Abdulnasser Badrudin, chairman of the Regional Human Rights Commission in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (RHRC-ARMM), said they are verifying reports that the fatalities were fruit pickers and not bandits.
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CHR probes deaths in AFP, Sayyaf Sulu clash
Roel Pareño, Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) - September 19, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Human rights probers are investigating the reported encounter between Abu Sayyaf bandits and government troopers in Patikul, Sulu on Friday.

Seven bandits were reportedly killed and 23 others, 17 of them soldiers, were wounded in the clash. The military said Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan was among the wounded.

Abdulnasser Badrudin, chairman of the Regional Human Rights Commission in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (RHRC-ARMM), said they are verifying reports that the fatalities were fruit pickers and not bandits.

“Our monitoring team is in Jolo for data gathering. We are still waiting for their report,” Badrudin told The STAR yesterday.

“In pursuit of truth and justice and for the sake of human rights, the RHRC-ARMM has sent a composite team of lawyers and investigators on the ground,” the commission said in a statement.

In a separate statement, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said it would coordinate with the RHRC-ARMM in the investigation of the incident.

“Conflicting reports on the incident that led to the death of seven young Tausugs demand truth, especially if they are indeed civilian victims of summary execution,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said.

Civil society organization Suara Bangasamoro said the fatalities are civilians aged between 18 to 32, who were allowed  by the military to enter Sitio Tubig Bato in Barangay Kabuntakas to harvest mangosteen.

Fabricated stories

The military denied the allegations even as it welcomed investigations into the incident.

Lt. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, said anybody could fabricate stories to discredit military efforts against the Abu Sayyaf. 

Dela Vega said the site of the encounter had long been vacated by civilians due to the presence of Abu Sayyaf bandits. 

Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, Westmincom spokesman, cried foul over claims that the military was involved in a massacre, noting that 17 of the casualties are soldiers. 

Citing the report of Brig. Gen. Divino Rey Pabayo of the Joint Task Force Sulu, Besana said no civilian was allowed to enter the scene to harvest fruits.

“How can you harvest when military operations are ongoing for two weeks now?” Besana, quoting Pabayo, said.

“They could ask the police or local officials... on what really happened and not speculate based on what was reported on social media,” Besana added. 

ABDULNASSER BADRUDIN ABU SAYYAF
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