[From the web] PHILIPPINES: Torture victims speaks out–“The soldiers were never prosecuted” Interview 5 – www.humanrights.asia
An interview with Marvin, a neighbour of two torture victims, published by the Asian Human Rights Commission
OVERVIEW: In this fifth interview in the series, Marvin (full identity is withheld) talks about the illegal arrest, detention and torture of his neighbours, Eduardo Singita and Junior Navarro in Bayugan, Agusan del Sur in April 2010.
In remote villages, self-censorship is so intense as a result of fear that once anyone in the village speaks against the atrocities committed by soldiers and armed militias, there is risk of being the next target of attack.
In this interview, Marvin took upon himself the risk in disclosing the details of what happened to his two neighbours for others to know. His neighbours were arrested without warrant, illegally detained and tortured in custody, the evidence on them was planted and they were forced by soldiers to serve as their guides in a military operation.
This is one of the many examples wherein the soldiers, who had nothing to do with investigation, take upon themselves the duty of arresting persons whom they suspected of committing criminal offenses. The soldiers routinely arrest, detain, torture and subject to an investigation any persons they take into custody with no legal justifications under the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure (RRCP). What they routinely do breaches the fundamental principles on which an arrest without a warrant is legally justifiable.
I am Marvin, a resident of Sto. Nino, Bayugan, Agusan del Sur. I am aware about what happened to an elderly torture victim, Eduardo Singita. He was a victim of abuse by the military because they suspected him of being a member of a rebel group, the New People’s Army (NPA).
They (soldiers attached to the 36th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army) arrested him. They used him as guide in their military operation. Before the soldiers took him as guide, they assaulted him already. They hit his back with the nozzles of their firearms. They forced him to carry their heavy luggage used in their operations. They also hammered his foot. He (Eduardo) had difficulty in walking after that. If he refused to go with the soldiers, they threatened to kill him. So he had no choice but to go with them.
The place where he was taken was in Purok (sub-section of the village) 8. Because the soldiers were using him as their guide, they reached our village. And when they arrive in our village, the soldiers took our other neighbors close to our home, Junior Navarro. After that they took our neighbors with them to the center of the community.
The head of our village asked the soldiers who took him in custody: “Why are you arresting these men? What have they done wrong?” The soldiers told him: “These men are members of the NPA (New Peoples’ Army). These are the persons who give support to the NPA”.
Then, another village official, this time a member of the village council, also responds: “if indeed these men are supporters of the NPA, you cannot see them in their homes. You could only find them (only) in the forest, if they are indeed NPAs”.
So after that, the soldiers let the victims go. The victims were so hungry because the soldiers did not give them breakfast to eat while in their custody. The victims had to ask food to eat from our village officials.
After that, the victims’ family filed a complaint against the soldiers. But the family had difficulty in filing charges against them. The family members were told they would have difficulty in filing charges because those who illegally arrested and tortured them, only few of them are enlisted soldiers. Most of them are private armies.
So, after that no charges have been filed by the victims’ family. The incident happened in April 1, 2010.
Q: How long were the victims held in custody, what unit were they attached to?
They are attached to the 36th Infantry battalion of the Philippine Army. On part of Eduardo, he was detained by the soldiers for two days.
Q: Where was he detained?
The soldiers held him under house arrest. After two days, that was the time that they took him as their guide.
Q: How many days did the soldiers took him as their guide?
For one day. In the afternoon of that day (he did not mention the exact date of April 2010), the soldiers took him to the center of the village.
Q: How about Junior, what happened to him?
After he was illegally arrested and taken in the soldier’s custody, they did not assault him further. It was because he (Junior) knew one of the CAFGU (Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit). That CAFGU he knew, who was together with the arresting soldiers, was a former rebel. He is now working for the soldiers.
Q: Why is it that there was no charge of torture filed against the soldiers?
I was not able to follow what had happened about the filing of charges. But from what I know, the victim himself (Junior) has decided not (to pursue charges in court) against the soldiers.
Q: Why is he no longer filing a case?
I do not know why he decided not to file a case. I could not understand why he is not filing charges when in fact he had strong evidence of being assaulted against the soldiers. They suspected him of being an NPA member because allegedly the soldiers were able to seize from him documents with connection to the NPAs.
The soldiers too seized from him a ‘Ripley’ firearm (Hogan Firearms Ripley) and a pistol. Even though it was true that the NPAs did deposit at his (Junior) house their firearms with him, but it has been there for a long time (in remote village villagers had no choice but to agree to any request of rebels, in his case having their firearms deposited in his home, to avoid being accused sympathetic to soldiers. The villagers are in difficult situation of balancing their treatment with rebels and soldiers to avoid trouble with them). The person whom the soldiers used as guide was the same person who deposited those firearms and documents to him before he joined the army as CAFGU.
That ‘Ripley’ firearm is also issued to him by the government because he is the head of the sub-section of the village. So when his nephew, who became the chairman of the village, came to know about it (illegal arrest, torture and the filing of false charges), he was very angry.
Q: Did the soldiers file charges on him as a result of the seizure of firearms and documents?
They did not file any charges on him.
Q: Could you tell us more about him (Junior)? Do you know who he is and why was he suspected of being an NPA as well?
The allegations on him were similar to what the soldiers had accused of Eduardo. The soldiers entered (both of) their homes, they were accused of being members of the NPA; they searched their belongings and sections at the house where they put their dress. The soldiers said they were doing it because it is where they be hiding their firearms. But after they finish searching, they did not find anything. So they took him (Junior).
Q: Lastly, how did you know about the details of this case? Do you know the victims? Did they ask help from you?
I know about the case because we are all neighbors. We know about it because when it happened, someone reported it to us. (In the village, most people know each other and it is common that everyone knows who the persons are in their neighborhood, what happened to him and their daily routine).
They are the ones who informed us about the illegal arrest, detention and torture of the victims. When it happened, we are also at home. But even our neighbor (Junior) even no longer talks about it now. They kept silent about it.
But on part of Eduardo, he filed charges against the soldiers but I haven’t heard of any progress about it. What I know is that he (Eduardo) had also withdrawn the charges he had filed earlier against the soldiers.
So, the soldiers were never prosecuted.
The views shared in this interview do not necessarily reflect those of the AHRC, and the AHRC takes no responsibility for them.
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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.
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