Terrorist, who?

THE military and the police announced the arrest last week of an alleged Abu Sayyaf bandit in Quezon City.

The announcement was made as six countries issued travel advisories against the Philippines for a reported “imminent” terrorist attack in the country.

It was big news. A lot of media outfits, including foreign wire agencies, picked up the arrest story. Nobody asked for its veracity. Nobody made a background check on the alleged terrorist.

Patta J. Hoyo, a Yakan from the province of Basilan, was arrested on Nov. 3, on Tandang Sora Avenue in Quezon City by combined operatives of the Philippine National Police’s Anti-Crime Emergency Response and the 300th Air Force Intelligence Security Group. He was arrested in front of Tierra Pura Subdivision aboard his tricycle.

Authorities said Patta was one of those who abducted 10 workers of the Golden Harvest Plantation in Barangay Tairan, Lantawan town, in Basilan on June 11, 2001. He also allegedly joined the abduction of nurses and other civilians from the Dr. Jose Torres Memorial Hospital in Lamitan on June 2, 2001.

Human rights groups and Moro organizations, however, doubt the military and police reports. The groups said Patta was a high school student and was barely 16 years old when the abductions happened. Patta is also reportedly a member of the Liga ng Kabataang Moro, a progressive group of Moros promoting Christian and Muslim unity.

“We cannot fathom how the police came up with such intelligence report that a high school student was involved in a kidnapping incident in 2001, and it took [authorities] 10 years before [Patta] was identified and finally arrested,” said Tony Liongson of the Moro-Christian Peoples Alliance.

Liongson hopes that Patta’s arrest is not part of the Philippine government’s response to the call of the United States and its allies for “vigilance” in midst of “resurgence of terrorism.”

“It seem that Patta Hoyyo’s arrest is the response of the state armed force to prove to their foreign master that they are serious in their anti-terror campaign and Patta Hoyo is the fist casualty and the first sacrificial lamb in the altar of war on terror by this administration,” Liongson said.

The arrest of civilians every time a terror threat is reported is nothing new. In 2001, at least 73 Moro people were arrested and jailed when martial law was declared in Basilan. Unfortunately, no case against those arrested prospered in court.

Another alarming incident in the past days is the allegation by so-called terror experts that communist rebels are into business these days to support the revolution. Then a news story came out accusing a member of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan/Friends of the Earth as part of the international financial cell of the communist movement.

We’re wondering what happened to our intelligence people, or is this part of the new administration’s way of terrorizing people? Joe Torres

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