Abuse of anti-terror law? Probe on Cavite arrests sought

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    DEPUTY speaker Mujiv Hataman (Basilan) yesterday decried the alleged spate of warrantless arrests against Muslims in Cavite and in some parts of Metro Manila, raising the possibility that the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is being abused.

    The new law is facing almost 40 petitions questioning its constitutionality.

    Hataman said the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) and the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) have to explain the arrests and detention – allegedly without a judicial warrant and without due process – of at least 11 individuals, including seven Muslims, inside a construction site in Bacoor, Cavite on February 17.

    “Parang martial law naman ito. Nag-aresto without warrant, tapos wala man lang pasabi sa mga kaanak at pamilya (This is like martial law. They arrested without warrant and without even notifying families and relatives,” said the former governor of the now defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

    Hataman demanded an explanation from the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) and the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), saying the whereabouts of those arrested remain unknown.

    Reports reaching Hataman’s office indicate that Bacoor police assisted an alleged joint operation by the NICA and NCRPO at Yuxing Construction Site in Barangay Mambog IV, Bacoor City on February 17 at around 2 a.m.

    Quoting the Bacoor police, Hataman said the NICA and NCRPO’s operation involved the “verifications of an alleged presence of Abu Sayyaf” in the construction site.

    He said the construction workers were made to lie on the ground, face down, while the police asked who were Muslims and who were from Basilan.

    Eleven persons were arrested in the alleged operation, and they included Basilan residents Hadzma Pandapit Marunsing (a female working in the canteen), Arsid U. Adbulkadir, Arhan Mustafa Juhur, Tahirin Ngairun Jalil, Nulham A. Tadjae and Dam Sansangan Hamid.

    “Is this the abuse that we were fearing under the the anti-terror law? The NICA and NCRPO should clarify the arrests, produce the 11 individuals and inform their families of what happened,” he said in mixed Filipino and English.

    Hataman said he is set to file a resolution calling on the appropriate House committee to probe the incident, especially if the arrested individuals are really accused of being members of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group.

    He made mention a spate of arrests against Muslims in Metro Manila, specifically in Manila and Taguig cities, where some individuals were allegedly taken by persons who identified themselves as NBI operatives.

    “Since these are the first incidents of this arrests under the new anti-terrorism law, it is important to know if the safeguards we have instituted to protect the rights of suspects and the accused in the statute are followed to the letter,” he said.