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

In his testimony, Raymond Manalo said he was detained in a concrete house near the grotto, a pond and the CG’s office. Manalo said the place was inside a mango orchard while the house has two rooms and a kitchen. This is where he met Leuterio and 15 other detainees. It was also in this place where Manalo said he had been physically tortured and kept in a bartolina (isolation cell). “Sa bartolinang iyon ako pinatira. Doon ako umiihi, nagbabawas, naliligo, kumakain at natutulog,” (I was made to stay inside an isolation cell. That was where I urinated, defecated, took a bath, ate and slept.) he said in his testimony.

In a separate interview with Lueterio in December 2006, he said it is in the same house where he saw a woman detainee become insane due to torture while another detainee hanged himself to death after his private parts were scalded allegedly by drunken soldiers.

After about two hours of negotiations with Cordero, the search team decided to leave the camp. “It’s useless,” Valdez said, “they do not want to honor the court order. We might as well just see each other until the next hearing.”

The team also visited the 69th IB detachment in Barangay Matulid, Mexico, Pampanga but the camp had been demolished. A lone security guard who mans the place said the soldiers left in November 2007.

Lolita said it was her second time to visit this camp because she had learned from some sources that her son had been sighted in this detachment.

March 27: Padlocked camps in Bataan

The road leading to the 24th IB detachment in Limay, Bataan was rough. The team got lost twice because there were no road signs as to its exact location.

Finally, a rough road alley led to the military detachment. From a distance, the detachment appeared rugged with only bamboo poles serving as its gate and fence. There were seven huts inside the camp.

As the search team approached the detachment, the soldiers were alerted and immediately padlocked the gates.

Staff Sgt. Roland Millado told the team that they were not informed of the visit. Therefore, the military officer said the team would not be allowed to enter the military premises because there is no order from their higher ups.

As Valdez negotiated with Millado, the other members of the team looked around the vicinity and took note that a community cemetery was just in front of the detachment. The camp is sandwiched between a private property farm and a vacant lot planted with camote (sweet potato) tops and other root crops.

The team also noticed that the soldiers were watching a noontime show on television. Fr. Cabillas said this proves that the camp had electricity. This contradicts the court testimony of Lt. Col. Felipe Anatado, commanding officer of the 24th IB, who said they had no capacity to electrify their detainees, if there were any, because the camp had no electrical connections.

Anatado is a respondent to the Cadapan-Empeño-Merino writ of amparo case at the CA because Manalo had testified in court that he was detained in this detachment in Limay together with his brother, the two missing University of the Philippines scholars Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño and farmer Manuel Merino.

“Kami ay ginawang utusan, taga-linis at taga-luto, taga-alaga ng hayop at taga-bantay ng uling na kinukuha ng mga sundalo sa checkpoint,” (They ordered us around, cleaning, cooking, taking care of the animals and looking after the charcoal the soldiers got at the checkpoint.) Manalo said in his testimony.

Manalo also said he and Merino were forced to participate in Operation Lubog (literally, bury), a counter-insurgency operation where alleged New People’s Army sympathizers were abducted and killed.

Manalo and Merino went with the soldiers twice, first in Barangay Bayan-Bayanan where the soldiers allegedly killed a certain “Mang Erning” who was suspected of being a father of an NPA guerilla. The second operation was in Barangay Orion where the soldiers abducted an unidentified man who was shot thrice in the head by a military officer known to Manalo as Master Sgt. Donald Caigas.

Manalo said Caigas was the commanding officer of the Limay detachment during his detention.

In his testimony, Manalo said it was in this detachment that he saw soldiers burn the body of Merino. It is also here that he last saw Cadapan and Empeño.

After an hour of negotiations between Millado and Valdez, the team was told to go to the army battalion in Barangay Camacho, Balanga, Bataan to get “entry clearance” from their battalion commander.

However, when the team reached the 24th IB camp, soldiers refused to identify themselves and refused to talk to Valdez. One soldier even walked-out while Valdez showed him a copy of the court order.

“We are not even being entertained despite the fact that we have shown copy of the court order which they also refused to read,” Valdez said at the top of his voice.

While Valdez argued with the soldiers, the search team overheard a radio message saying “paalisin nyo na yan” (Make them go away.) A soldier, who identified himself as Capt. Santi, said the radio message came from their commanding officer whom he only identified as a certain “Lapinid.”

After several minutes of negotiations, the team finally headed back to Manila. While on the road, Lolita and the Supan couple tried to hold back their anger and tears. “Kahit hinaharangan nila tayo, hindi ako titigil sa pag hanap sa anak ko,” (Even if they barred us from entering the camps, I would not stop the search for my son.) Lolita said.(

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