“Gerald [Salonga] was subjected to a 13-hour interrogation. His captors warned that they would harm his mother if he does not admit that he’s a member of the New People’s Army (NPA).”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — Two students of the University Philippines underwent mental and psychological torture while in detention in a military camp before they were surfaced by the Cabanatuan police, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said in a statement.
Gerald Salonga, 24, and Guiller Cadano, 22, were abducted at RT Padilla village in Carranglan, Nueva Ecija at around 3 p.m. on Aug. 9. The two were surfaced on Aug. 11 at the PNP Provincial Public Safety Company Headquarters in Cabanatuan City.
Following a court order issued on Sept. 3, the two students were transferred to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology detention facility in San Jose City, Nueva Ecija.
Ridon, who visited the two students on Sept. 28, said Salonga and Cadano shared how they were subjected to interrogation in a military camp in San Jose City.
“Gerald was subjected to a 13-hour interrogation. His captors warned that they would harm his mother if he does not admit that he’s a member of the New People’s Army (NPA),” Ridon said, adding that at one point during the interrogation, he was brought out of the room, told to kneel down “on the ground to feel the dirt on which he will be buried.”
Ridon said there is a high probability that the two students’ torturers were also the same people who abducted them as both Salonga and Cadano were able to recognize some of the names of their arresting officers.
Officials of the Department of National Defense, during the congressional budget hearing, identified the leaders of the arresting team as PNP Police Inspector Dale Allan Tagle, Lt. Col. Eugene Mata, and Lt. Col. Dmark Mamaril, who led the composite team of the Nueva Ecija Provincial Police, the 7th Military Intelligence Battalion, and the 3rd Infantry Battalion.
On Sept. 24, during the deliberations on the budget of the DND, Ridon questioned the irregularities in the detention of Salonga and Cadano.
Ridon found it suspicious that the commitment order for the two youth organizers were issued on the same day that the said agency’s budget was up for deliberation by the committee of the Lower House on Sept. 3.
He added that he has received reports that it was the military that filed the charges against Salonga and Cadano and that the two are “victims of the AFP’s age-old tactic of planting evidence.”
“If they are truly insurgents, why were they abducted while they were casually watching television?” Ridon said, adding that he cannot accept Defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin’s response that it is up for the court to resolve the case.
“I appeal to the DND: drop the charges against Cadano and Salonga. The military battalions that made this illegal arrest should not receive even a single centavo in the 2015 budget,” he said. The two were arrested as the “John Does” in the warrant for a certain Ely Taray. They were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
He also vouched for the two UP students, saying that he knows them personally. Cadano, he added, is in fact a voting member of the national council of Kabataan Partylist, which is the highest decision-making body of the youth group.
Ridon said they are planning to file charges against concerned military and police officers for the human rights violations that they have committed against Salonga and Cadano.
“Gerald and Guiller were arrested illegally, and then they were subjected to brutal interrogations. The arresting officers should have delivered the two straight to the police detention facility, without need for psychological torture nor interrogation without the benefit of a lawyer,” he said.
Ridon added that the warrant used to supposedly arrest the two students were meant for someone else. He also referred to the charges against two were “trumped up.” The inventory of the supposed firearms and explosives, which were supposedly confiscated from them, was never signed by the two students.
“And the inventory was not made in their presence nor in the presence of the owners of the house where they were arrested nor before any barangay official. These are among the strict requirements for a valid inventory of recovered items,” he said.
The continued detention of the two, he added, is a proof that the military and the police have not changed and “remain to be the greatest perpetrators of human rights violations in the country.”