National minority group Suara Bangsamoro blamed President Rodrigo Duterte for the massacre of seven Tausug civilians Friday in Patikul, Sulu by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
“President Duterte’s all-out war policy is killing more and more of our Moro brothers and sisters. We are enraged that, to appease his Filipino soldiers, he would sacrifice the lives of Moro people by exonerating the perpetrators of the massacre and branding the victims as terrorists,” Suara Bangsamoro national chairperson Jerome Succor Aladdin Aba said in a statement.
“We hold President Rodrigo Duterte responsible for the various human rights violations committed by the military against the Moro people in his all-out war directives against ‘terrorists’that uses massive ammunitions including aerial bombardment that target and punishes the community as a whole, and does not discriminate from the real bandits from the civilians,” Aba added.
According to the group, the victims were identified as “husbands of Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries in Patikul who were shot by elements of Scout Rangers while harvesting mangosteen fruits in the area.”
Suara Bangsamoro said the victims were residents of Barangay Tambang and were aged 18 to 32.
The victims evacuated to Barangay Igasan in Patikul due to ongoing military operations in the area against the bandit group Abu Sayyaf.
According to their families, the victims were allowed by the military’s 55th Infantry Battalion to go to Sitio Tubig Bato, Barangay Kabuntakas to harvest mangosteen.
While they were in Kabuntakas, a firefight between the AFP and the Abu Sayaff and Philippine Army’s 32nd Infantry Battalion happened.
The military mistook the seven as Abu Sayyaf members and were captured alive at about noontime Friday, Suara Bangsamoro said.
At five o’clock, however, their cadavers were taken by the AFP to the local police station.
In its press release Friday, the Western Mindanao Command of the AFP claimed the seven were part of a group of 100 Abu Sayyaf fighters who fired at its Task Group Panther and Scout Rangers troopers operating in the area.
Suara Bangsamoro called on the Commission on Human Rights to investigate the incident as well as other human rights violations against Moro communities.
“The AFP should be held accountable for this crime. This is not the first time that the AFP committed an atrocity against civilians while parading the victims as Abu Sayyaf bandits,” Aba said.
Suara Bangsamoro said it blames AFP’s anti-terror operations and Duterte’s martial law in Mindanao for the attacks against civilians. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)