ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-112-2015

15 September 2015
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PHILIPPINES : Civilians harassed and assaulted by military for allegedly supporting rebels in Mindanao

ISSUES: Torture; military; fabrication of charges
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Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) deeply regrets to inform you of the harassment and assault of several persons by military officers of the 73rd Infantry Battalion in separate incidents. In one instance, soldiers restricted the victims from buying supplies, accusing them of buying excess goods for rebels. In another instance, the soldiers forced the victim to admit to hiding a gun. Another victim was implicated in fabricated charges.

CASE DETAILS: (Based on the documentation by Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples Rights (KARAPATAN) and Citizens Alliance Unified for Sectoral Empowerment – Davao del Sur (CAUSE))

Case 1 “We thought the rice was for the rebels”

On 4 April 2015 at 6 p.m., Masulong Ambat and his brother Jimmy Ambat went to Sitio Buenavista, barangay (village) Pag-asa, Alabel, Sarangani to buy provisions. On their way back, at Sitio Maybaka, barangay (village) Upper Suyan , Malapatan, 21 elements of the 73rd Infantry Battalion Philippine Army (IBPA) led by Lt. Jordan and Cpl. Peter Maquiling stopped them. The soldiers confiscated their 25 kilos of rice, two packs of cigarettes and two packs of instant noodles, on accusation that the goods were supplies for the New People’s Army (NPA), despite Masulong’s insistence that the goods were for their sari-sari (mini) store.

The soldiers held and interrogated Jimmy and Masulong for nine hours, releasing them the next day on April 5. They were questioned regarding the whereabouts of the New People’s Army. Desperate to squeeze out information, the soldiers punched the two brothers, and pointed their knife and rifle at them. One of the soldiers walked his knife and rifle along Jimmy’s legs, down to his feet. The soldiers spilled the 25 kilos of rice on the ground and tore Masulong’s community tax certificate and barangay (village) registration. After the interrogation, the soldiers went with Jimmy and Masulong to Sitio Kabaklod to check if indeed they have a small store. Upon seeing the store, the soldiers only said, “We thought the rice was for the NPA’s supply”.

Case 2 “Soldier forced a man to admit that he owns a gun”

On 5 April 2015 at 6 a.m. in Sitio Kabaklod, barangay (village) Upper Suyan , Cpl. Peter Maquiling and eight of his men went to Rexan Tagi’s house. The soldiers woke up Rexan and told him to boil water for their coffee. After having coffee, a soldier known as “PL” ordered Rexan to go out of the house for a talk. The talk turned out to be an interrogation about the New People’s Army (NPA). Unable to get any information from Rexan, the soldiers then insisted that Rexan was hiding a carbine high powered gun. As Tagi denied the accusation, soldiers alternately punched him and offered him cash and a cell phone if he showed them the gun. Annoyed by Rexan’s silence, the soldiers searched the house and upturned the family’s belongings, stepping on their clothes and sleeping mat. The soldiers even stepped on the feet of Tagi’s father, Manda, who was sick in bed. The soldiers found no gun but opted to stay at Rexan’s house until 10 p.m.

Case 3 “Tortured man laid by fabricated charges of his torturers”

On 5 April 2015, a certain “Gober”, said to be Commanding Officer of the Reconnaissance Company of the 73rd Infantry Battalion Philippine Army, two soldiers named Ricky Sotal and Toto Sukal, and one unnamed member of the PNP-Malapatan went to the house of Ruben Wating in barangay (village) Upper Suyan , Malapatan, Sarangani. Soldiers accused Ruben of being one of the New People’s Army (NPA) members they encountered three days before. When Ruben opposed their claim, the soldiers forced him to drink two gallons of coconut wine with them. At 9 p.m., after they finished the wine, they brought Ruben to a nearby creek and assaulted him. They kicked him in the neck, clipped his left thumbnail with pliers and punched him. One soldier then pointed a .45 caliber firearm at Ruben’s forehead. Ruben was ordered to drop to the ground and when he did, the soldiers repeatedly walked along his legs and back. They then instructed him to stand up and run. Ruben refused in fear that the soldiers would shoot him.

The soldiers then brought Ruben to a neighbor’s house where he was again punched and his hands hit hard with a bamboo stick. After some time, the soldiers allowed Ruben to go home but even before he could leave, one of the soldiers hit his back with a belt. That night, six soldiers slept over at Ruben’s house.

On 7 April 2015, the soldiers of 73rd IB insisted Ruben to come with them as a surrenderee. Ruben refused to go with them as he had done nothing wrong and they had no arrest warrant.

On June 17, Ruben’s name was included among the 19 individuals charged with attempted murder and violation of the Republic Act 9851 or Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against Humanity. An arrest warrant was issued subsequently.

The other respondents, all mainly persons from the Blaans indigenous tribe, leaders of human rights and people’s organizations, and pastors of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP) are: Ryan Lariba of New Patriotic Alliance (BAYAN) Socsksargen; Sadrach Sabella, Secretary General of Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples Rights (Karapatan) Socsksargen; Rev. Allen Bill Veloso, Chairperson of Karapatan Socsksargen; Lorna Mora, Secretary General of Unity of Indigenous Peoples in Far-Southern Mindanao (Kaluhhamin); Anelfa Gemilo, Chairperson of Kaluhhamin; Lorencio Teo, Secretary General Makasdalu; Bert Padayao, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas; Rev. Roger Rafalez, UCCP; Mercedes Arlene P. Alonzo, Executive Director of Clans; Marlo Magramo of Bayan Muna; Borning Manganyong, Sitio Chairman, Sitio Akbual; Alfredo Manganyong; Armand Teo; Marmar Cawan, Volunteer of Clans; Bulahing Masalon; Hermis Tuco; Nestor Masalon of Kafye de Lagad; Rodel Lumayas; Junard Cayamba of Kaluhhamin.

Prior to these attempted murder charges, residents from Upper Suyan village forcibly evacuated their community on May 18. The evacuees exposed the human rights violations perpetrated by the 73rd Infantry Battalion Philippine Army, including illegal arrests, torture, economic and food blockade, indiscriminate firing and bombing that destroyed crops, animals and water sources. Evacuees held dialogues with the 73rd IBPA and the local government to reiterate their call for the immediate pull-out of the military troops in Malapatan.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write letters to the authorities listed below expressing your concern about the following cases.

The AHRC is also writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

To support this case, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear __________,

PHILIPPINES: Civilians harassed and assaulted by military for allegedly supporting rebels in Mindanao

Case 1
Name of tortured victims:
1. Masulong Ambat
2. Jimmy Ambat
They are siblings. Both were residents of Sitio Maybaka, barangay (village) Upper Suyan , Malapatan, Sarangani.
Alleged Perpetrators: 21 elements of 73rd Infantry Battalion Philippine Army (IBPA) led by Lt. Jordan Cpl. Peter Maquiling
Date of incident: 4-5 April, 2015 at 6p.m.
Place of incident: Sitio Maybaka, Brgy. Upper Suyan , Malapatan, Sarangani

Case 2
Name of tortured victims:
1. Rexan Tagi
2. Manda Tagi, father of Rexan Tagi. He was sick and in bed when the soldiers came.
Alleged Perpetrators:
1. Elements of 73rd Infantry Battalion Philippine Army (IBPA) led by Cpl. Peter Maquiling
2. Eight unnamed soldiers
3. Soldier known as “PL”
Date of incident: 5 April 2015 6 a.m.
Place of incident: Rexan Tagi’s resident at Sitio Kabaklod, barangay (village) Upper Suyan , Malapatan, Sarangani.

Case 3
Name of tortured victim:
1.Ruben Wating, resident of barangay (village) Upper Suyan , Malapatan, Sarangani.
Alleged Perpetrators:
1. a certain “Gober” said to be Commanding Officer of the Reconnaissance Company of the 73rd Infantry Battalion Philippine Army
2. soldier Ricky Sotal
3. soldier Toto Sukal,
4. and one unnamed member of the PNP-Malapatan
Date of incident: 5-7 April 2015
Place of incident: Ruben Wating’s residence in barangay (village) Upper Suyan , Malapatan, Sarangani

I am writing to voice grave concern at several cases of harassment and assault in Mindanao perpetrated by the military.

In the first incident on 4 April 2015, siblings Masulong and Jimmy Ambat were stopped by elements of the 73rd Infantry Battalion Philippine Army after they had purchased goods for their sari-sari (mini) store. The soldiers confiscated the goods, thinking the supplies are for the rebels. The siblings were tortured and interrogated by the soldiers regarding the whereabouts of the New People’s Army for several hours.

In the second incident, on 5 April 2015, Rexan Tagi was awakened by soldiers to boil water for their coffee. The soldier asked Rexan for a talk, which turned into an interrogation and assault. The soldiers forced him to admit that he had a gun, alternatively punching him and offering him cash and a cell phone as reward.
Lastly, Ruben Wating was accused by the soldiers as being a member of the New People’s Army (NPA). The soldiers forced Ruben to drink two gallons of coconut wine. He was also tortured at a nearby creek when he refused to admit the accusations against him. On June 17, Ruben and 19 individuals were charged with attempted murder and violation of Republic Act 9851 or Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against Humanity.

I urge you to investigate the three cases promptly. The allegations of torture should be looked into as per the Anti-Torture Act of 2009. I urge you to ensure that the victims are provided with adequate protection to guarantee that their complaint is heard. Also, please ensure that those soldiers involved are investigated and prosecuted without delay if found guilty of offence.

Lastly, I urge you to look in the fabricated cases filed against Ruben Wating and others. If there is no probable cause, the case filed against them should be dismissed.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Benigno Aquino III
President
Republic of the Philippines
Malacanang Palace
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel
Manila 1005
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 736 1010
Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80

2. Mr. Jose Luis Martin Gascon
Chairperson
Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., Commonwealth Avenue
U.P. Complex, Diliman
Quezon City
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 929 0102

3. Police Director Ricardo Marquez
Chief
Philippine National Police (PNP),
Camp General Rafael Crame,
Quezon City
PHILIPPINES
Fax +632 7248763
Email: feedback@pnp.gov.ph

4. Ms. Leila de Lima
Secretary
Department of Justice (DOJ)
DOJ Bldg., Padre Faura
1004 Manila
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 521 1614
E-mail: soj@doj.gov.ph

Urgent Appeals Desk
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) (ua@ahrc.asia)

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

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