Human Rights WatchLives Destroyed: Attacks on Civilians in the Southern Philippines
Spacer Home    Audio Commentary    Report    Download Spacer

Justice Stalled

Prosecutions of those responsible for attacks on civilians in the Philippines have proceeded slowly over the last seven years. Although numerous suspects in bombing attacks have been arrested, very few have been successfully brought to trial. Indeed, prosecutions have been delayed in some cases for over four years.

The following detainees are among the many who are still awaiting trial:

  • Ahmed Santos, head of the Rajah Solaiman Movement, was arrested in Zamboanga City in October 2005. Santos is implicated in numerous bombings including the Superferry attack, the Valentine’s Day attacks, and the February 20, 2003 bombing of Awang airport near Cotabato City. He was charged with “rebellion” in November 2005, along with seven associates who were captured with him, but as of June 2007 there had been no further progress on his case.
  • Redondo Cain Dellosa, a RSM member with alleged ties to ASG and JI, was arrested in March 2004 in connection with the Superferry attack. Authorities allege that Dellosa bought a ticket for Bunk 51B on the Superferry, where the bomb that detonated was placed, and that he disembarked before departure. As of June 2007, Dellosa has only been charged in relation to an unconnected kidnapping case, not in relation to the Superferry attack.
  • Ahmad Faisal bin Imam Sarijan, aka Zulkifli, was allegedly head of JI operations in Mindanao from 2000 to 2003, and is implicated in several bomb attacks in Mindanao from early 2002, including the Fitmart and Davao City blasts. Zulkifli was captured by Malaysian authorities in September 2003 and held incommunicado in Malaysia for almost two years. He was turned over to Philippine police in July 2005 and charged in the February 2003 bombing at Awang airport near Cotabato City, and the May 10, 2003 Koronadal bombing. A preliminary hearing was held in Koronadal City in the latter case in January 2006, but there had been no further progress in his case as of June 2007. A close associate, Ahmad Saifullah Ibrahim, aka Hudzaifah, was arrested at the same time, but it is unclear whether he is in Malaysian or Philippine custody.
  • Taufiq Rifqi, a close JI associate of Zulkifli’s, was arrested in Cotabato City in October 2003. Philippine authorities state that Rifqi confessed to involvement in bombings in Tacurong (March 2003), Kidapawan (January 2003), Parang (April 2003), and in several attacks in Koronadal (February, March, and May 2003). Rifqi was indicted, and is currently held in Koronadal, but as of June 2007 no progress had been made in his prosecution.
  • Elmer Abram (also known as Elmer Emran), a suspected member of JI, was allegedly involved in two bombings in General Santos City: the 2004 public market and 2005 General Santos Valentine’s Day attacks. He was arrested by Indonesian police in late September or early October 2006; it was not known as of June 2007 whether he had been extradited to the Philippines. He was previously arrested in General Santos City in June 2005; it is unclear how he had come to be at large in late 2006.
  • Jordan Abdullah and Jaybe Ofrasio are both linked to JI. They are alleged to have handled financing and false papers for Zulkifli to travel to Malaysia under the name Donny Ofrasio. Jaybe Ofrasio was arrested in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in February 2004, and Abdullah was captured in the Philippines in April 2004. As of June 2007, the Philippine government could not update Human Rights Watch as to charges against Abdullah. Ofrasio, for his part, was arraigned in Belfast in October 2006 on charges of supplying funding and assistance for acts of terrorism. (It is unclear whether he will face charges in the Philippines.)

The cost of the delays in these prosecutions has been high. The justice system has not only failed the civilian victims of bombing attacks; the lack of successful prosecutions has caused conspiracy theories about the attacks to flourish. Throughout the Philippines, and especially in Mindanao and the Sulu islands, leaders from the Moro community, civil society, and opposition political movements suggested to Human Rights Watch that the Philippine government itself was responsible for the bombing attacks of recent years. Proponents of these claims argued that the government had various reasons to carry out such attacks: to derail Moro independence efforts, to justify harsh crackdowns on political opponents, or to attract US military assistance.