A piece of
Ruel Marcial’s scalp was scraped during his torture, and he was made to
eat it, while his toenails were pulled out with
pliers by his military captors
PHOTOS COURTESY OF HEALTH ACTION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
The administration of
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has consistently denied that the
politically-motivated killings were carried out by government forces.
Instead, it blames these on the Communist Party of the Philippines-New
People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP).
Human rights groups
and people’s organizations believe otherwise, however. For one, they find
it absurd that an organization battling the government and actively
recruiting members would kill 801 and abduct 208 of its own members.
801 killed, 345 were confirmed members of organizations tagged by the AFP
as “front organizations.” The other victims were accused of being NPA
sympathizers and were killed in areas that came under intense military
hundred forty-two were known leaders of progressive organizations. Of
those leaders killed, 77 were from Central Luzon, 35 from Bicol, 76 from
Southern Tagalog and 33 from the Eastern Visayas Region.
Second, the NPA,
which the military claims number no more than 7,000-8,000 and is on the
run, does not seem to have the capability and resources of carrying out a
systematic, nationwide campaign to eliminate or “neutralize” (to borrow a
military term) a thousand of its members. Most of the killings were
carried out by motorcycle-riding men wearing ski masks. The killings were
usually preceded by observations of armed men tailing the victims and
staking their house. There were also reports of death threats made
directly to the victims by soldiers while under questioning inside
military camps or through text messages. Many victims were in the
military’s Order of Battle (OB) or hit list.
The abductions, on
the other hand, were carried out usually in the dead of the night, in
highly-militarized areas near AFP detachments and checkpoints, and carried
out by men bearing long firearms. (See table below this article.)
Third, the killings
are being committed with impunity. The number of political killings and
forced disappearances has been piling up even after these were condemned
locally and internationally. No one has been convicted in a case of
extra-judicial execution, either. Worse, AFP officers such as retired Maj.
Gen. Jovito Palparan who human rights groups call the “butcher” for the
spate of political killings and forced disappearances in regions where he
was assigned was promoted several times.
More damning to the
Macapagal-Arroyo administration and the AFP, however, are the first-hand
accounts of survivors and witnesses, and the existence of evidences that
link cases of political killings and forced disappearances to the military
and other security forces.
Accounts of two
Leuterio, 48, and Ruel Marcial, 23, were among the few “lucky ones” who
survived after being abducted and tortured heavily. Leuterio was released
more than five months after his abduction and only after agreeing to
become an asset of the AFP. Marcial escaped from his captors. The two were
abducted separately: Leuterio in Doña Remedios Trinidad, Bulacan, on April
17, 2006, the other in Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija on May 22, 2006. Their
accounts of torture at the hands of their captors, who they identified as
AFP soldiers, and what they witnessed point to the possible accountability
of the military and Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo as the commander-in-chief, in
the spate of political killings and forced disappearances.
victim and a witness
Bulatlat in a church in Manila, Leuterio related how he was tortured
and how he had witnessed the sufferings of other detainees, four of whom
are still missing as of this writing and one who committed suicide after
enduring heavy torture.
Leuterio, a security
guard with the Metal Ore Company in the town of Doña Remedios Trinidad,
Bulacan, was abducted together with Bernardo Mendiola, operations manager
of the said company, and two workers, spouses Vergel and Teresita Calilap
at noon of April 17, 2006.
While Mendiola was
distributing the wages of the company’s 60 workers, around 30 armed men in
civilian clothes and wearing ski masks arrived. Using force, the men took
the four with them. Leuterio, Mendiola, and the workers knew that the
armed men were from the 56th Infantry Battalion assigned in the
True enough, the
soldiers first brought them to Camp
Tecson, the headquarters of the First Scout Ranger Regiment (FSRR) in San
Miguel, same province. Once inside the camp, Leuterio
said, they were hurled into a
hut where they were beaten by their abductors. Leuterio said he was hit on
the head by a 2x3 piece of wood. The same wood was used to pound his hands
and feet. Bloodied, Leuterio lost consciousness.
only after Leuterio agreed to become a military asset that the beatings
“Kaya sa simula pa lang
pumayag na ako sa gusto nila basta makalabas lang ako,” he said, “Nakipaglaro
ako sa kanila (I
agreed to what they were asking early on so that I would be released. I
played their game).”
later, Leuterio and the three others were transferred to Fort Magsaysay in
Laur, Nueva Ecija where they were kept in four cells apart from each
other. The floor, walls and ceiling inside each cell were in concrete, he
told Bulatlat, while their doors were made of steel, each with a
“torture room” was at the left of the cells. A toilet separated Leuterio’s
cell from the torture room. Across the cells was the jailguards’ room and
beside it was the terrace where the jailguards would spend the night
said his cell was just beside the door. Beside his cell was that of the
Calilap couple while the cell next to the couple’s was that of Mendiola.
The fourth cell was where two other detainees, Raymond Manalo, 22, and his
brother Reynaldo, 32, were held. The two were charcoal gatherers who were
abducted Feb. 14, 2006 allegedly by soldiers of the 24th
Infantry Battalion led by M/Sgt Rollie Castillo in Barangay Bohol na
Mangga, San Ildefonso, Bulacan.
detainees were only able to talk at midnight when their jailguards were
asleep, Leuterio said. “Kahit hindi kami nagkikita-kita,
nagkakamustahan kami, nagkukwentuhan, nagtatanungan kung saan galing ang
isa’t-isa (Even if we could not see each other, we would talk,
exchange experiences, and ask where each came from),” he said.
their cells, they were again repeatedly subjected to beatings and inhumane
treatment by the soldiers, Leuterio said.
about two months, he saw jailguards take Mendiola out of his cell. He
thought he was already being released. To this day, however, Mendiola
remains missing, according to Karapatan.
certain Bernardo Javier, a young detainee also from San Miguel town, was
hauled inside Mendiola’s former cell. After some time, Leuterio said,
Javier strangled himself with the strings of his pants. “Hindi na
siguro nya nakayanan yung pagpapahirap sa kanya,” Leuterio said of
Javier, “Lagi kasi syang pinagkakatuwaan ng mga bantay pag lasing sila.”
(Maybe he could not bear the torture inflicted on him anymore. The guards
pestered him whenever they were drunk.)
he took his life, Javier told Leuterio that the guards lighted a wooden
stick and burned his penis with it.
also said Teresita Calilap developed psychological problems while
incarcerated. The Calilap couple was released Aug. 29, 2006.
young women were also brought inside the camp, Leuterio said. One of them,
he said, resembled Sherlyn Cadapan, one of the two UP students abducted
reportedly by soldiers in Bulacan on June 26, 2006. While seated inside
his cell, he said he peeped through the door and saw the two women being
herded to the terrace where the jailguards were having some fun and booze.
Meanwhile, Leuterio said, he also heard a man, whom the jailguards called
by the name “MM,” being beaten outside the safehouse.
some time, Leuterio said, the two young women were taken out of the
safehouse. He had not heard of them as well as “MM” since.
Leuterio was released
on Sept. 14, 2006. Before his release, Leuterio said, he was treated to
remove the signs of torture. For one month, he said, “Pinainum ako ng
amoxicillin tsaka mefenamic acid (They made me drink amoxicillin
[antibiotic] and mefanamic acid [painkiller]),” Leuterio said. His wounds
and bruises were treated with Betadine (povidone iodine).
his “exit interview,” Leuterio said, a military officer whom the
jailguards called “Lolo” (grandfather) warned him not to tell anyone that
Mendiola was with him in prison.
he was released, his jailguards told him that “Lolo” was, in fact, Maj.
Gen. Jovito Palparan, then the commanding general of the 7th
months later, on Nov. 16, Leuterio took the witness stand at the Makati
Regional Trial Court (RTC) to serve as witness to the habeas corpus
petition filed by the family of the two UP students against General
“Hindi kaya ng
konsensya ko na hindi sabihin ang nakita ko
(My conscience told me I have to tell what I saw),” Leuterio said.
When they learned
that their pastor Rev. Andy Pawecan was killed, Ruel Marcial and his
neighbors volunteered to retrieve his body from the military. But Marcial
could not believe he would also become a victim like his pastor. But
unlike his pastor, he survived his ordeal albeit with scars.
Around noon of May
21, 2006, Pastor Pawecan was walking with his wife Dominga, Modesta
Marcial, Ruel’s wife, Maria Binlengan, and other members of the United
Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP) on an isolated stretch of road
in Barangay Fatima, Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija. Soldiers from the 48th
IB accosted them and took the pastor who was then carrying his eight-month
old daughter in his arms.
Binlengan and the
other women proceeded home in the neighboring village of
At around 2:30 p.m., Binlengan said she heard gunshots near her house.
Soldiers later claimed to have engaged New People’s Army (NPA) guerillas
in a firefight and, as a result, killed Pawecan who, the soldiers alleged,
was a member of the NPA armed with a gun.
A few minutes later
the soldiers returned and handed the baby to Dominga. The child had
bruises on her cheeks and her dress was smeared with blood.
including Binlengan, went to claim the pastor’s body but the soldiers
would not let them. It was only the following day that 13 male residents,
including Marcial, were ordered by the soldiers to bring Pawecan’s body to
a funeral parlor in San Jose City.
In a Bulatlat
interview at a mall’s parking lot somewhere in Metro Manila on Dec. 6,
Marcial said he was one of the 13 residents of Barangay Fatima in the town
of Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija ordered by the military to bring the body of
Pawecan to Barangay Tayabo in San Jose, the capital city of Nueva Ecija.
Tayabo, some of the neighbors brought the body of Pawecan to the funeral
parlor while the others were allowed to go home. However, Marcial and his
cousin, Fidel Palting, were taken by the military to the Sto. Niño
military camp in San Jose City on suspicion that they were also members of
the NPA. “Wala daw kasi kaming sedula (We were taken because,
according to them, we had no tax certificates),” Marcial said.
Meanwhile, in July 2006, residents of Nueva Ecija went into panic to
obtain Community Tax Certificates (CTCs or cedula) as, according to
General Palparan, those without it are NPA members. In a trip to the towns
of Lupao and Rizal, Nueva Ecija on the same month, Bulatlat
reported that the two towns have run out of cedulas after distributing
them to residents who came to the municipal halls in droves.
While being grilled
about his alleged links to the NPA, Marcial said, military interrogators
armed with a jungle knife sliced off part of his scalp. His head was
shaved and three of his toenails were plucked out. Under threat, he was
made to eat strands of his hair and the pared skin of his scalp.
Then, he said, his
legs and thighs were burned with a lighted cigarette and a flamed wooden
stick. His left thigh was pinched with a pair of pliers. Grass leaves were
inserted in his penis. His eyes were sprinkled with salt and water was
continuously poured into his nose and mouth. As the torture went on, he
would lose consciousness and wake up to more pain.
Marcial said the
maltreatment and humiliation done to him by his military captors lasted
for two days and two nights right inside the Sto. Nino camp. “Pero yung
piring ko hindi nila tinanggal hanggang sampung araw siguro (But my
blindfold was not removed for about 10 days), he said while trying to
explain that he could not anymore determine whether it was day or night.
“Pinakain din ako
ng lupa tapos inihian din nila ako (I was also made to eat soil and
soldiers urinated at me),” he said.
All through his
interrogation and torture, the soldiers were making him admit that he is
an NPA guerilla. “Hindi nila ako tinigilan hanggat hindi ako umamin
(They did not stop torturing me until I confessed),” Marcial said with a
sheepish smile. “Kaya nagsinungaling na lang ako. Sinabi ko NPA ako
kahit hindi totoo kasi alam ko yun lang ang paraan para tigilan nila ako
(That was why I had to lie by admitting I was an NPA guerilla so they
would stop the torture),” he continued.
On July 7, 2006,
after almost two months of incarceration at the camp, Marcial escaped. He
drew a map and narrated to Bulatlat how he did it.
Meanwhile, records of
Karapatan show that Palting, Marcial’s counsin, remains missing.
The dead says a
In another case,
Pastor Isaias Sta. Rosa was abducted and then murdered in Barangay
Malobago, Daraga, Albay by armed men wearing bonnets on Aug. 3, 2006. His
body was recovered at a nearby creek along with a dead soldier. Witnesses
said the soldier was part of the group that beat up and abducted Pastor
The dead soldier was
identified as Pfc. Lordger Pastrana. He had a Philippine Army ID valid
until Dec. 9, 2008, indicating he was in active service when killed. He
also had a “mission order”, valid July 11-September 2006 signed by Maj.
Ernest Marc Rosal and issued by the 9th Military Intelligence
Battalion of the 9th ID based at Camp Weene Martillana, Pili,
A news item from the
Philippine Information Agency (PIA) said that the 9th ID has
been under the command of Maj. Gen. Ricardo Nobleza since December 2004.
Not just one
Leuterio is not the
only one who could confirm that Sherlyn Cadapan was taken by military men.
Wilfredo Ramos also witnessed the abduction of two University of the
Philippines (UP) students, along with a local farmer, on June 26, 2006 in
Barangay San Miguel, Hagonoy, Bulacan. He testified in court when the
parents of students Sherlyn Cadapan, 29, who was two months pregnant, and
Karen Empeño, 23, filed a habeas corpus petition before the Supreme Court
(SC) ordering the military to surface the two and Manuel Merino, 56. All
were volunteers of the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Bulacan (Peasant Alliance
Wilfredo and his
father William were also seized by 15 armed men in the same incident.
Father and son testified before the SC that the abductors of Merino and
the two UP scholars rode in a stainless steel jeep with plate number RTF
597 that sped toward the direction of Barangay Iba in Hagonoy, Bulacan
around 2 a.m., June 26. The same vehicle was seen parked inside the 56th
IB headquarters in Iba the following day by members of the human rights
group Alyansa ng mga Mamamayan para sa Pantaong Karapatan-Bulacan
(People’s Alliance for Human Rights-Bulacan).
In a related
incident, Alberto Ramirez was illegally arrested by armed men on June 28.
Ramirez, in his affidavit, said he identified Merino as his abductors’
guide. The same stainless steel jeep was used by the soldiers when he was
brought to the military detachment in Barangay Mercado, also in Hagonoy.
Under interrogation, he was asked if he knew Cadapan and Empeño.
Ramirez was later
released but was unable to go home for fear of his life.
In the SC hearing of
the Cadapan-Empeño-Merino habeas corpus case on Sept. 30, Palparan denied
knowing about the abduction of the three. He, however, admitted receiving
a military report about the “arrest” of a certain Ka Tanya and Ka Lisa,
who he claimed were “NPA amazons collecting revolutionary taxes” in
Hagonoy. Curiously, both abductions happened on the same day, June 26,
In the same hearing,
2Lt. Francis Mirabelle Samson, executive officer of the Army detachment in
Barangay Mercado, Hagonoy and Lt. Col. Rogelio Boac, commanding officer of
the 56th IB stationed in the same municipality denied receiving
orders from Palparan to investigate the incident. They received no report
on the abduction of the two alleged NPA amazons, they also said.
Official records by
the police show that at least two of those missing from Central Luzon are
in the custody of the military.
In a fact-finding
mission on April 28 in the town of
San Miguel, Bulacan, Bulatlat
recorded 12 residents of Brgy. Bulaong, San Miguel arrested by soldiers of
the 56th IB on April 24 after a firefight with NPA guerillas in
a nearby village earlier the same day, as stated by PNP-San Miguel
documents. Two of those arrested were cousins Florante Santiago and Bernie
On April 25, police
records show 11 of those arrested have been released except Santos who
In a separate
incident on July 3, seven leaders of PISTON (Pinag-isang Samahan ng mga
Tsuper at Opereytors Nationwide) were abducted in broad daylight along the
busy streets of Barangay Balibago, Angeles City in the neighboring
province of Pampanga.
The following day,
two of those arrested were released without charges while four others were
released on bail July 5. The seventh person arrested, Emerito Lipio,
A report from the
PNP-Angeles City identified the arresting team as soldiers belonging to
the Army’s 56th and 69th Infantry Battalion.
However, Police Supt. Policarpio C. Segubre, head of the PNP in Angeles
City led the arresting team, the same report said.
a congressman said, had actually admitted to having in custody one of 31
individuals who went missing in Samar while he was the commanding officer
of the 8th ID from February to August, 2005.
In a House inquiry on
May 31, 2005, Samar Rep. Catalino Figueroa said that during a meeting on
April 7, 2005 with mother and daughter Rosa and Cristina Abalos and
Palparan in his home in Catbalogan, Samar, the general admitted that
Patricio Abalos, an old and sickly farmer, was under the custody of his
Prior to the meeting
with Palparan, Cristina said that on March 31, six soldiers led by 2Lt.
Wilbert Basquiñas and without any warrant barged into the Abalos home and
searched their house.
amin ang tatay mo. Makikita
nyo lang sya pag may baril kayong nilabas
(We have your father. You’ll only see him if you can show us the
firearm),” Cristina quoted Basquiñas as saying. Bulatlat
Following is a table
prepared by Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights)
showing the regional distribution of political killings and abductions in
2006. (Data as of November 2006)
International Reactions Fail to Stop Killings
(First of three parts)
Cries for Justice, Prayers of Hope
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© 2006 Bulatlat
Alipato Media Center
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