LEGAZPI CITY (28-Jan-2013) – Karapatan and Families of Desaparecidos for Justice (Desaparecidos) deplored the abduction of Sheikh Bashier Mursalum and Muin Kahal Hamja, as these organizations add two more names to the long list of enforced disappearances in the country. The abduction happened after President Aquino signed the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Act of 2012 in December.
“Muin Kahal and Mursalum’s disappearances show that the law itself is not a deterrent in the practice of enforced disappearance. This poses a challenge to the law against enforced disappearance and to the Aquino government to prosecute those who abducted and detained them,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general. “The law seems brave enough to make state agents criminally liable for the act of enforced disappearance but we have yet to see its enforcement,” Palabay added.
Sheikh Bashier Mursalum, a muslim scholar, was abducted by state agents last January 22 in Basilan. On January 24, Muin Kahal Hamja was abducted by armed men at 2:00 AM in his home in Bgy. Kumalarang, Isabela City, Basilan.
“We initially welcomed this new law, but the rage in our hearts remains knowing that the families of Hamja and Mursalum are searching in vain for their loved ones,” Lorena Santos, secretary general of Desaparecidos, said.
Muhammadiya Hamja, Muin Kahal’s brother, was also a victim of enforced disappearance in 2001 but was located by the quick reaction team composed of members of Karapatan, Muhammadiya’s son and Commission on Human Rights investigators. “We found him hidden and tortured inside the office of Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in Camp Crame, Philippine National Police Headquarters in Quezon City,” said Palabay.
Muhammadiya is now sickly but is still detained, facing trumped up charge of bombing in Basilan Province – the same case he and his brother Muin Kahal already faced in 2001 but was acquitted in 2005 for lack of evidence.
“As much as we have hope in our hearts that this law will help pave the way for justice, but our hopes are dimmed when we witness the continuing commission of human rights violations by state security forces under Oplan Bayanihan.” Santos said.
Both organizations reiterate their position that for as long as counter-insurgency programs like Oplan Bayanihan are implemented, human rights violations by the State continues unabated.