CHR to exhume bodies of ‘Maimbung massacre victims'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 07 2008 11:18 AM | Updated as of May 07 2008 07:18 PM

After filing a criminal and administrative complaint against members of a military unit involved in the so-called Maimbung massacre last February, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is set to finalize plans for the exhumation of the bodies of the eight civilians killed in the incident.

Lawyer Jose Manuel Mamauag, CHR regional director, said that he is set to confer with Bangsamoro lawyers to finalize the plans after the complaint was filed against members of the Special Warfare Group (SWAG), an elite group of the Philippine Navy.

Mamauag said they have already coordinated with the local officials in Maimbung to seek the permission of the families of the victims. He said he reiterated to them that the exhumation will help the families of the so-called victims seek justice.

The local government has said earlier that the families of the alleged victims have agreed to the planned exhumation.

Mamauag stressed that the exhumation will further provide CHR more forensic evidences such if the alleged victims were shot at close range or if there were any gunshot wounds at the back.

The CHR official also said the exhumation will also help trace the guns allegedly used to shoot the alleged victims.

Mamauag also assured that funds for the exhumation is already being prepared and they have requested for a medico-legal team of the National Bureau of Investigation to conduct the forensic examination.

The eight civilians were allegedly killed in what Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan described as a massacre in Maimbung, Sulu last February.

Various civil society groups and CHR pointed the military as responsible for the incident.

At least two members of the elite military troops under the Light Reaction Company (LRC) and the navy’s SWAG were also killed while five others were wounded last Feb. 4 in what the military said was an operation against the bandit group Abu Sayyaf at Barangay Ipil in Maimbung.

Findings of an investigation conducted by the Armed Forces’ Western Mindanao Command (WesMinCom) Inspector General corroborated some facts of the CHR that the victims were caught in a crossfire.

However, the volley of fires that hit the civilians remains a very big question with military findings pointing to evidences that groups of armed men were also positioned in the adjacent mangrove area, according to WesMinCom chief Lt. Gen. Nelson Allaga in his initial review of the complete result of the military investigation.

Allaga said the troops have clearly recognized the civilian position during the pre-dawn military operation.

"The troops were only about five meters or shoulder tapping distance when four civilians shouted they were civilians and the troops did not fire. That means the civilians were heard by the operating troops," Allaga said.

The military findings also showed that the houses bore no bullet holes from the operating troops’ firing direction but the hails of bullets came from the mangrove where the gunmen were believed to have positioned.

There were also reports that the Filipino soldiers were possibly aided by American troops during the encounter in Maimbung. With a report from Jewel Reyes, ABS-CBN Zamboanga and The Philippine Star