[Urgent Alert] UPDATE (Philippines): Policemen who tortured a boy offers bribe, intimidates witnesses and complainants to withdraw prosecution – AHRC

Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is deeply concerned that the witnesses and the family of torture victim, Jhon Paul Nerio, have either been offered bribes or are being intimidated after testifying in a trial against the policemen. The policemen were attempting to bribe them to retract their testimony and intimidate them to withdraw the charges.

UPDATED INFORMATION:

In our previous appeal (AHRC-UAU-021-2011), we have mentioned that the trial for administrative charges against five policemen, including a police lieutenant, before the Peoples Law Enforcement Board (PLEB) commenced on April 25, 2011. The policemen were charged with “abuse of authority, police brutality and violation of their sworn duties and responsibilities”.

On May 9, one of the three witnesses, Moncarlo Cual, gave his testimony. Cual, a classmate of the victim had seen Jhon Paul tortured and visibly injured in the custody of the police inside the Women and Children’s Desk (WCD). He was present with two other witnesses. The victim and the three witnesses were known friends.

On May 17, both Pablito and his son, Jhon Paul, testified. Pablito was cross-examined by the lawyers of the accused on what action the senior officers, particularly P/Superintendent Alexander Tagum, Company Commander of the Cotabato Provincial Public Safety Company, had taken after receiving the complaint.

In our previous appeal (AHRC-UAC-063-2011), both Pablito and Jhon Paul wrote their statements in Cebuano about the arrogance and the lack of action on part of the P/Supt. Tagum in their complaint against his subordinate, P/Insp. Joan Resurreccion. It was P/Supt. Tagum who told Pablito and his wife, Onyx, not to bother P/Insp. Resurreccion because the latter was then undergoing police training.

On May 17, the victim’s legal counsels, Mr. Orlando Dano, Officer-in-Charge of the PAO’s District Office in Kidapawan City; and his co-counsel, Joseph Palomar, submitted a manifestation (a legal submission) asking the PLEB to use its authority to impose disciplinary sanctions against the accused policemen.

The AHRC had earlier expressed concerns that the failure to implement sanctions on the accused policemen, such as suspending them from their work and disarming them, subjected the victim, Jhon Paul and his family, to the continuous risk of attack. These concerns have already been explained thoroughly in an Open Letter (AHRC-OLT-003-2011).

BRIBERY ATTEMPTS, INTIMIDATION

On May 22, Charita Cual, the mother of one of the three witnesses, Moncarlo, approached Pablito in person informing him that a go-between had been sent by the police to their home offering her and her husband a bribe in exchange for Cual retracting the testimony he had already given in the trial.

Apart from that, on numerous occasions, the accused policemen have either contacted the victim’s family directly, particularly Pablito; or visited them in their home, offering them bribes in exchange for withdrawing the charges. The accused policemen have since been contacting them directly or sending them SMS, almost daily, asking the family to forgive them and to withdraw the prosecution.

The bribery attempts and intimidation have persisted in addition to the earlier bribery attempts and the intimidation that we have already reported to the PLEB. However, surprisingly, despite knowing full well what the policemen have been doing, the PLEB have yet to decide on whether or not it will imposed sanctions on the policemen.

When the AHRC asked the victim’s lawyer, Atty. Joseph Palomar, on what sanctions have been taken or proposed he replied:

“So far there was none. But the chairman of the board (Atty. Fernando Cubero) has already informed the police officers, especially those who are not around during the hearing (May 9) that they have the power to suspend and they will implement that function in the next scheduled hearing”.

OTHER CRIMINAL CHARGES

Apart from the administrative charges, the victim is also prosecuting the policemen for violation of the Republic Act (R.A. 7610), for Special Protection of Children Again Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination; and for R.A. 9745, for Anti-Torture Act of 2009.

The City Prosecutor’s Office (CPO) in Kidapawan City, where these two charges have already been filed, have yet to resolve as to whether or not there is a case to answer for the policemen involved in Court. The AHRC is also concerned by the delay on part of the CPO in resolving the criminal charges filed on the policemen.

GOVERNMENT’S OBLIGATION TO PROTECT

The AHRC is deeply concerned by the failure on the part of the PLEB and the City Prosecutors Office (CPO) to comply with the provision of section 16 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Anti-Torture Act of 2009:

Section 16. Sufficient government protection against all forms of harassments, threat and/or intimidation as a consequence of the filing of said complaint or the presentation of evidence thereof. Upon filing of the complaint during trial and until the case reaches final disposition, the victim, as well as other persons involved in the investigation and prosecution of the case, shall be ensured sufficient government protection such as placing the persons investigated under preventive suspension during the period of administrative investigation, filing a motion in court to transfer the detainee to a safe place and other remedies as may be provided for by law.

The factors to be considered in granting protection may include:

(1) Power and position of the perpetrators;
(2) Capacity and access to resources of the accused;
(3) History of retaliatory action of the accused;
(4) Economic, social status, and gender of the victim and other involved persons;
(5) Degree of severity of the act complained of;
(6) Geographical distance between the victim/other involved persons and the accused.

The victim of torture and witnesses to torture may avail of the benefits under Republic Act 7981 otherwise known as the “Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act” and other applicable laws.

WHAT YOU CAN DO?

You can call or write letters to the Ms. Leila de Lima (address provided below), secretary of the Department of Justice (DoJ) to request her office to consider as a beneficiary under the R.A. 7981 the complainant, Jhon Paul Nerio; and his family; and to also request the City Prosecutors Office (CPO) in Kidapawan to resolve the complaint without delay.

The DoJ is the government agency who is responsible in implementing the Witness Protection Programme (WPP).

Ms. Leila de Lima
Secretary
Department of Justice (DOJ)
DOJ Bldg., Padre Faura
1004 Manila
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 521 1614
E-mail: soj@doj.gov.ph

Also, you can write to Atty. Fernando Cubero (address provided below), chairman of the PLEB in Kidapawan, to decide without delay on the pending manifestation by the lawyer of the victim to imposed disciplinary sanction on the policemen involved.

Atty. Fernando Cubero
Chairman
Peoples Law Enforcement Board
City Hall of Kidapawan
Kidapawan City
PHILIPPINES
Tel. No.: +63 64 288 1369

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

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