This story was taken from Bulatlat, the Philippines's alternative weekly newsmagazine (
Vol. VI, No. 46, Dec. 24-30, 2006



Probing the Military’s Hand
(Second of three parts)

In many cases investigated by Bulatlat, survivors tell of harrowing stories of government soldiers and agents involved in abductions, torture, and killings. A few victims would commit suicide to end their ordeal while under extreme torture.


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.

Of the 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 operations.

Three 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 survivors

Oscar 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.

A victim and a witness

Interviewed by 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 area.

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.

It was only after Leuterio agreed to become a military asset that the beatings slowed down. 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).”

Two days 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 lock.

The “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 drinking liquor.

Leuterio 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. 

The 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.

Inside their cells, they were again repeatedly subjected to beatings and inhumane treatment by the soldiers, Leuterio said.

After 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.

A 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.)

Before he took his life, Javier told Leuterio that the guards lighted a wooden stick and burned his penis with it.

Leuterio also said Teresita Calilap developed psychological problems while incarcerated. The Calilap couple was released Aug. 29, 2006.

Two 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.

After 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). 

During 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.

Before he was released, his jailguards told him that “Lolo” was, in fact, Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, then the commanding general of the 7th ID.

Two 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 Palparan.

“Hindi kaya ng konsensya ko na hindi sabihin ang nakita ko (My conscience told me I have to tell what I saw),” Leuterio said.

Good Samaritans turned victims

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 Tayabo. 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.

The residents, 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.

Reaching 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 lot

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 Sta. Rosa.

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, Camarines Sur.

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 witness

Leuterio is not the only one who could confirm that Sherlyn Cadapan was taken by military men.

Fourteen-year old 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 in Bulacan).

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, 2006.

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

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 Santos.

On April 25, police records show 11 of those arrested have been released except Santos who remains missing.

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, remains missing.

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. 


Meanwhile, Palparan, 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 soldiers.

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.

Nasa 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) 




Central Luzon






Southern Tagalog









Central Visayas



Cagayan Valley






Eastern Visayas















W Visayas Region







International Reactions Fail to Stop Killings and Disappearances
(First of three parts)

Cries for Justice, Prayers of Hope

© 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.