MILF on beheading: Don’t look at us
- Leo Solinap () - February 22, 2002 - 12:00am
ILOILO CITY — The Moro Islamic Liberation Front denounced an opposition lawmaker’s accusations the other night that a video footage released by Malacañang showed members of the MILF, not the Abu Sayyaf, beheading soldiers.

MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu, in a radio interview here with Aksyon Radyo- Iloilo, said the MILF could never have done such an inhuman act as beheading prisoners or captives. He said the video was not taken in MILF camps or with MILF members and that it clearly showed the Abu Sayyaf beheading its hostages.

Cavite Rep. Gilbert Remulla claimed the other day the video shown to members of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines during the Estrada administration and recently released by Malacañang actually showed members of the MILF.

Kabalu denied this, saying that by releasing the video, Malacañang told the public the truth about the Abu Sayyaf. He said people have been surfacing, telling the public that they were forced by the Abu Sayyaf to do the beheading.

Kabalu said the MILF was only caught in the crossfire between the government and the Abu Sayyaf. "It’s very painful for us because now they (are accusing us of doing the beheading) ," he said.

Even in their records, he said, the MILF has never carried out any beheading of its captives.

Malacañang bolstered the claims of the MILF, saying the Arroyo administration sees no reason nor evidence to believe that those in the video footage were MILF rebels.

"The MILF has never claimed any beheading. We haven’t seen any beheading case claimed by the MILF," Presidential Spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao said yesterday..

Malacañang, however , expressed its willingness to cooperate with a planned inquiry by Congress into the video footage.

"The Senate has its own prerogative. We can’t ask them to stop investigations," Tiglao said.

But he strongly took exceptions to claims by the opposition in Congress that those in the video footage were not Abu Sayyaf but MILF rebels.

"Since last year the Abu Sayyaf (have been claiming) beheading people. Even Abu Sabaya says they beheaded (Guillermo) Sobero," Tiglao said. Sobero, a tourist from California, was abducted from the upscale Dos Palmas resort in Palawan in May last year.

He disclosed that Southern Command authorities headed by Lt. Gen. Roy Cimatu were investigating reports that the beheadings were done by civilians kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf who supposedly ordered them to do so under threat of being beheaded themselves. "It only emphasizes – if it’s true– the brutality of the Abu Sayyaf," he said.

But he noted from the video that those cutting the heads of the victims were holding their firearms, showing they were not kidnap victims at all.
US Special Forces not intimidated
US Special Forces are not intimidated by atrocities reportedly committed by Abu Sayyaf rebels as shown in the controversial video footage.

"They (US troops) are definitely not afraid. Our American allies are a group of highly trained and motivated professionals. They are hardened soldiers and the video has no effect on them," said Marine Brig. Gen. Emmanuel Teodosio, co-director of the joint RP-US Balikatan military exercises.

In fact, Teodosio said, the gross video footage only served to make them "more resolute and determined to help in annihilating those barbarians," he said.

More than 150 US Special Forces are now in the jungles of Basilan accompanying Philippine soldiers hunting Abu Sayyaf rebels, who are holding American missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham and Filipino nurse Ediborah Yap.

Meanwhile, amid cries of shock and indignation coming from many sectors, a Muslim priest said he saw nothing wrong in making public the beheading of people, particularly convicted criminals. as this will instill in the public’s mind, especially children, that death is the wage of crime.

"Mabuti na makita ng mga anak namin na kung may masama silang gawin pupugutan sila ng ulo (Beheading is not bad for us. It is good for children to see it so they will know that if they do something bad their heads will be chopped off)," Datu Amerol Guilang Ambiong said in an interview with radio station dzBB.

He said the showing of the grisly video had no impact on Muslim communities because the ritual of beheading is part of their Islamic way of life.

In Islamic countries where the death penalty is still imposed on convicted criminals, he explained, beheading of criminals in public is a usual practice. The Koran prescribes that people be informed of a scheduled execution in the plaza so they can witness the beheading. The punishment is carried out after a Shariah court hands down the decision.

On the other hand, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) reports that the gory video showing the beheading with a machete has caused trauma and nightmares not only to children but to adults as well.

"What we should do now is to help our children overcome the traumatic experience by discussing it," Social Welfare Undersecretary Lourdes Balanon told reporters at the Round Table forum at the Holiday Inn Hotel.

Balanon said teachers could play a vital role in helping their pupils have a better understanding of the matter by discussing the bloody act in class. "Discussing the matter would give them some sort of support (knowing) that what they felt about the video was similar to what their classmates and playmates also felt upon seeing it."

"We must also tell them that the resolution of any conflict should be done in a peaceful way," Balanon added.

She also recommended professional help for the member of the Abu Sayyaf who claimed to have beheaded the captive solider and who has surrendered to the authorities.

"The person who beheaded the soldier has a bigger accountability to society as well as to the family of the victim because his conscience would surely bother him. That’s why he has to undergo some professional help from a psychiatrist and psychologist," she said.

Balanon also revealed that DSWD is currently "treating" seven minors who used to do errands for the Abu Sayyaf bandits. The minors with ages 15 to 16 were turned over to the DSWD last month.
Muddling the point?
Protests against the public showing of the violent beheading footage continue to mount.

Opposition legislators are questioning the authenticity of the videotape. Sen. Edgardo Angara said yesterday he had seen the same videotape played by then President Joseph Estrada in 1999, allegedly to show the atrocities of another Muslim rebel group, the MILF.

However, President Arroyo’s spokesman dismissed the opposition charge, saying the tape was an authentic record of the Abu Sayyaf. The accusation was "just meant to muddle the whole point," Arroyo’s Press Undersecretary Roberto Capco told reporters.

Capco maintained that the tape was captured from an Abu Sayyaf camp in the south. "Apparently they (the Estrada officials) misrepresented it as an MILF tape," he said. The gory tape, allegedly taken after a battle with rebel forces in 1995, was released to the public earlier this week and played on several television stations.

Military chief Gen. Diomedio Villanueva said "in the long run, the truth will come out."

He also said the military is looking into claims by a man in Basilan that he was one of the people shown in the footage and that he and other hostages were forced to behead captive soldiers.

Army spokesman Lt. Col. Jose Mabanta insisted the incident definitely involved the Abu Sayyaf, adding they had even identified the soldier who was killed.

Two more senators asked Malacañang propagandists to stop showing the violent footage, saying it was an "overkill and totally unnecessary."

Angara and Sen. Teresa Aquino-Oreta said the propagandists even got the wrong video footage. They noted it was taken in 1998 and shown to the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines to mute their opposition to former President Estrada’s all-out war against the MILF.

Oreta said the release of the video was an "insensitive move" and could trigger a wave of anti-Muslim sentiments especially among young, highly impressionable Filipinos.

Senate President Pro Tempore Manuel Villar Jr. and Senators Rodolfo Biazon and Francis Pangilinan urged the media outfits to refrain from showing the video.

"The overwhelming support of the public (for Balikatan) is already there. (The showing of the video) has (only) succeeded in assaulting the sensibilities of a lot of people, most importantly, the children," Biazon said.

Pangilinan, for his part, said: "I think it is alright to show the video as long as there is sufficient warning as to the graphic nature of the video and that the video is edited to put to a minimum the violent and bloody scenes. There should be a balance between freedom and the values that we espouse, such as responsible journalism and good taste."

House Minority Leader Carlos Padilla said the President is "running out of reasons" to justify the presence of US troops in the country.

In releasing the gory footage, Padilla said, the administration was "obviously" running out of legal reasons to support Balikatan 02-1. He said the President was instead submitting the issue to the so-called "bar of public opinion."

"Mrs. Arroyo is evading the issue of whether the presence of US soldiers here is constitutional or not. Instead of confronting anti-Balikatan crusaders with legal arguments, she’s resorting to cheap propaganda," Padilla said.

The footage, he added, were "no different from violent and lewd films shown in movie houses and on television" that influence the behavior of the youth. — With reports from Marichu Villanueva, Charlie Lagasca, Perseus Echeminada, Aurea Calica, Cecille Suerte Felipe

ABU ABU SAYYAF BALIKATAN BEHEADING FOOTAGE MALACA MILF PUBLIC SAYYAF VIDEO
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