“My signature therein was taken under duress and without the benefit of a counsel,” Jerome Succor Aba, a Moro activist and an Iranun-Maguindanaon said today when he issued an Affidavit of Refutation on his statement made with the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in San Francisco, California.
Last April 17, 2018, Aba, the co-chairperson of Sandugo – Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-Determination, was arbitrarily detained, held incommunicado and subjected to physical and mental torture in a 28-hour grueling interrogation by the CBP officers at the San Francisco International Airport. Aba was accused of being a terrorist and a communist, maligned his political beliefs and his religious practices. After which, he was made to sign blank sheets of paper, and coerced him to sign electronically.
“I refute all the contents of my alleged statement in the Record of Sworn Statement in Proceedings under Section 235 (b) (1) of the Act dated April 18, 2018 signed before CBP Officer Robert Lopez, taken in San Francisco, CA (SFR), ” Aba said .
“I was stripped of my human dignity. I signed the documents in my desire that the interrogation and torture would stop, and for me to be able to be sent back home to the Philippines,” Aba said in his affidavit.
“I tried to sign my name in these blank sheets of paper adding the initials ‘UP’ (under protest). When the agents noticed this, they made me sign again on new blank sheets. They told me that I was signing because I agree and confirm that I was never tortured and was treated humanely by them,” Aba detailed.
The 25-year old Moro leader travelled to the United States with a 10-year multiple entry visa. He was invited by the Human Rights Office of the Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church as a resource person to the 2018 Ecumenical Advocacy Days in Washington, DC. After, he was set to join the Stop the Killings Speaking Tour to speak on the human rights situation of martial law in Southern Philippines.
In the US, various lawyers groups like the National Lawyers Guild are extending assistance to Aba and currently studying possible legal actions. They have asked the CBP for documents and CCTV footages related to his case pursuant to the Freedom of Information Law . The CBP would not give such documents insisting that Aba signed a “voluntary withdrawal (of) his application for admission into the United States.”
Last April 25, 2018, Aba also submitted a complaint letter to the DFA where he narrated his horrible ordeal and demanded an impartial investigation on the inutility of the Philippine Consular Office in San Francisco. He urged the Philippine government to file a diplomatic protest on his torture.
Aba’s arbitrary detention, torture and deportation, have sparked series of actions in different states in the US in support of Jerome and against Islamophobia and the Muslim ban. Many have expressed support in making the US government and the CBP-DHS accountable for Aba’s torture. #