Sulu bishop says state of emergency may lead to military abuses

MANILA, Philippines – Bishop of Jolo, Sulu Angelito Lampon said the declaration of a state of emergency in the province has raised alarm over possible military abuses.

In an interview over the Church-run Radio Veritas, Lampon said that under a state of emergency, “the soldiers could just pick up anybody and inflict injury on them.”

“There would be 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. curfew. They would also set up checkpoints and chokepoints, and even without warrants of arrest houses would be raided if intelligence information showed there are suspicious people or goings on inside the house,” he said.

Lampon admitted that the people of Sulu are divided on whether to support the presence of the military in the province or not.

“Some of them are worried. Even before the kidnapping of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) workers took place, they want to kick the military out,” he added.

However, he admitted that majority of civilians favor the presence of the soldiers since there is a proliferation of firearms.

“This is happening not because our local government is doing nothing, but because the problem has escalated,” he said.

According to him, the movements of civilians have been limited. They are not allowed to go to Indanan, Sulu and would only be allowed to visit the town if properly escorted by the Marines.

It is widely believed that members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) are hiding in the area and villagers are advised to go to schools or other areas perceived as safe.

Lampon said there is a possibility that there would only be a smaller turnout during their Holy Week activities because of the prevailing peace and order problem in the province.

“There are still many of them who would join in the Church activities, but we could not expect a high attendance because many of them have difficulty finding transportation. We also understand that some of them might not be able to attend the Easter vigil because of the tension in the area.”

He said soldiers will be present during religious processions, such as the Santo Entiero on Good Friday and the Salubong on Easter Sunday, and will be on guard outside churches during Masses.

“In all of our Church activities, we coordinate with the Philippine National Police and the military to guard us. As much as possible, we would hold our activity during the day,” Lampon said.

Evelyn Macairan, Philippine Star

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Published in: on April 2, 2009 at 12:00 am  Comments Off on Sulu bishop says state of emergency may lead to military abuses  
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