[Urgent Action] A farmer was killed and his son was seriously wounded as a result of an alleged strafing by members of the Philippine Army (PA)- www.tfdp.net

Urgent Action: (Philippines) A farmer was killed and his son was seriously wounded as a result of an alleged strafing by members of the Philippine Army (PA)

Type of Violation: Strafing/Extra-judicial Killing/Arbitrary Arrest and Detention/Forced Eviction
Victims: Nicanor Herrera Mariano; Norman Esquibel Mariano; Florita Verceles Esquibel
Date and Time of Incident: July 19, 2011, 4:30 a.m.
Place of Incident: Sitio Batong Munti, Barangay Camachili, Doña Remedios Trinidad, Bulacan, Philippines
Alleged Perpetrators: Alleged members of the 56th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (PA)

Account of Incident

Photo documentation by Rommel Yamzon / TFDP

A farmer was killed while his son was seriously wounded as a result of an alleged strafing by fully-armed military personnel in a mountainous side of Doña Remedios Trinidad in Bulacan Province.

On July 18, 2011, Ms. Florita Esquibel, 66, together with her son Nicanor Mariano, 46, and grandson Norman Mariano, 18, went to Sitio Batong Munti, Barangay Camachili to do “Kaingin” (an old practice of burning trees for cultivation and to produce charcoal). The three decided to stay overnight. At around 4:30 a.m. on July 19, Florita, Nicanor and Norman were awakened by blaring sounds caused by several gunshots fired toward them. Although shocked and terrified, Florita was able to shout that they are civilians and they should not be fired at. At that point, Florita saw blood on Norman’s shirt when he stood up.

Moments later, one of the soldiers instructed them to get out of the nipa hut. Florita immediately came out. She saw around twenty (20) armed soldiers in full battle gear. The military asked where her companions are. Florita told them that they are wounded inside the nipa hut and laying on the ground. Again the soldiers asked Florita if those wounded can stand up. She cautiously went inside the nipa hut to get her grandson.  The soldiers approached them instantly.

An unidentified army officer told Florita that her grandson is a member of the New People’s Army (NPA). They also asked Florita how old Norman is. She told them that her grandson is not a member of the NPA. Florita added that they are only farmers and “Kaingin” is one of their sources of livelihood.

One of the military went inside the nipa hut, and after inspection, he immediately reported to the head of the group. The army officer declared that Nicanor, Florita’s son is dead. The soldiers instantly pointed their automatic rifles upward and fired simultaneously. According to Florita, the gunshots lasted for a minute.

When they finally stopped, Florita begged and kneeled down in front of the military officer to allow her to seek help and bring Norman to the hospital. At first, the military did not subscribe to her idea. After several hours of pleadings, Florita was able to convince the soldiers to let her go. On her way down from the mountain, she came across other soldiers going towards the direction of the incident.

Florita walked several kilometers until she reached a mining/quarrying site known as “Silica”. She asked the person in-charge for help. They tried to contact former Barangay Bayabas Chairperson Mr. Levirato San Pedro through a radio communication system but to no avail. Again, Florita proceeded walking until she arrived at their house in Sitio Suapong. She together with family members sought the assistance of barangay officials to bring Norman and the dead body of Nicanor from the woods. The barangay officials were about to approach the site when they were restricted by soldiers.

At around 5:00 p.m., the soldiers brought the wounded Norman to Doña Remedios Trinidad Municipal Hall. Mayor Ronaldo T. Flores provided an ambulance that brought Norman to V. Luna Hospital/Armed Forces of Philippines (AFP) Medical Center in Quezon City. He was accompanied by her aunt Leni Esquibel while guarded by two (2) soldiers inside the ambulance.  A military truck full of soldiers served as security escorts on their way to the hospital.

Meanwhile, the dead body of Nicanor was brought down from the mountain by the soldiers and it was turned over to the family before midnight on July 20, 2011.

NGO Intervention

On July 22, 2011, the staff from the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) and Sulong CARHRIHL (an institution that monitors the “Comprehensive Agreement for the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law” between the Communist Party of the Philippines and government) went to the house of victims and talked with the family. After the interview, the group was able to exchange contact numbers for updates.

On June 23, 2011, a lawyer form Libertas (a human rights law center) went to V. Luna Hospital to visit Norman. The hospital staff told the lawyer that they already discharged Norman in custody with his family.

On the same day, a quick response team (QRT) composed of human rights institutions was organized to extend assistance to the victims. During the meeting, they received a mobile phone text message (SMS) from Florita. According to the message, the soldiers allegedly transferred Norman to the Fort Bonifacio General Hospital inside an army camp in Taguig City even without the consent of the family, and even in his critical condition.

The group decided to proceed to the house of Florita for fact finding. The group also sought the assistance of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and a medical doctor from the Medical Action Group (MAG) to conduct an autopsy of Nicanor.

On June 24, 2011, the group via Libertas lawyer confirmed that Norman is in Fort Bonifacio General Hospital and in custody of the military.

Current Situation

Presently, the soldiers prohibit people from going to the place where the incident happened. Residents are now helpless since they do not have access to the land which is their means of livelihood. They are afraid that soldiers might take possession of the agriculture crops they produce.

Florita is now worried that the military might get back and do harm to her family since they are planning to file a case against the perpetrators.

Action Requested

Please write to the authorities in the Philippines urging them to:
1.    Call upon competent authorities to carry out a prompt, effective, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the alleged strafing incident that led to the killing of Nicanor Mariano and wounding of his son Norman Mariano, allegedly done by members of the Philippine Army (PA) and ensure that adequate, effective and prompt reparation, is granted to the victims and their families;
2.    Conduct an investigation for the supposed restrictions of the military not to allow people to access their land and livelihood located at Sitio Batong Munti, Barangay Camachili;
3.    Release Norman Mariano in the custody of his immediate family;
4.    For the military to strictly observe the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) which recognizes and establishes protection of civilians not belonging to armed forces or armed groups. The protection also includes civilian property. The military should ensure that civilians under the power of enemy forces must be treated humanely in all circumstances, without any adverse distinction. They must be protected against all forms of violence and degrading treatment, including murder and torture.
5.    Guarantee the respect of human rights and the fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards.

Please send your letters to:
1.    President Benigno C. Aquino III
Republic of the Philippines
Malacañang Palace
JP Laurel Street , San Miguel
Manila 1005
Fax: +63 2 736 1010
Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80
Email: corres@op.gov.ph /opnet@ops.gov.ph

2.    Secretary Leila M. De Lima
Department of Justice (DOJ)
Padre Faura Street
Ermita, Manila, 1000
Fax: +63 2 523 9548
Tel: +63 2 521 1908
Email: lmdelima@doj.gov.ph / doj.delima@gmail.com

3.    Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin
Department of National Defense
Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo
Quezon City 1110
Tel: +63 2 911 6193 / +63 2 911 0488
Emal: webmaster@dnd.gov.ph

4.     Secretary Teresita Q. Deles
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)
6th Floor, Agustin 1 Building, F. Ortigas Jr. Avenue (formerly Emerald Avenue)
Ortigas Center, Pasig City 1600
Tel: +63 2 544 4217
Fax +63 2 638 2216
Email: feedback@opapp.net

5.     Chairperson Loretta Ann P. Rosales
Commission on Human Rights (CHR)
SAAC Bldg., Commonwealth Avenue
U.P. Complex, Diliman
Quezon City 1104
Tel: +63 2 928 5655, +63 2 926 6188
Fax: +63 2929 0102
Email: rosales.chr@gmail.com

6.     General Eduardo SL Oban Jr
Chief of Staff, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)
DND Building, Camp Gen Emilio Aguinaldo
Quezon City 1110
Tel: +63 2 911 6001 local 8414
Fax: +63 2 421 3531
Email: bacsecretariat@dnd.gov.ph

7.     Director General Raul M Bacalzo
Chief, Philippine National Police (PNP)
Camp General Rafael Crame
Quezon City 1100
Tel: +63 2 722 0802 / +63 2721 6620
Email: feedback@pnp.gov.ph

8.    Permanent Mission of the Philippines to the United Nations in Geneva, 47 Avenue Blanc, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 716 19 32

Documented by:

Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP)
#45 St. Mary Street, Cubao
Quezon City 1109, Philippines
Tel: +63 2 437 8054
Fax: +63 2 911 3643
Emal: tfdp1974@yahoo.com
Website: http://www.tfdp.net

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