Cotabato City—Support and sympathy have poured in for three Muslim religious leaders telling their story of a supposed police “frame-up” live on social media from a detention cell in Tuguegarao City.
In a statement, the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos questioned what it said was “unlawful arrest” of three religious leaders from Lanao del Sur.
The NCMF said it “strongly condemns the unlawful arrest of the three in Tugegarao” on charges of possession of dangerous drugs filed in court on Friday.
The arrested imams were identified as Habib Sirad Ditingcopen, Noraldin Bantuas Lucman, and Mossanip Madaya.
On social media, one of the men narrated in the Maranao dialect how they were arrested and, under compulsion, made to own up to possession of sachets of suspected methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) while under police custody.
NCMF Secretary Saidamen Pangarungan, himself a lawyer, directed Administrative Director Abdullah Macarimpas of the NCMF-North Luzon Regional Office to send his legal staff under Atty. Raihana Macarimpas to represent the case of the three in court filed on late Friday.
The story on the men’s arrest hardly made it to the print or online media, however.
Lanao Sur Vice Governor Bombit Adiong Jr. also mobilized his province’s legal and public information offices to work with the Public Attorney’s Office in Cagayan for collaborative legal assistance for the men who cried out foul on social media over the alleged police frame-up.
Jun Alonto Datu Ramos, head of the NCMF public information division, said Pangarungan also took up the issue with Philippine National Police Chief Oscar Albayalde.
Ross Alonto, a Mindanao government executive, said even Maranaos wedged by political discord, would set aside differences to help fellow Maranaos in distress or in times of grief.
“Such is the envy of other Muslim tribes, in the positive sense of the word, to us Maranaos,” said another official from Lanao, who requested anonymity as he had no authority to speak on the matter.
Ramos said the NCMF will question the legality of the arrest of Ditingcopen, Lucman, and Madaya, and an alleged police frame-up as they stated in their counter-affidavit. He added that if evidence warranted, the NCMF will file counter-charges against the arresting officers.
“We immediately coordinated with some friends in Cagayan Province, and they were so helpful to connect us to the Public Attorney’s Office in Tuguegarao City,” said Jennie Alonto Tamano, head of Lanao Sur Provincial Public Information Office.
“Alhamdulillah (Praises to God) PAO Tuguegarao shall extend immediate legal assistance to the imams in this video (referring to a social media video post through which the men exposed their fate),” Tamano said.
“Guilty or innocent, these people deserve proper treatment and legal assistance,” he added.