Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. VI, No. 26      August 6 - 12, 2006      Quezon City, Philippines

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HUMAN RIGHTS Watch

Man Hides for Days, Crosses Rivers to Escape Military Abduction
4 JASIG holders missing                        

A person who says he was abducted by military men and may have been a goner had he not escaped from his captors will be presented as a witness in one of three separate petitions for writ of habeas corpus filed by human rights lawyers before the Supreme Court (SC) on Aug. 3.

BY DABET CASTAÑEDA
Bulatlat

A man who says he was abducted by military men and may have been a goner had he not escaped from his captors will be presented as a witness in one of three separate petitions for writ of habeas corpus filed by human rights lawyers before the Supreme Court (SC) on Aug. 3.

MISSING.  Prudencio Calubid’s photo (middle) in a PowerPoint presentation of the Final Talk 2 of the Northern Luzon Command

The witness, Antonio Lacno, said he escaped from his alleged military captors on June 27 somewhere in Camarines Sur a day after he and four others were reportedly abducted.

The four others are Prudencio Calubid, said to be a regional consultant to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace panel; Ariel Beloy, Calubid’s staff member; Calubid’s wife, Celina Palma, and sister-in-law, Gloria Soco.

Another staff member of Calubid, Leopoldo Ancheta, whom the military said was a New People’s Army (NPA) member, was reportedly abducted earlier on June 24 in Bulacan.

Rogelio Calubad, another NDFP peace panel consultant for Bicol, was also reportedly seized together with his son, Gabriel, in a separate incident on June 17.

All seven have been declared missing by the families of the victims and rights groups. There have been unconfirmed reports that at least one of them, Calubid, may have been summarily executed by his captors – another statistic to the mounting cases of forced disappearances – 179 persons since 2001 – and political murders, with about 717 already reported for the same period.

Immunity and safety guarantees

Three separate petitions for writ of habeas corpus for the three separate abductions have been filed. In their petitions, lawyers for the families of Calubid, Calubad, Ancheta and Beloy, are also asking government to release them on grounds that they are covered by the Joint Agreement on Immunity and Safety Guarantees (JASIG).

The petitions were filed by lawyers Neri Colmenares, Edre Olalia and Alfonso Cinco.

In a written testimony, Lacno said he and his four companions were headed for Calubid’s hometown in western Samar aboard an A-2000 Mazda van when an alleged military intelligence unit blocked their way at around 5 p.m. along Maharlika Highway near Sipocot, Camarines Sur. Intercepting them, Lacno said, were soldiers in uniform, with a red Tamaraw FX and four other Toyota Revos.

After being blindfolded, Lacno said he and Calubid were forced into one of the vehicles. The witness said he was able to slightly move his blindfold and saw one of the abductors taking a photo of Calubid using a mobile phone with a built-in camera. He also saw the abductors divide among themselves the money they took from them amounting to about P53,000.

While inside the vehicle, Lacno said, he could hear Calubid being hit twice as he cried out, “Aray, huwag naman, sir” (Aray, please stop, sir).

After traveling for an hour and a half, they were taken to a house made of old tiles and concrete walls. Lacno was brought to a room together with Calubid and Beloy where, the witness said, they were tortured and interrogated.

Palma, on the other hand, was brought to a separate room. Lacno said he could only hear Palma say, “Sir, tama na, masakit na ang dibdib ko” (Sir, please stop, my chest is already in pain). Lacno said he could sense Palma being molested.

Brought to another house, Lacno said he was again interrogated and beaten up until he was forced to admit he was an “NPA guerrilla.” It was only then that his abductors stopped hitting him.

Escape

Both Lacno and Calubid were then forced back to the vehicle. The vehicle stopped at a place where Lacno said he could hear the splash of a creek nearby. Sensing that they were going to be killed, he wriggled free from the rope that bound his feet and from his handcuffs.

Seeing Lacno had untied himself, one of the abductors immediately threw him to the ground. The two wrestled down a slope until the military man was left hanging on a tree. Lacno then ran as fast as he could.

The military men gave chase, Lacno said. For more than two days, he walked and swam rivers until he could hitch a ride in Sta. Cruz, Laguna, he narrated. Friends have secured him for his safety.

In a separate testimony, Ancheta’s wife, Carmen, said she was about to meet her husband in front of South Supermarket in Guiguinto, Bulacan, south of Manila, at 6:30 p.m. on June 24. Carmen waited until 9 p.m. but her husband did not show up. She then called up Palma who confirmed that they dropped Ancheta in front of a school in Barangay (village) Tuctucan, same town.

Worried, Carmen asked help from a human rights group. In a fact finding in Tuctucan, the rights group learned from some tricycle drivers that a man fitting the description of Ancheta was forcibly taken into a van by burly men armed with rifles in front of the supermarket at around 6:30 p.m. Ancheta’s alleged abductors used a vehicle similar to one of the vans used in the abduction of Calubid and company - a silver Toyota Revo with its plate number concealed with plastic. 

Aside from the immediate surfacing of Palma and Soco, lawyers also asked the SC to order the military to present in court Calubid, Calubad, Beloy and Ancheta saying that they are covered by the JASIG.

As consultants of the NDFP for the peace negotiations with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP), the lawyers said, Calubid and Calubad are duly accredited persons under the JASIG and therefore have the “inherent right to their security.” Beloy and Ancheta enjoy the same protection as staff members of Calubid.

JASIG suspension

The disappearance of the four and their companions came a year after the GRP suspended the JASIG. Signed by the NDFP and GRP on Feb. 24, 1995, the joint accord secures its holders from arrests while they perform their duties related to the peace process like consultations and public meetings. They also have free and uninhibited passage in all areas in the Philippines in connection with and in furtherance of the peace negotiations.

The NDFP lists 97 persons under JASIG, including Calubid, Calubad and the two staff members.

On Aug. 3, 2005, the GRP suspended the JASIG and gave a 30-day ultimatum to all JASIG holders belonging to the NDFP. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita announced on the same day that peace negotiations with the NDFP were indefinitely suspended.

In statements to media, the NDFP, however, said that the JASIG could not be suspended unilaterally. NDFP peace panel chair Luis Jalandoni said, “the safety and immunity guarantees contained therein have been reciprocally extended by the GRP and the NDFP to each other’s participants in the peace negotiations. These guarantees are not a unilateral concession or favor extended by the GRP to the NDFP or to the latter’s panel members, consultants and personnel.”

Meanwhile, in a letter on July 20, Fidel Agcaoili, chair of the NDFP-Joint Secretariat of the Joint Monitoring Committee (NDFP-JS-JMC), proposed to the GRP section of the JS-JMC to carry out joint fact-finding missions on seven cases of abductions involving suspected members of the NPA, consultants of the NDFP for the peace negotiations and some unarmed civilians.

Agcaoili named the abductions of Philip Limjoco and Calubid who are both respondents in Criminal Case No. 2006-994 for rebellion. Limjoco was seized May 8 in Dau, Pampanga and is No. 23 in the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) list of 49 individuals charged with rebellion.

Calubid, on the other hand, is No. 22 on the same list. In a powerpoint presentation by the Northern Luzon Command (NolCom) sometime in March this year, military intelligence claim Calubid heads the team that conspired with rebel soldiers in planning to overthrow the Macapagal-Arroyo government through a civilian-backed coup on Feb. 24.

Negros Occidental

Agcaoili also mentioned the abductions of Calubid’s three other companions, Ancheta, Roberto Marapo, a suspected NPA member, and his civilian companion Dionelo Borres who disappeared May 28 in Negros Occidental.

Also included are the cases of Bayan Muna member Roland Porter who was abducted May 16 in Makati City and that of two University of the Philippines students, Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño, and farmer Manuel Merino who were seized June 26 in Hagonoy, Bulacan.

If the investigations push through, Agcaoili proposed in the same letter that the ad-hoc joint committee be presided jointly by Mercedes Contreras-Danenberg and Aileen Bacalso for the GRP and Bishop Tomas Millamena and Marie Hilao-Enriquez for the NDFP together with three representatives each from both the GRP and NDFP nominees to the JS.

Findings will then be submitted to the JMC.

The JMC was formed to monitor the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). However, Agcaoili said in a statement that the JMC has never met since April 2004 despite hundreds of cases being filed with them. As of July 2006, the JMC has 915 cases, 805 of which are against the GRP.

Candelaria has yet to comment on the proposal. Pamela Padilla of the GRP-JS-JMC said in a telephone interview that the letter has been forwarded to the GRP peace panel. Bulatlat

Related story:
When a Long Search is Never Over

 

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