Search Team for Two Missing Youths Denied Access to ‘Sacred Place,’ Padlocked Camps

On the second day of the five-day search for two missing youths Romulo Robiños and Ryan Supan in military camps, soldiers denied the families and rights groups entry to what the military calls a “sacred place,” a forested area beside the office of the Commanding General in Fort Magsaysay, headquarters of the 7th Infantry Division in Nueva Ecija.

By Dabet Castañeda
Vol. VIII, No. 8, March 30 – April 5, 2008

The search inside Camp Fort Magsaysay was almost a walk in the park but only until the families of Romulo Robiños, 26 years old, and Ryan Supan, 21 years old and human rights groups zeroed-in at the heart of the camp – the Commanding General’s Headquarters.

“It’s a sacred place,” Lt. Randy Cordero told human rights lawyer Danilo Valdez, Attorney V of the Commission on Human Rights-Region III (CHR-Region III).

“It is not for inspection,” Cordero said as he stressed that the families of Robiños and Supan, the CHR and representatives of the human rights alliance Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples’ Rights) could not go near the Commanding General’s Headquarters for “security reasons.”

The rights groups and the families of the two missing young men searched the 48,000-hectare Fort Magsaysay on the basis of a writ of amparo issued by Associate Justice Martin Villarama of the Court of Appeals 5th Division.

The appellate court acted on the petition of the Robiños and Supan families to conduct another search in four military camps in Central Luzon where they believe their sons have been kept. Romulo and Ryan were abducted allegedly by soldiers on Nov. 16 and 17, 2006, respectively, in the province of Pampanga.

The petitioners filed a writ of amparo for the protection of Romulo and Ryan who have been missing for 16 months. This is the second time the appellate court granted the request of the petitioners to search at least four military camps in Central Luzon – Camp Fort Magsaysay which houses the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and the Special Forces Regiment (SFR); the 69th Infantry Battalion headquarters in Mexico, Pampanga; and the 24th IB detachments in Limay, Bataan and Bamban, Tarlac.

The first camp search was scheduled by the court on Nov. 30 up to Dec. 4, 2006. However, the petitioners and Karapatan argued against the original schedule set by the court because it included a long weekend (Nov. 30, Friday, being a holiday and Dec. 1 and 2 being a Saturday and Sunday). It was only on Dec. 3, Monday, when the petitioners were able to coordinate with the CHR giving the petitioners only a day, Dec. 4, to search four camps located in four provinces.

On Dec. 4, the petitioners were only able to visit Fort Magsaysay. The CHR personnel divided themselves into four teams and visited the camps without the petitioners.

Petitioners asked the court for another five days of inspection but the court did not allow it because the CHR had reported that they have already searched the camps.

The petitioners then filed contempt charges against the CHR. Pending the resolution of the contempt charges, Villarama ordered another search that would last for five days.

The search was scheduled from March 25 to 29.

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