Police hit over alleged profiling of Muslim students

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 21) — The interim parliament of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao passed a resolution Friday condemning the Philippine National Police's profiling of young Muslim students in Metro Manila.

Manila Police District Chief Brigadier General Bernabe Balba signed a memorandum on January 31 ordering station commanders to submit an updated personal information of Muslim students in high school, colleges, and universities in Metro Manila. It said the information gathered will be used by the Salaam Police Center as "part of the strengthening of peace-building and counter violent extremism of the PNP."

Members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority criticized the discriminatory order.

“The insinuation that Muslim students are predisposed to violent extremism, and therefore must be treated differently and discriminated against, is nothing but prejudice disguising itself as law enforcement,” he said.

Amir Mawalil said, "Oppression has no place in our homes, our communities, and our country… We will not allow this to happen, and we will not stand by to endure this injustice.”

Two Muslim members of the House of Representatives, Deputy Speaker Mujiv Hataman from the Lone District of Basilan and Anak Mindanao Rep. Amihilda Sangcopan, also condemned the police directive and questioned the motive in prying into the lives of Muslim children in Metro Manila.

"Parang tinokhang ang reputasyon ng mga Pilipinong Muslim. Muslim children are being bullied, and those who ought to serve and protect them should not join in their abuse," Hataman said in a statement.

“Baseless stereotyping can end in lethal results," he added.

Teacher's group Alliance of Concerned Teachers also slammed the profiling of students, saying targeting young Muslims "reek of the police's ignorance and Islamophobia."

"It is deplorable that the PNP would want to target these young Muslim students to supposedly counter violent extremism, which is short of saying that Muslims are more likely to become extremists or terrorists," ACT National Chairperson Joselyn Martinez said in a statement on Friday.

The group called on the Department of Education to issue a memorandum ordering a ban on the release of teachers and students' personal data to the PNP, which it deemed as a dangerous and illegal practice.

Police denies, claims disinformation

Metro Manila Police Chief PMGen Debold Sinas, who oversees the operations of MPD, denied they are profiling Muslim students.

He said the Salaam Police Center has been tasked to monitor and coordinate activities with Muslim communities and other communities in addressing terrorism and lawless violence in their respective areas. According to the Zamboanga Peninsula police's website, the Salaam Police Center also serves as the coordinating body among PNP and armed forces units in the conduct of police operations against erring Muslims.

PNP Chief Archie Gamboa supported the order, saying the public was misled by wrong information on the issue.

“I urge the public to be more circumspect in their interpretation of this noble PNP initiative and not be swayed by disinformation spun by those with ulterior motives. General Sinas and I are both from Mindanao, as well as a good number of our PNP generals. We know better in getting along with our Muslim brothers than those who are good only at uneducated speculation,” he said in a statement.

This is the second time this week that PNP has been accused of profiling minority groups. On February 17, two policemen were relieved from their posts following random profiling of transgender women. Police denied there is no so-called “Oplan X-Men" operation, which allegedly aims to save transgender women for sexual exploitation.