Rights group slams military for pressuring victim to recant testimony

After giving a testimony regarding his abduction and torture by the military, the victim, after a few days, disappeared again only to resurface later to file a case against the NPA and a human rights group that assisted him.


MANILA — It’s a case of he said and now-he-says-something else. A human rights victim of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has recently recanted his statements against his abductors and claimed that he was actually taken by members of the New People’s Army and a human rights group in Southern Tagalog.

“Should we ever trust the military? Lessons from the past tell us that whatever credibility it pretends to have has already gone down the drain,” Karapatan-ST said in a statement. “It’s using cheap, dirty tactics.”

This was in direct reaction to the military’s claim that 18-year old Franklin Barrera, a member of the Save Bondoc Peninsula Movement was abducted by the New People’s Army (NPA) with the help of the human rights group. Barrera made the same allegation on June 19 when he went to the Quezon police to file charges against Karapatan-ST.

Barrera was abducted on June 7 by members of the AFP 85th Infantry Battalion and was surfaced the day after and gave an account of his abduction and the torture he suffered at the hands of his abductors to Karapatan-ST. The group also released a video where Barrera himself is seen speaking and describing his ordeal. The video has been posted and circulated in social networking sites.

Afterwards, according to reports, Barrera again went missing on June 10 and resurfaced June 19, this time filing criminal charges of kidnapping with detention against several individuals whom he said were NPA members. Barrera filed the charges against the NPA and members of Karapatan-ST at the Quezon police.

In a report posted on Aksyon5, the officer handling the case PO2 Rodel Abracia said that last June 7 at around 1p.m., Barrera was walking in Barangay Burgos, Lopez town when he was supposedly abducted by the NPA and forced inside a red van. He was taken to a hut in Barangay San Isidro, hogtied and then threatened with death if he did not reveal the identity of the rebels he supposedly knew.

The news report also quoted what is understood to be the police report and stated that Barrera was eventually able to escape his captors and proceeded via bus to Atimonan town. He then went to Dona Martha Hospital for treatment, and the next day was met by Karapatan member Christopher Regencia. Together, the two of them went to the Karapatan headquarters in Barangay 4, Lucena City.

Based on his account to the police, Barrera reportedly said that he was “held captive” for two days until he was able to escape on June 10.

He is now under the custody of the Army’s 85th Infantry Battalion. On June 19, while accompanied by soldiers, he filed charges against Karapatan-ST and individuals whom he alleged were members of the NPA: Joseph Delos Santos aliases Ka Ken and Ka Bingot; Joey Quedor alias Ka Diego; Aristedes Sarmiento alias Ka Leleng; Wilmar Maravilla; Zaldymar Maravilla; Roshame lIlagan aliases Ka Rosh and Ka Marla; Jenelyn Dichoso alias Ka Jenny; Darwin Bonrostro alias Ka Mat;Edgardo Tabien alias Ka Egay; Jerome Obligar alias Ka Supsup; Christopher Regencia; Leslie Anne Olbinar alias Ka Shobe; Ryan Niño Tan aliases Ka Amihan and Ka Alon; Jose Marcellana alias Ka Peping; Mylene Santoa alias Ka May-May; Samson Castillo alias Ka Eman; Mark Niño Romero alias Ka Mike; Ismael Delos Santos aliases Ka Maen, Black Jack; Evirei Andal alias Ka Bea; and Jeselle Oriani alias Ka Gotik.

“We were thinking of consulting our lawyers to possibly file conspiracy to commit kidnapping for his abduction and attempted murder for when he was beaten and tortured by the NPA,” Eduardo Del Rosario, Commander of the 2nd Infantry Division, said in a press conference.

Evidence to prove the AFP’s lies

For its part, Karapatan-ST said that it holds in custody several pieces of evidence that absolves it from the military’s baseless allegations, including videos and written testimonials taken and gathered before Barrera disappeared again on June 10, 2012.

“We fear no litigation, for we know that we have done no wrong. It’s the military that should be afraid,” the group said.

The human rights group said the military relies on its old and predictable tactic of filing fabricated charges against human rights workers and members of progressive groups.

“They did this to the members of the Southern Tagalog 72 and the Morong 43, and the tactic failed in both cases. This dirty tactic is done merely to discredit the growing campaign demanding the immediate pull-out of the AFP’s eight battalions that plague the 22 towns of South Quezon. The AFP continues to commit countless human rights abuses in the region,” it said.

“Doubtless, something happened between Barrera’s rescue by Karapatan-ST last July 7 and his second disappearance last June 10, and whatever it is, the damning finger points straight at military elements under the 85th Infantry Battalion of the AFP. We suspect torture and psy-ops committed against his person to force him to compromise the safety of his former colleagues.”

Spokesman of the Save the Bondoc Peninsula Movement Orly Marcellana said they hold no animosity against Barrera.

“The boy is a victim in this case, being forced to be a pawn in the the government’s destructive moves to quell the legitimate struggle of the people for their democratic rights. We appeal to his sense of what is right and just and tell the truth about his abduction and why he recanted his statements against his military torturers and abductors,” he said.

Marcellana also said the condemnation is reserved mainly for the AFP.

“The AFP has no qualms against using the dirtiest tactics to resist the righteous efforts of pro-people groups to expose the AFP’s abuses and the war the Aquino government wages against the people under the guise of peace and development programs. The people will not be easily swayed by the military’s smear campaign, for they know better,” he said.

Colonel Eduardo Año, commander of the 201st Brigade,of the Philippine Army, claimed that Barrera is an NPA guerrilla.

Año, then with the Intelligence Service Group of the Philippine Army, is among those charged for the disappearance of Jonas Burgos. Burgos, son of press freedom icon Jose Burgos Jr., remains to this day.

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