Kabacan massacre draws probes by various entities

The alleged involvement of cops in the carnage surfaced in the initial probe of the Commission on Human Rights in Region 12 (CHR-XII), which had reportedly interviewed relatives of massacre victims.

By Ali G. Macabalang

PROTEST RALLY. Concerned Moros hold a protest rally on the broad daylight carnage of nine Moro farmers in Kabacan, Cotabato province. (AGM)

COTABATO CITY – The killing in broad daylight of nine Moro farmers in Kabacan, North Cotabato on Aug. 29 has continued to draw attention from various entities, with the House of Representatives and the new Philippine National Police leadership joining the bandwagon of popular demands for justice.

Seven Muslim members of the House of Representatives have called for a joint inquiry in aid of legislation on the so-called Kabacan massacre, through a resolution filed on Sept. 2 persuading the lower chamber’s Committees on Public Order and Safety and on Muslim Affairs House to lead the legislative inquiry.

Also on Sept. 2, Lt. Gen. Camilo Cascolan, upon assuming office as new chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said his administration will launch its own probe on the incident.

“Yes, if that would be the case, we will investigate that. We will come up with an investigating team [that] will look into that matter,” Gen. Cascolan said over CNN Philippines’ that sought his reaction to initial news reports that police officers were behind the carnage.

The alleged involvement of cops in the carnage surfaced in the initial probe of the Commission on Human Rights in Region 12 (CHR-XII), which had reportedly interviewed relatives of massacre victims.

Nine motorcycles-driving Muslim farmers were killed in the incident. Eight of them died on the spot, while the ninth victim named as Nasher “Tong” Guiaman succumbed to bullet wounds in hospital.

CHR-XII Director Erland Deluvio, citing tips from grieving relatives, had disclosed that Guiaman before his death had mentioned that the armed men who flagged them down, herded them to the roadside and fired at them were cops.

The mass killing happened in broad daylight along a busy provincial road in the vicinity of the University of Southern Mindanao (USM) campus on Aug. 29.

Information reaching the Philippine Muslim Today online news said some USM security guards witnessed the incident, even as one of them had corroborated the alleged involvement of cops. 

Initial investigations showed the nine victims aboard separate motorbikes were unarmed and traveling from Barangay Aringgay of Kabacan town when their attackers flagged them down, herded them to the roadside and fired at them. These refuted past reports that the incident was a shootout.

Apart from Guiaman, the eight other victims were named as Kors Salilangan, Sandigan Zailon, Benladin Dimanalao, Romeo Balatamay, Katindig Kagayawon, and Fahad Mandigan, all residents of Kabacan town; Budsal Lipusan of Datu Odin Sinsuat town in Maguindanao; and Musaid Jaiden of Midsayap town in North Cotabato province.

The incident had spawned condemnations from various sectors, prompting some concerned entities to form investigation teams to unearth the truth and identify the culprits for prosecution.

North Cotabato organized a special task group of probers from the office of provincial police director, Col. Henry Villar, agents from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, and representatives from the local government unit of Kabacan.

Even the local military establishment had also initiated a separate investigation due to the possible adverse implication of the incident to security concerns and the government’s peace deals with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Bangsamoro autonomous government Chief Minister Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim, who is also chairman of the MILF, had tasked his Public Order and Safety Minister Hussein Muñoz to create and lead a probe body, and encouraged the Bangsamoro Commission on Human Rights to conduct a parallel probe.

Ebrahim had initially dispatched a team from his Ministry of Social Services and Development to interview relatives of the massacre victims and provide them financial assistance.

 BIAF still alive

The Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), the MILF’s armed wing led as chief of staff by incumbent Bangsamoro government Executive Secretary and Environment Minister Abdulraof Macacua, has posted online a statement assuring families of the massacre victims that the “BIAF is still alive” to rally them in their moment of grief and in their demand for justice.

Indignation Rally

Hundreds of people from Bangsamoro villages in North Cotabato staged a peace rally in Kabacan town on Sept. 5 to denounce the massacre and demand for speedy investigation as well as prompt dispensation of justice for the victims.

Along both sides of Kabacan highway, rally participants waved placards bearing justice-seeking messages.

Two of the placard messages read, “Give us justice” and “Huwag idaan sa limot ang hustisya ng Kabacan massacre.”

Among the rally participants were some decommissioned combatants of the MILF-BIAF, who were related by affinity and consanguinity to three or more of the massacre fatalities.

Lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo, spokesman and minister of the Interior and Local Governments of the regional government, said listening to the former combatant’s story broke his heart.

He was referring to an elder rally participant, who narrated in tears how he joined the Moro revolutionary front to protect his family and community from infamous massacres that included the Manili carnage north of Kabacan town.

At the sidelight of the peace rally, protesters were informed that local representatives from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) observed partly the rally in their launch of their own probe of the incident.

House legislative inquiry

Due ostensibly to the alleged involvement of cops, seven Moro members of the House of Representatives filed Resolution 1183 on Sept. 2 to call for a joint legislative inquiry on the massacre by the committees on public order and safety and on Muslim affairs.

The resolution authors included Representatives Esmael Mangundadatu of Maguindanao, Mujiv Hataman of Basilan, Amihilda Sangcopan of AMIN Party-list, Yasser Alonto Balindong and Ansaruddin Adiong of Lanao del Sur, Munir Arbison of Sulu, and Rashidin Matba of Tawi-Tawi.

“The recurrence…of alleged illegal practices committed by the law enforcement agencies (among) the Muslim population has become alarming and leads the people to believe that these are systematic and institutional failures, requiring a comprehensive review of the existing criminal justice system and law enforcement procedures and protocols being implemented in the country,” the resolution said.

Rep. Mangudadatu said: “We are truly heartbroken and outraged with the death of the farmers who were reportedly ordered to alight from their motorcycles while traversing the road along Aringay Road proximate to the University of Southern Mindanao campus.”

“This tragedy is truly painful for the victims’ families. It would be sadder and troubling if it’s true that police officers were behind the crime,” Mangudadatu said, underscoring the need to “thoroughly examine how the police run the country’s justice system, as well as its processes and protocol.”

Mangudadatu cited past instances on how police and military people were being used by politicians either willingly or unsuspectingly to carry out hatchet jobs and illegal activities.

“As legislators, let us also find ways to end the stigma where policemen are called ‘criminals in uniform’. I believe that a good number of law enforcers are willing to join this cause and are willing to uplift and restore respect to their insignia,” he said.

Mangundadatu lost his wife and two sisters along with 55 others in the November 23, 2009 Ampatuan Massacre.

Of the 197 suspects in the carnage, 52 were cops, 19 of them convicted while 33 were acquitted.

Hoodlums in uniform

The call for legislative probe by the Muslim lawmakers came three days after a Maranao couple engaged in jewelry business was waylaid, robbed and shot dead by armed men, who were shown in CCTV videos as clad in police uniforms and gears. 

Justice advocates in separate social media messages expressed hope that the proposed House inquiry could also cover efforts to shed light on the killing of the Maranao couple. (AGM)

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