Thursday, November 19, 2009

Violent dispersal of slum dwellers near mosque in Philippines denounced, condemned

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / November 19, 2009) – Philippine Muslim rebels have denounced Thursday the violent dispersal by armed policemen of dozens of Muslim dwellers in Pasay City that killed 3 people and injured many others.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group which is currently negotiating peace with Manila, said Wednesday dispersal of shanty owners was violent.

Government workers backed by armed policemen demolished shanty houses around a mosque. Television pictures aired late Wednesday showed policemen firing their rifles toward a group of Muslims atop the mosque throwing stones at government workers tearing down their houses.

“It was violent and armed policemen opened fire on the Muslims who are protesting the demolition of their houses. They should have resolved the problems peacefully,” said Eid Kabalu, a senior MILF leader.

News videos also showed demolition workers pushing away Muslim women trying to protect their homes from being demolished.

“I was shocked when I saw the news last night. It was like a scene in Palestine - Israeli soldiers firing their weapons at unarmed Palestinians who are only defending their homes from being demolished – it was barbaric,” said a Muslim villager in Zamboanga City, Omar Abdullah, 47.

The Commission on Human Rights on Thursday condemned the violent demolition in Pasay City and said it is investigating the incident.

“The use of firearms is strictly prohibited during demolition operations. The Philippine National Police has no justification for the discharge of firearms, whether for the purpose of firing warning shots, disabling or killing protesters,” said lawyer Leila De Lima, who heads the human rights body.

“Given that only non-lethal modes of violent intervention are allowed, such as tear gas and water cannons, and only as a last resort, clearly the Philippine National Police, by its own rules, cannot use firearms in demolitions,” De Lima said. “I cannot understand what justification the Philippine National Police may have in using their firearms for warning shots. Neither can I understand the necessity of firing their weapons to injure protesters, armed or otherwise.”

Security officials said the protesters were armed with homemade guns and explosives and that policemen only fired warning shots, an accusation strongly denied by villagers.

“While we condemn the Philippine National Police’s use of firearms, we cannot turn a blind eye to reports that the inhabitants of the demolished community used homemade firearms and explosive devices, in addition to throwing stones at demolition operatives. No one should take the law into their own hands, and no one should resort to criminal means in the guise of protecting their rights,” De Lima said.

She also called on the Philippine National police to properly document and identify those who may have used firearms, both from their own ranks and from the demolished community. (Mindanao Examiner)

1 comment:

Edsel said...

It has been a protracted proceedings to ask these squatters on government land to leave. It's not their fault being there because they paid some corrupt local government officials to build their shanties. Protocol dictates that policemen are not suppose to have firearms during demolition.However, there had been instances when policemen and demolition workers had been violently attacked by shanty dwellers.

It was wrong to allow the muslim community to put up permanent structures in the area. This area has been earnmarked for commercial develoment since it was reclaimed from the ocean in the Marcos years.

Ms. de Lima has jumped like a kangaroo in the past to make comments without looking at the facts. Please be objective, there are always two sides to a coin and it's not right to fuel dissent by irresponsible comments.