On Jan. 30, Gregan Cardeño went home happy that he had finally found a job. He had just signed a contract with a security agency that posted him as an interpreter for the American troops in Cotabato City. A few days later, he ended up in Marawi where, inside a US barracks, he supposedly hanged himself. His family, however, is convinced that he had been murdered, probably even abused.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — On Jan. 30, Gregan Cardeño, 33, went home happy that he had finally found a job. That day, he signed a contract with SkyLink Security Agency. Although the contract states that he would work as a security guard, he was told by the agency that he would serve as an interpreter for the American troops in Cotabato City.
Download fact-finding report (pdf) by Karapatan and Kawagib on Gregan Cardeño’s death
Listen to audio recording of press conference on March 10 by Gregan’s relatives and human-rights advocates
“He was really happy that day. He even bought food, saying it was his despedida,” said Loraine Cardeño, Gregan’s sister-in-law. He even asked his brother to teach him how to drive, saying he may need the skill for his work. “He was a bit anxious, it was his first time to go to Cotabato,” Loraine said. The family lives in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay.
On Feb. 1, Gregan’s wife Myrna accompanied him to the Edwin Andrews Air Base in Zamboanga City where Gregan was to be flown to Cotabato en route to Camp Siongco, a military camp in Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat town, Maguindanao.
Two days later, at around 2 p.m., Gregan’s family received a call from SPO3 Ali Guibon Rangiris of the Philippine National Police in Marawi City, who told them that Gregan was dead, that he had committed suicide. His relatives couldn’t believe the news.
The day before his death, at around 6:45 a.m., Gregan sent text messages to his elder sister Carivel saying that he had been brought instead to Marawi City, at Camp Ranao, in Datu Saber town, the home of the 103rd Brigade of the Philippine Army.
Carivel called up Gregan. Gregan told her he was the only Filipino inside the US barracks. He told her was not an interpreter. When Carivel asked what was his actual job, Gregan could not answer and just kept crying. Gregan asked his sister to call SkyLink, ask for his salary and request for his pullout from the US barracks. “If I do not get out of here, this could be the cause of my death,” Carivel said Gregan told her.
On the same day, Myrna also got a call from Gregan. “If ever I go home, would you still accept me?” Gregan asked his wife. “Why?” Myrna replied. “Did you do anything wrong?” The line was suddenly cut.
Myrna said her husband could not have committed suicide. “He was a religious person. He knew that committing suicide is a sin. We do not have any problems,” Myrna said in Visayan at a press conference in Quezon City this morning. Gregan was a Christian.
The family sought the help of Kawagib, a human-rights group in Mindanao and InPeace-Zamboanga to search for the truth behind Gregan’s death.
On March 2 to 4, a fact-finding mission was conducted by Gregan’s family and these cause-oriented groups. They were joined by members of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Iligan City. The team interviewed police authorities in Marawi City, officers of the 103rd Brigade of the Philippine Army and Captain Mike Kay, the team leader of the US forces stationed in Marawi City, among others.
Grace, Gregan’s sister who joined the mission, said they were not allowed to see the room where Gregan had supposedly committed suicide.
Loraine said they also asked for pictures of Gregan while he was still hanging, a rolled-up blanket supposedly around his neck. They also asked for the alleged suicide letter. “To be honest, Ma’am, we were not able to take photographs. When we arrived there [crime scene], the body was already on the floor,” Loraine quoted a policeman as telling her.
Grace said they asked for the bed sheet allegedly used by Gregan to hang himself but the police said they left it with the Americans. “They [police] did not get the names of those present at the crime scene. They told us they do not have SOCO [Scene of the Crime Operatives] in Marawi and that they do not know how to investigate.”
Ali Bayla Indayla, Kawagib secretary-general, said that there was a conspiracy to make it appear that the cause of death was suicide. She said pieces of material evidence were not preserved. Besides the bed sheet that was not secured by the PNP, Indayla said Gregan’s cell phone had been left unsealed. All the messages, call registers and photos had been erased, Indayla said. She noted that SPO3 Rangiris even used Gregan’s phone to contact the family.