The seige in Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan started as what was alleged to be an attempted jailbreak by some members of the Abu Sayyaf Group that went awry. Leaders of the failed jailbreak instead decided to hold out by taking seige of the area where Abu Sayyaf inmates were confined.
Yesterday the Camp Bagong Diwa prison uprising came to a bloody end. After an impasse in the negotiations, the PNP with the approval of Malacanang decided to assault the area where the Abu Sayyaf were taking hold. After the smoke cleared 23 people were dead; 1 police officer and 22 inmates. All in all the total casualty has reached 26, including the three prison guards killed at the start of the seige.
The Government hailed the PNP assault a success. DILG Secretary Angelo Reyes is quick to say “I hope this delivers a strong message that anybody who tries to do something like this in the future will be dealt with in the same fashion.” Even some media covering the seige drama joined the triumphant chorus.
I don’t sympathize with the Abu Sayyaf Group. It is a criminal terrorist gang deserving condemnation. But while it is correct to resolve the ASG prison uprising, I have doubts about the correctness of how the crisis was resolved. Is the use of excessive force justified?
What made the government decide for the assault is already beyond my knowledge. But my inkling is to consider other possibilities that might have led to the peaceful resolution of the crisis or at least minimize casualty. The rebels are stuck inside the prison building armed with only a few handguns and with no water and food supply. They are surrounded and have nowhere to go. The longer the rebels bide time the more it is disadvantageous for them. In this situation subduing them with minimal force might be plausible.
And what about the other inmates? A lot of them might not be supporters of the rebel’s cause after all. They were just in the wrong place at a wrong time. Besides the identified ringleaders, Kosovo, Global and Commander Robot, the rest of those who persihed with them were just suspected ASG members or supporters still waiting for their day in court.
For many the important thing is that the crisis was put in conclusion. And the lamest excuse for the carnage would be that those inmates deserved it because they’re all criminals anyway. Due process and giving every criminal or a suspect his day in court is one way of defining justice. Shortcutting this process and sending a criminal or a suspect straight to his creator is one way of defining summary execution.
Lastly, until now I still have doubts about why and how the Abu Sayyaf Group existed. Amidst all the theories and mystery about the Abu Sayyaf, there’s one thing that is certain. The existence of the ASG is one reason why the United States made the Philippines one of its favored allies in its crusade against global terrorism.