Fwd: (GLW) PHILIPPINES: Moros resist harassment

Alan Bradley alanb at SPAMelf.brisnet.org.au
Sun Jun 18 20:36:39 MDT 2000


The following article appeared in the latest issue of Green Left Weekly
(http://www.greenleft.org.au):

PHILIPPINES: Moros resist harassment

MANILA -- On June 9, some 3000 Moros (an ethnic group in the Philippines)
from 45 villages in Metro Manila held a prayer-rally at the Maharlika
village in Taguig. The rally was hosted by the Pagragn National Movement, a
new coalition of Moro groups that was formed recently in response to the
harassment of Muslim communities in Metro Manila and other parts of the
country. Pagragn is Moro dialect meaning assistance given to the poor and
oppressed.

Maharlika village, a sprawling Muslim enclave in the midst of a military
camp and detention centre, was raided by the police a week before the
rally. Heavily armed police troops ransacked houses and took away
“suspects” without arrest warrants. Twenty-six people were arrested and
charged in relation to a spate of bombings that have wracked Metro Manila's
malls in the past few months. One of the bombings claimed the life of a
janitor at the largest shopping centre in Manila.

Sultan Panny Pangandaman, head of the Pagragn movement, organised the rally
with support from Muslim clergy and various Moro groups. Posters were put
up announcing the event and calling on everyone to make a stand against the
harassment of Muslim communities, the arrest of the “Maharlika 26” and the
escalating war in Mindanao.

On the day of the rally, the only mosque in Metro Manila open for prayers
was the one in Maharlika village. As early as 8am, Muslims from various
places started to arrive. The prayer-rally assembled at the park facing the
Maharlika mosque. A truck bedecked with placards and streamers denouncing
the harassment was used as a makeshift stage.

Police cars and trucks of army soldiers stationed themselves just outside
the village perimeter.

Leaders of various Muslim groups in Metro Manila spoke. Wives of some of
the 26 arrested villagers also came on stage and took an oath on the Koran
that their husbands were not the “bombers” as claimed by the police.

Other organisations invited included the Moro-Christian People's Alliance
and the Sosyalistang Partido ng Paggawa (Socialist Party of Labour). On
entering the rally site, the SPP contingent held a brief march and unfurled
banners that said, “Stop the War! Pull-out AFP [Armed Forces of the
Philippines] Troops in Mindanao!”, and “Free the Maharlika 26!”. These
elicited repeated shouts of Alahu, Akbar! (Allah be praised!).

A mock referendum to determine whether Moros wanted autonomy, federalism or
independence was held during the rally. The poll result showed that they
were overwhelmingly for independence.

Continuing harassment

As the rally was closing, reports arrived of the harassment of a Muslim
community in Quiapo, Manila. Two Muslim men in Manila to have their papers
processed to allow them to work overseas were killed in cold blood by
police. The cops claimed it was a shoot-out, and that the two slain Moros
were members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The autopsy a
week later of the two victims found that they had not fired guns.

Other forms of harassment and discrimination against Muslims in Metro
Manila include the introduction of an identification card system that
identifies the Moro. This racist system is now being implemented in Pasig
City, and other cities and municipalities are expected to follow suit.

The harassment of Moros and Muslim communities in Metro Manila is expected
to escalate as Philippine President Joseph Estrada continues his “all-out
war policy” against the Moros in Mindanao.

Estrada has ignored the call of the Catholic bishops to declare an end to
the war. He reiterated his three conditions: for the MILF to end its
campaign for secession; stop its “terroristic and criminal activities”, and
to call on its fighters to lay down their arms. Some bishops have called
these conditions “unrealisable and absurd” and “counter-productive to the
peace process”.

On June 19, a new anti-war coalition will be formed to address the
escalating harassment of the Moro people. The SPP and various progressive
groups -- including the Pagragn National Movement and the Cordillera
People's Liberation Army, which is fighting for self-determination in the
north of the Philippines -- will host a press conference to announce a
“million signature campaign” and other activities against the war in
Mindanao, and against the discrimination against Muslims in the
Philippines.

BY SONNY MELENCIO
[The author is the chairperson of the Socialist Party of Labour in the
Philippines.]





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