed resolution tells it all. It said at around 3 p.m. of 12 June 2020 the raiding team “without properly identifying themselves and absent any search warrant or warrant of arrest allegedly broke the main door of the house” where the suspects reside. The intrusion was without proper and prior coordination with barangay officials, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and police station in the area, in violation of the standard procedure in conducting search or buy-bust operations. It claims several anomalies committed, like the use of a “falsely marked vehicles with tampered plates” and the failure of the police to identify themselves and to call representatives of the barangay, media and the conduct of the search without any witness.

As we go to press, we received reports that the suspects were set free.

Days after, a Muslim barangay chairman was publicly executed. It happened at the hub of commerce and proximate to the Quiapo mosque. Unlike the first incident, this one didn’t draw much reaction from Muslim leaders. Fortunately, the incident was caught on CCTV camera. From the looks of it, victim chairman Abubakar Sharief was seen talking to a group of policemen when, a few minutes after the mobile patrol left, another group of armed men executed Sharief. What puzzled many was the fact that the camera caught the presence of the group of killers and their getaway vehicle at the time Sharief and the policemen were talking. If the authorities are serious in ferreting out the truth, they could easily enhance digitally the scenes caught on the CCTV camera and identify the killers and vehicle involved in the shooting.

The second incident was not covered by the proposed resolution, but there is nothing to prevent the solons from amending it to include the killing in Quiapo.

Theories about the incidents abound. The common denominator appears to be illegal drugs, although the killing of the barangay chairman could likewise be due to political rivalry. A number of Muslims have been caught and arrested engaged in illegal trade in the past. And because of these past incidents, they are fair game for arrest and kill. In other words, there is a profiling of Muslims as illegal drug merchants because of past misdeeds of other Muslims.

There are lessons learned from these incidents. The people must keep vigilant and courageous to stand up to authorities if they sense any sign of abuse. And their cell phones play vital roles in the solution of crimes that can save the lives of innocent victims.

This column commends the vigilance shown by the public. Also, kudos is due to the solons who sponsored the resolution.

We condemn illegal trade in any and all form. But the campaign against it should not be carried out at the expense of the elementary rules of law and fair play. And in the process, police enforcers should shy away from profiling certain tribes.

MACABANGKIT B. LANTO

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