Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. IV,  No. 33                             September 19 - 25, 2004                     Quezon City, Philippines


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Terror Still Reigns in Mindoro

A Methodist church devotee is declared missing while a torture victim escapes from a military camp. These may well be incidents that occurred during martial rule in the Philippines, from 1972 to mid-80s. But they actually happened only early this month, proof that for the military, martial law habits are hard to break.


Presidential Decree 1081 (PD 1081), issued by former President Ferdinand Marcos on Sept. 21, 1972, placed the country under military rule. Rampant violations of human rights then commenced, victimizing Filipinos of every age, gender, faith and social class.

Although martial law was formally lifted in 1981 and Marcos himself was toppled five years later, the militaristic solution to social unrest is being carried out to this day.

The situation in Mindoro, an island of two provinces some 300 kms southwest of Manila, appears to attest to the unending terror that reigns in the country.  With their provinces (Mindoro Occidental and Mindoro Oriental) touted by government as the laboratory for its counter-insurgency program, Mindoroñes have several tales of terror that have haunted them since 2001.


On the midnight of Aug. 31, four armed men, wearing ski masks and full camouflage military uniform, barged into the kitchen door of a family in a remote village in Sta. Cruz town, Occidental Mindoro. 

The armed men grabbed Mabini Wandale, 46, a carpenter and member of the United Methodist Church, pinned him down on the floor and tied his hands behind his back with a curtain wire.

He was then dragged outside and forced inside a vehicle.  It was the last time his wife, Erlinda, and his six children would see Mabini. 

Dyan lang” (Just near), was the armed men’s curt reply when Erlinda asked where they were taking her husband. 

She did not waste time looking for her husband. In an interview with Bulatlat, she said she even had to borrow money from her neighbor to be able to locate her husband. 

The following morning, Erlinda went to Mamburao, the provincial capitol, to have the incident recorded in the police blotter. Thinking of the possibility that the armed men were military men, she proceeded to the 408th Mobile Force camp located in the same town. Her thoughts were proven accurate as she recognized the vehicle used by her husband’s abductors parked in the vicinity.

But when Erlinda inquired about her husband’s whereabouts, the military denied having Wandale.

Wandale is the 44th victim of forced disappearance during the Macapagal-Arroyo administration, three of whom come from Mindoro. Two of the three disappeared after participating in a fact-finding mission last April to investigate incidents of human rights violations in the island. The fact-finding team was harassed by men who were also wearing ski masks and had to seek refuge inside a church in Roxas, Mindoro Oriental.

Survivor tells all

Six days after Wandale’s abduction, another resident of Sta. Cruz village was abducted by eight armed men also in ski masks, civilian shirts, fatigue pants and combat boots.  The men are believed to be members of the 16th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IB PA), witnesses said.

The abductors took the victim, Jomar Torreliza, 33, a farmer, to a military camp. Torreliza however escaped and contacted the human rights alliance Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights).

Torreliza still bore torture marks on the neck and torso when interviewed by Bulatlat at the Karapatan office in Quezon City on Sept. 14. This is his story:

At around 1 a.m. of Sept. 6, the eight abductors forcefully opened their house. Upon seeing him, they reportedly took turns hitting Torreliza with their armalite butts. They tied his with curtain wire behind his back.

Torreliza said he was accused of being a member of the New People’s army (NPA). He was forced to board a white van and taken to a military camp in Paluan town, same province, where he was subjected to several hours of torture and interrogation. 

He then overheard one of his abductors saying, “Dun na yan ilagay sa pinag-alisan dun sa isa” (Take him to where the other was held). His hands still tied, he was then placed inside a toilet made from nipa (palm) leaves.

After his abductors left, Torreliza struggled to untie his hands and escaped. 

He ran toward the municipal hall of Paluan and sought the help of the Philippine National Police (PNP) under the command of certain Austria. 

After about 30 minutes, two soldiers, Lt. Jericho Malangos and a certain MSgt. Gonzales arrived at the Paluan municipal hall to inquire about Torreliza.  The two army officers told  Austria that Torreliza was an NPA and should be given back to the army camp. According to Torreliza, the police officer disagreed because the army officers failed to present any document.

To prevent being taken back to the camp, Torreliza was forced to sign a document stating he was a “rebel returnee.” 

Reign of terror

Wandale and Torreliza’s cases add up to the growing number of human rights violation cases in Mindoro. 

Its residents are witnesses to the murders of several leaders and members of progressive party list groups Bayan Muna (People First) and Anakpawis in the last three years.  

Karapatan has documented 43 cases of killings in the province of Mindoro since 2001. 

This year alone, four prominent leaders were killed: Naujan Vice Mayor Juvy Magsino and public school teacher Leima Fortu, both human rights workers of Karapatan and coordinators of the party list group Bayan Muna, killed on Feb. 13; and Adrian Alegria and Isaias Manano of Anakpawis, found dead on Feb. 18 and April 28, respectively.

Meanwhile, on Aug 28, three peasants were found dead in the town of Sta. Cruz, Occidental Mindoro. 

Acoording to Karapatan, residents have been reporting other cases of violations but have remained uninvestigated because human rights workers find it hard to get to the affected areas. The military has several times harassed fact finding mission teams, preventing them from doing their work. Bulatlat

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