HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Anti-Crime Group Calls for Army Pullout from Bicol
Bicol peasant ‘autopsied alive,’ shot dead
The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC)
has called for a “complete pullout” of Army troops from the Bicol Region
amid what he described as “the alarming number of tortures and
extrajudicial killings” in the area. This call comes in the wake of the
torture and killing of a Bicol peasant accused by his Army captors of
being a member of the New People's Army (NPA).
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) has called for a “complete pullout” of
Army troops from the Bicol Region amid what it described as “the alarming
number of tortures and extrajudicial killings” in the area.
Dante Jimenez, who
hails from the Bicol Region, said this in an interview with Bulatlat
last week. “Instead of winning the hearts and minds of the people, they
are the problem,” the VACC leader said of the Army troops in the Bicol
His call comes in
the wake of the torture and killing of Toribio Mesa, a Bicolano peasant
accused by his Army captors of being a member of the New People’s Army (NPA).
The VACC leader
said Mesa's case had been reported to the VACC’s office. He also told
Bulatlat that one of Mesa's children is a former student of his.
In a Nov. 23
letter to Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Gen.
Hermogenes Esperon, of which Bulatlat was given a copy, Jimenez
narrated the details behind the case of Mesa, a resident of Jamorawon
village, Bulan, Sorsogon. Wrote Jimenez:
Mesa died while in
the custody of the 92nd Recon Company, 9th Infantry
Division of the Philippine Army, under extremely dubious circumstances
last Nov. 16, 2006.
The said Mesa –
father of 13, had been forcibly taken from his family without warrant of
arrest, and his home was arrogantly searched without any valid search
warrant on Nov. 15, 2006. The following day subject was declared dead and
found sustaining two gunshot wounds and deep cuts on his left arm.
“We found that
extremely suspicious, so we requested Sorsogon and Bulan police to
re-autopsy the victim’s body,” Jimenez told Bulatlat. “It turned
out his captors had performed a live autopsy on his arm and then they shot
“We are calling
for the complete pullout and replacement of the Army in the Bicol Region
because of the alarming number of tortures and extrajudicial killings
there,” the VACC leader also said.
In his letter to
Esperon, Jimenez said the VACC calls for the “immediate relief” of the
unit's commanding officer, as well as the preventive suspension of Pfc.
Warren Mangubat and Pfc. Jonathan Ongog pending investigation of the case.
“We suggest that
the Philippine Army be replaced by the Philippine Marines of the Navy, or
Philippine Air Force until such time that Army soldiers in the region
learn the basic knowledge of due process, rule of law and above all,
respect for human rights,” Jimenez wrote to Esperon.
Not the first time
This is not the
first time that Army soldiers have been directly identified as
perpetrators of extrajudicial killings in the Bicol Region.
On May 7, 2004,
Mylene and Raymond Golloso – then 13 and 6 years old, respectively - were
killed by armed men within the sanctity of their own home in Brgy. Recto,
Raymond, together with brother Resty, had hid in their parents’ bedroom
upon hearing gunshots near their house that day. In the end that failed to
protect them: they were later found dead, their heads shattered by
In a written and
signed statement, a copy of which was received by Bulatlat,
11 officials and 42 other residents of Brgy. Recto said no other armed
group was in the village that day except seven soldiers from the 2nd
Infantry Battalion, 901st Infantry Brigade of the 9th Infantry Division;
and two members of the paramilitary Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit
(CAFGU). The Brgy. Recto officials and residents specifically identified
among them Cesar Luares, a CAFGU member.
Adelia, Mylene and
Raymond’s mother, identified Luares in a sworn statement as a native of
Bulan. Bulatlat received a copy of her sworn statement.
Army soldiers were
likewise positively identified by no less than the municipal police of
Daraga, Albay as the perpetrators of the killing of Methodist Pastor
Isaias Sta. Rosa last Aug. 3.
Based on sworn
statements and affidavits by Sta. Rosa's wife Sonia, his brothers Jonathan
and Ray Sun, and neighbor Alwin Mirabona, a number of hooded armed men
barged into the house of Jonathan and Ray Sun, at around 7:30 p.m. that
night, and took them hostage.
After a few
minutes, Jonathan was dragged at gunpoint to Isaias’ house nearby, where
the pastor was watching videos on a laptop computer with his daughter.
Jonathan was brought to a room together with Sonia and her children, while
Isaias was dragged into another room and beaten up. A few minutes later,
they saw the armed men dragging Isaias out. Sonia called for help from her
sister Madelyn, who lived nearby. Madelyn roused the neighbors with her
cries for help.
After a while,
nine gunshots were heard nearby. Isaias’ corpse was found about 50 meters
from his house, beside one of the assailants.
A responding team
from the Daraga Municipal Police Office recovered from the hooded man's
body an ID card revealing him to be Cpl. Lordger Pastrana; as well as a
mission order issued to the ID card bearer by the 9th Military
Intelligence Battalion of the 9th Infantry Division,
authorizing him to carry a firearm outside the headquarters. The mission
order – of which Bulatlat received a copy – was issued by Maj.
Ernest Rosal, commanding officer of Pastrana’s unit, which is based in
Pili, Camarines Sur, and referred to a “secret mission” with duration from
July 1 to Sept. 30, 2006.
A news item from
the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) and data from military sources
show that the 9th Infantry Division has been under the command of Maj.
Gen. Ricardo Nobleza since December 2004.
Killings in Bicol
Based on data from
Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights), there have
been 797 victims of extrajudicial killings from January 2001 – when Arroyo
was catapulted to power through a popular uprising
– to November 2006. Of
this number, at least 340 are confirmed to have been affiliated with cause-oriented
The total number
of extrajudicial killings for this year alone, Karapatan data further
show, is 185. Of these, 53 were perpetrated in Central Luzon, 30 in the Bicol Region, and
20 in Southern Tagalog – making these the top three
regions in terms of the number of extrajudicial killings.
Last June, Arroyo
declared “all-out war” against the Left and directed the AFP to finish off
the “communist insurgency” in two years. Arroyo named Central Luzon, the
Southern Tagalog as “priority areas” in her directive to the AFP.
“Perhaps there is
a plan, or it’s part of the strategy,” Jimenez said when asked whether he
thought there was any connection. “But you cannot win the hearts and minds
of the people that way.”
“It’s worse than
the death penalty because in the death penalty, they follow due process,”
added the VACC leader, a known capital punishment proponent. “In
extrajudicial killings there is no due process, that’s why they are called
extrajudicial killings.” Bulatlat
PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION ■
© 2006 Bulatlat
Alipato Media Center
Permission is granted to reprint or redistribute this article, provided
its author/s and Bulatlat are properly credited and notified.