[Open Letter] PHILIPPINES: Concern over how the PLEB is handling the case of the torture victim Jhon Paul Nerio – AHRC

Atty. Fernando Cubero
Peoples Law Enforcement Board
City Hall of Kidapawan
Kidapawan City

Tel. No.: +63 64 288 1369
Ref. No.: Mr. Jhon Paul Nerio (Admin Case No. 11-02)

PHILIPPINES: Concern over how the PLEB is handling the case of the torture victim Jhon Paul Nerio
Asian Human Rights Commission The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is writing with deep concern with regard to how your office is dealing with the administrative complaint of Mr. Jhon Paul Nerio, a torture victim. We are concerned about his case as we have been assisting him and his family in his complaint.

Please note that before you came to know about Mr. Nerio’s case and his administrative complaint filed to your office on March 28, 2011, they had sought the assistance of the local police, particularly from P/Supt. Alexander Camilon Tagum, who introduced himself as Company Commander of the Cotabato Provincial Public Safety, but he did nothing when asked to intervene to have the victim’s torture complaint investigated.

On March 4, 2011, the victim’s father, Pablito; and his wife, Onyx were not afforded the assistance by P/Supt. Tagum, that should have been expected from a police establishment. Before P/Supt. Tagum even conducted an investigation, he had already trivialized the victim’s complaint. The victim’s family had no legal knowledge in pursuing complaints against the police. They were ignored on the occasions when they needed the police intervention to investigate. P/Supt Tagum had given the victim’s parents vague instructions on how they should pursue the complaint, which of course they could not possibly comprehend having little experience in matters of legality.

P/Supt. Tagum also told the Nerios that one of the respondents, P/Insp. Joan Resurreccion, could not and must not be disturbed as he was undergoing schooling related to his police service. The very obvious and incredible display of arrogance of this police colonel to try to defend his subordinates is highly unacceptable.

Also, on March 1, 2011, a few days before the Nerios asked P/Supt. Tagum’s assistance to have their complaint of torture investigated they had also gone to the Kidapawan City Police Office (KCPO). Here, a police officer, whom they know only as Colonel Mamburam, had put the blame solely on the victim, Jhon Paul. He, too, described the victim as “Gong gong (stupid)” humiliating his parents, at that time.

This account of the incident however was never mentioned in the police record; nor was it mentioned in the complaint filed in your office. But that does not mean it did not happen nor that the family have no evidence to prove this. In fact, they do have. They did not mention any of these matters as at the time, P/Supt. Tagum was not directly involved in the proceedings. However, now that this Superintendent has filed for an extension on behalf of the respondents it now becomes necessary to inform you of his actions or rather, the lack of them. P/Supt. Tagum’s intervention on behalf of the respondents exposes him and the police establishment as nothing but protectors of torturers.

Violations to Anti-Torture Act of 2009

Under the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 (R.A. 9745), the action of P/Supt. Tagum and another police colonel called Mamburam, has breached out rightly section 9 (a), which requires that: a victim of torture shall “have a prompt and impartial investigation” by the concerned government agencies, which includes the PNP.

We are not aware of any action taken on the part of P/Supt. Tagum and the police colonel known only as “Colonel Mamburam”.

Nevertheless, P/Supt. Tagum has taken it upon himself to file a “Motion for the Extension of Submission of Answer Under Oath” on April 4, 2011 on behalf of the respondents, namely P/Insp. Joan Resurreccion, P03 Renato Servidad, P02 Aileen Jauod, P02 Bembol Malaluan and P02 Jovan Mapandi, after your office had sent subpoenas to their office on March 30, 2011 requiring them to answer the complaint.

The Motion for Extension, however, did not contain any explanation that could have justified P/Supt. Tagum’s role or personality in his submission of the Motion on behalf of the respondents, particularly P/Insp. Ressureccion; nor did it contain any explanation he had been given instructions to submit the Motion on behalf of the respondents.

The Motion that P/Supt. Tagum had filed also contains contradictions and lacks any justifications required by the PLEB Rules to merit its approval.

Lack of justification to delay proceedings

Firstly, while P/Supt. Tagum claimed that after receiving the summons, “we immediately exerted efforts to contact P/INSP. RESURRECTION through different means of communications being the main deponent of this instant Administrative case, however, our effort futile” (sic). P/Supt Tagum nevertheless informed that the respondent is presently at “Fort Ramon Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija undergoing training on BASIC AIRBORNE COURSE, that commenced last March 15, 2011″.

When we made a follow up on the case today, April 14, at your office, we were informed that the P/Supt. Tagum’s Motion had been granted on April 7; but when their Answer was due to be submitted on April 12, the other respondents filed another Motion for Extension on the same grounds which your office once again approved for April 18. Thus, none of the police officers have answered the complaint since it was filed on March 28.

The Motion that P/Supt. Tagum had first filed and subsequently that of the other respondents lacks credibility and impartiality. We could not understand as to what basis your office had in deciding to grant their motion, not only once but on two occasions. We consider P/Supt. Tagum’s claim to have been unable to contact P/Insp. Ressurreccion contradictory and lacking in logic. It is incomprehensible as to how he could not contact him but at the same time he was able to give details regarding his whereabouts and nature of his training.

Also, when the Nerio couple sought P/Supt. Tagum’s assistance asking their complaint to be investigated on March 4, 2011, he had already told them the P/Insp. Resurreccion was at that time on training and that he could not and must not be disturbed. However, in the Motion for Extension that P/Supt Tagum had himself written, signed and filed in your office the training in fact started only on March 15, 2011. There cannot be any clearer evidence that P/Supt. Tagum was, in fact, attempting to cover up for P/Insp. Resurreccion in the knowledge that he was possibly a respondent in a case of torture.

We protest the granting of the extension on the basis that they lack credibility, impartiality and legal justification as required by the PLEB Rules. They are purely an ill-disguised attempt to frustrate the proceedings of the complaint.

The granting of the extensions were a breach of Rule IV, section 5 of the PLEB’s Revised Rules of Procedure in the hearing and adjudication of citizen’s complaints against uniformed members of the Philippine National Police (PNP), which clearly states that: “No motion to dismiss, motion for bill of particulars or any other interlocutory motion shall be allowed hence, filing of the same shall not interrupt the running of the reglementary period for filing an answer”.

The secretary of your office, whom we spoke to by telephone stated that: “It has been granted (the motion for extension) sir because the main respondent P/Insp. Ressureccion is still in schooling, so as of now he is out of town for an Airborne basic training” and then the rest of the complainants also filed another extension but hopefully this (April) 18 it (the complaint) will be answered”.

Please take note that the Role of PLEB as a quasi-judicial body is summary in nature as required by section 2 of the Rules of Procedures, “the hearing is summary in nature and shall not be governed strictly by the technical rules of procedures”. Moreover, section 10 (d) of the Rule prohibits “prolonged argumentation and other dilatory proceedings”. We are deeply concerned by the failure of your office to dispense your duties as required by the complaint procedure of the PLEB.

Failure to request for “Preventive Suspension”

Secondly, we are not aware as to whether your office has considered to “Request for Preventive Suspension”, as required by section 13 of the PLEB Rules, on all the respondents involved in this case. Since your office took cognizance of the case, we presumed that, as required by Rule III, section 1, the nature of the complaint had been considered as “grave or less grave”.

According to the details that we already have, the four elements that are required from the PLEB wherein request for Preventive Suspension is justifiable, to the superior police officials of the respondents, as required by section 13 of the PLEB Rules, have been meet, as we explain below;

Refusing to heed subpoena
As explained above, we are deeply concerned by the continuing efforts by the respondents to deliberately postpone and delay their submission of their answers to the complaint. We could not understand why all the respondents were granted extensions on the grounds similar to what their commander had put forward, i.e. that P/Insp. Resurreccion, that he is on schooling.

We could also not understand why the respondent police officers, as you are aware who themselves had far better understanding of legal process and had access to legal counsel, would ever need their commander to be literally behind them and be physically present to be able answer the charges against them. This administrative charge is not collective in nature; thus, it is incomprehensible that all the other police respondents would not be able to answer without the presence of their commander.

We, therefore, consider this as an outright refusal to heed to the PLEB’s subpoena, let alone that the Motion for Extension should have not granted by the PLEB.

Charge with bodily harm
As explained in detail by the torture victim Jhon Paul Nerio in his complaint, the administrative charges on the respondents is torture–which the victim himself has clearly described. Torture is a serious offense. It involves not only the infliction of bodily harm, but psychological and emotional trauma on the victim. This has also been explained in detail by the victim in his testimony.

Respondent are in a position to tamper evidence
As also explained by the victim in his complaint, the policemen involved had deliberately conspired to conceal the details about the torture. They have concealed any information about what had happened to him while he was in their custody and when he was in the custody of the Women and Children’s Desk (WCD) of the PNP in Kidapawan City.

When the victim was turned over to the WCD, the officers who brought him never mentioned about what had happened to him while he was in their custody; nor was the victim given the opportunity to put on record his allegations of torture because the policewoman, P02 Jauod, had deliberately not recorded his testimony. The extract of the police blotter on the date when the victim was arrested, held in custody and questioned in absence of his parents, never contained anything about his allegations of torture.

Thus, the respondents had the capacity to and have, in fact, “tampered with the evidence”.

Unduly influencing the witness
After the complaint was filed to your office, on April 2 & 3, 2011, some respondents had approached the victim, Jhon Paul; and his parents, Pablito and Onyx, in person by visiting their home asking them to settle the case. They did this despite knowing full well that, on any administrative complaint filed against police in PLEB, section 8 of the Rules strictly requires that: “In no circumstance shall there be an amicable settlement of the case”.

We were informed that the respondents had offered a sports motorcycle to the victim in exchange for withdrawing the charges. The nature of complaint of torture is serious and must not be taken lightly. The complainant of torture is not only a victim but also the sole witness to their own case in the crime of torture that had been committed on him. In this case, only Jhon Paul is the person who could testify in your proceedings about his ordeal of torture, no one else.

Once again it is only Jhon Paul who could testify in the hearing of your summary proceedings as to how he was arbitrarily arrested without explaining to him the nature of offense on which he was arrested, how he had been assaulted and tortured in open view when he was arrested; how he was threatened to be harmed, if not killed, as he was held in the custody of the police at their police quarters; and how the police, particularly PO2 Jauod, did nothing when he was tortured and assaulted while in her custody.

Also, only Jhon Paul could testify as to how the police have deliberately suppressed the details about how he had been tortured; and as to how P02 Jauod had ignored his request for treatment, his request to contact his parents–as required by law for minors; and his demand from the policemen who had tortured and assaulted him of explanation as to for why they were torturing him.

Lastly, we urge your office to perform your duties and obligations; and to implement the Rules of Procedure of PLEB with impartiality and competence. The PLEB, as you know full well was established as a complaint mechanism for citizens is civilian in nature. The composition of the PLEB board that takes, accepts, investigates and hears cases of administrative complaint in summary proceedings against policemen was deliberately created as civilian in nature. This was done to uphold the supremacy of civilian authority over the police.

However, we are deeply concerned that the manner in which your office is handling this complaint has been contrary to the purpose of the creation of the PLEB. Unless the object of our protest and concerns, as we have illustrated are corrected, the credibility and authority of your office would remain in question.

Yours sincerely,

Md. Ashrafuzzaman
Programme Officer
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong

SPECIAL REPORT: Torture in the Philippines & the unfulfilled promise of the 1987 Constitution
April 14, 2011
An Open Letter from the Asian Human Rights Commission to Atty. Fernando Cubero, Chairman, Peoples Law Enforcement Board in Kidapawan City


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.