April 13, 2016
(PHILIPPINES) Torture and Killing of Indigenous People
ISSUES: Assertion of right to life; freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
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Title: Kipad, Oto, and Mopak TOR, EJK
Case: Torture and Extra-Judicial Killing
Victims: Ruel Falito Kipad, 39 years old
Tono Silongan Oto, 39 years old
Martinez Lagay Mopak, 26 years old
Date of Incident: February 12, 2016; 2:00 A.M.
Place of Incident: Sitio Kuhan, Barangay Upper Sepaka, Surallah, South Cotabato
Alleged Perpetrators:Composite members of Regional Public Safety Battalion, Special Investigation and Detection Team and Special Action Force of Region 12
Motive: Suspected Drug Pushers
Rights Violated: Right to be free from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and right to life
Account of the incident:
On February 12, 2016 around 2:00 a.m., a composite team composed of members of the Regional Public Safety Battalion, the Special Investigation and Detection Team, and the Special Action Force of Region 12 raided five houses of T’boli-B’laan tribe members in Sitio Kuhan, Barangay Upper Sepaka, Surallah, South Cotabato. The raid resulted in the death of Ruel Kipad, 39 years old, Tono Oto, 39, and Martinez Mopak, 26.
According to Angelita Kipad, she and her husband Ruel were awakened by gun shots and loud bangs on their door. When they asked who were outside, they were ordered to get out of their house. When they opened the door, they saw armed men in seven-color uniforms without name tags wearing bonnets. The couple asked the men who they were but they did not receive any reply. They went out of the house while guns were pointed at them.
Ruel raised both hands. He was ordered to kneel on the ground. He was then handcuffed behind his back. Angelita embraced her husband and told the armed men not to kill him. She also asked what his husband’s offense was.
The men asked Ruel about the group he belonged to. He answered that he is a member of the Guardians International–Surallah Chapter. He added that he was a barangay health worker for twelve years and he is now working as a motorcycle driver transporting charcoal. The police told Ruel that he is a liar because he is armed and a member of a bandit who sells drugs. He denied the allegations.
The couple again asked the men who they were. The men replied that they are from the “region” and asked Ruel if he knew one of the policemen who was with them. Ruel answered that he did not know any of them.
Five policemen took Angelita away from her husband. From a distance, she saw that while her husband was being questioned, a dagger was being pressed onto his shoulder. She shouted for the policemen to stop, but she was dragged farther from her husband.
When the policemen went away, Angelita went nearer to where her husband was. She saw that while her husband was in a stooping position, he was shot twice. Angelita was shocked and afraid. The police saw her and dragged her away. She asked if her husband was already dead. They replied that they only gave him a warning so that her husband will admit his membership to the Sipot Gang and identify the other members in the area. Angelita told them that her husband is not a gang member.
She said that after the policemen shot her husband, the other policemen went to the neighboring houses and fired at them. She pleaded for them to stop since her children and the sick elderly were inside the house. The police did not hear her. They went inside the house and dragged the children and brought them to her.
After 30 minutes, a police vehicle with number 03 on the hood arrived and approached Angelita’s house. She saw the policemen carry something to the vehicle, and then went away.
After an hour, the police called Angelita and told her to come near her house since the barangay officials have arrived. When she got there, she looked for her husband but she did not find him. She saw that there was blood on the ground. There was also a grenade, a gun, and his husband’s wallet containing methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu).
Angelita cried and told the police that she now understood why she was brought away from her husband, and that was because they would plant evidences against him. She asked where her husband was, and the police answered that he was brought to the hospital. Angelita told the police that she will file a case against them for what they did.
At around 5:00 a.m., she went to the hospital in Surallah. When she arrived at the hospital, she was informed that her husband was already dead and his body was already at the funeral home.
When Angelita found her husband’s body, she saw that there were stab wounds on his face and shoulder. There were also gunshot wounds to his back and stomach.
In the same incident, Amy Oto and her family were sleeping in their house when they heard someone breaking into their fence. After a minute, a loud bang on their door was heard. Her whole family was awakened. They asked the identity of the persons outside but they received no reply. When they asked if they were policemen, someone answered that they were only doing their job and they were just obeying the orders of their superiors.
Her two children got very scared and jumped outside from the window. The police shot at them. Amy shouted for the police to spare her children, but the police did not heed her request.
The police went inside their house and instructed Amy’s husband Tono Oto and his nephew Martinez Mopak to duck on the floor. The police asked them to what group they belonged to. Their heads were stomped while their faces were pressed against the pillows. They were handcuffed and beaten with the butts of long firearms. They were forced to admit who they really were. Martinez who is deaf and mute did not answer. Tono, because of shock, was not able to reply as well. Amy and her children were all crying as they were ordered to get out of the house.
The policemen asked Amy if they have relatives nearby. She answered yes and pointed to the houses of her relatives. She went with the policemen to the houses of her relatives, but when they were a few steps away, she heard two gun shots from her house.
She shrieked in fear and called her husband but there was no answer. Since their house was already wrecked, she saw what went on inside her house. She saw a policeman pull out something from the pocket of his trouser and placed it on the floor. Amy asked the police if they killed her husband because he was not moving anymore. She asked them what crime he committed. The police told her to stay calm because her husband was not dead, and just had a minor cut. The police again told her that they were only doing their job and following orders from their superiors.
Tono and Martinez were brought to the police vehicle, and then the vehicle sped away. The police told Amy that her husband and his nephew will be brought to the hospital.
The police showed Amy search warrants for the houses of Luis Bangon and Ruel Kipad and asked her where their houses were. She pointed at their houses. The police then asked her for her husband’s name and she replied. The police told her that they had no warrant to search her house. When Amy asked them why they included her house in the raid, the police said that they just made a mistake. Amy told them that she will file a case against them. The police did not say anything.
The police then called Amy to enter her house. The barangay officials were also inside her house when one of the policemen asked his companions if there was a junior officer among them. A junior officer went in. When he saw a short firearm on the floor, he picked it up. Amy was surprised when the police told her that they did not own the gun. She realized that it was planted evidence against her husband.
After the incident, she went to the hospital in Surallah to check on her husband and his nephew. When she arrived, she was informed that both were already at the morgue. Her husband’s wrists were broken and had a gunshot wound in the abdomen. Martinez also had three gunshot wounds in his body.
Both Angelita and Amy are mourning the loss of their husbands. They said that they will fight for justice. Amy said that she pities Martinez very much for she was sure that he did not understand what was happening. Angelita and Amy had a hard time recovering the bodies because they did not have enough money to pay for the funeral home services. The bodies were laid to rest after a week.
During the incident, the police raided five houses with eleven families in Sitio Kuhan. The residents said that they were very scared when the raid happened. The children and the elderly were traumatized after the incident.
The police also arrested four alleged members of Sipot gang from Sitio Kuhan and Sitio Matampak through a search warrant issued by RTC Branch 38 signed by Judge Oscar Noel, Jr. of Polomolok, South Cotabato. The suspects were T’boli and B’laan tribe members.
Please write a letter to the authorities, calling on them to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation on the torture done by security forces that resulted in the deaths of Ruel Kipad, Tono Oto, and Martinez Opak in Sitio Kuhan, Barangay Upper Sepaka, Surallah, South Cotabato and to urge concerned agencies to immediately resolve the case and give justice to the victims.
I am writing to draw your attention to the case of three indigenous people who were tortured and later killed.
I have learned that on February 12, 2016 around 2:00 a.m., a composite team composed of members of the Regional Public Safety Battalion, the Special Investigation and Detection Team, and the Special Action Force of Region 12, raided five houses of T’boli-B’laan tribe members in Sitio Kuhan, Barangay Upper Sepaka, Surallah, South Cotabato.
Security forces had a warrant to search the houses of alleged Sipot gang members in the said area. The raid resulted in the torture and death of Ruel Kipad, 39 years old, Tono Oto, 39, and Martinez Mopak, 26.
It has been brought to my attention that Ruel Kipad was ordered to get out from his house and ordered to kneel on the ground while the security forces interrogated him. While being questioned, he was forced to admit that he was a gang member. His shoulder was pierced with a dagger and he was later shot twice that led to his death.
I was also informed that during the raid, Tono Oto and Martinez Mopak were stomped on their heads while their faces were pressed in the pillows. They were then handcuffed and beaten using the butt of a rifle. They were also forced to admit being gang members and later shot to death.
Philippine Republic Act 9745 Section 2(b) provides that, “…the human rights of all persons, including suspects, detainees and prisoners are respected at all times; and that no person placed under investigation or held in custody of any person in authority or, agent of a person authority shall be subjected to physical, psychological or mental harm, force, violence, threat or intimidation or any act that impairs his/her free will or in any manner demeans or degrades human dignity.”
With this, I urge the Philippine authorities to promptly and impartially investigate this case and ensure that the perpetrators will be prosecuted and punished in accordance with the law and that the torture and deaths of Kipad, Oto, and Mopak will be given justice.
I look forward to you urgent action.
Please send your letters to:
Hon. Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III
Republic of the Philippines
JP Laurel St. San Miguel, Manila
Fax: +63 2 736 1010
Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80
Police Director General Ricardo C. Marquez
Chief, Philippine National Police
PNP National Headquarters
Camp General Crame
Quezon City, Philippines
Fax: +632 724 8763 / +632 723 0401
Tel: + 632 726 4361 / +632 4366 8763
Police Chief Supt. Dennis Siervo
Chief, PNP Human Rights Affairs Office
Tel: +632 650 2794/ +632 723 0401 loc 3668/3678
Chairperson Jose Luis Martin Gascon
Commission on Human Rights (CHR)
SAAC Bldg., Commonwealth Avenue
U.P. Complex, Diliman
Fax: +63 2929 0102
Tel: +63 2 928 5655, +63 2 926 6188
Atty. Leonor T. Oralde-Quintayo
National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP)
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