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Posts Tagged ‘human rights’

In CHR Hearing, Melissa Roxas Reiterates Abduction, Torture Charges Vs Military

Posted by lenolea on July 23, 2009

The description by Filipino-American activist Melissa Roxas of the place where she was brought to be tortured and interrogated after her abduction seemed consistent with what a team from the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) saw during an inspection at Fort Magsaysay, a military camp in Nueva Ecija province north of Manila.

This was one of the revelations that came out in today’s CHR hearing of Roxas’s abduction and torture.

Testifying before an en banc CHR, Roxas recalled the incident on May 19 in Barangay Bagong Sikat, La Paz, Tarlac, and reiterated the content of the affidavit she earlier submitted to the Supreme Court.

Roxas also revealed that the beatings “became less” when she told her captors that she is an American citizen.

(Click here for more stories and multimedia content on Melissa Roxas.)

In the same hearing, military officials denied that elements from the Army’s 7th Infantry Division based in Fort Magsaysay had a hand in Roxas’s abduction and torture.

Roxas recalled that on May 19, while watching television, at least 15 men with long firearms barged into the house where Roxas and her two companions, Juanito Carabeo and John Edward, were staying. The three were dragged into a blue van, handcuffed, blindfolded then brought to a place that took more than hour to reach.

(Click here for more stories and multimedia content on torture in the Philippines.)

Asked by the commissioners about the place of her detention, Roxas said she heard the sound of planes landing and taking off, shots coming from what sounded like firing ranges and noise from a construction site. She also heard vehicles passing by, she said.

Later, CHR chairperson Leila de Lima told the military officials in the hearing that a CHR team that conducted a surprise visit to Fort Magsaysay on June 10 “saw an airstrip, four firing ranges and a building under construction.”

“We vehemently deny the accusations against us,” said Col. Leonido Bongcawil, who represented Major Gen. Ralph Villanueva, commanding officer of the 7th Infantry Division, at the hearing.

Lt. Col. Herminio Barrios, legal counsel of the 7th ID, said there is no evidence pointing to military men as responsible for Roxas’s fate. He said travel from La Paz, Tarlac, to Fort Magsaysay takes about 30 minutes.

Bongcawil pointed out that that there are 19 more airfields near La Paz, Tarlac.

Bongcawil said it was unfair of Roxas to say that she was held in Fort Magsaysay. “Fort Magsaysay is a tourist destination,” Bongcawil said.
To this, de Lima asked: “If it were a tourist destination, how come we were held 40 minutes [before being allowed to enter]?” Bongcawil said it was part of their “standard operating procedure.”

De Lima said they were not allowed access to some parts of the camp during their inspection.

“Will you allow us unhampered access if we decide to go back to Fort Magsaysay?” de Lima asked Bongcawil. The military officer replied that it’s up to their commanding officer.

But Barrios butted in, saying that such a visit by the CHR will require approval from the AFP chief of staff.  Full article

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Political Prisoner Remains in Jail Despite Court’s Dismissal of Cases

Posted by lenolea on July 19, 2009

MANILA — “How can we claim to be under a democracy when a political prisoner continues to languish in jail even as all the trumped-up charges filed against her have already been dismissed?”

This is the question foremost in the mind of the relatives and colleagues of Elizabeth Principe, who remains detained at Camp Crame a week after her release had been ordered by the Regional Trial Court Branch 30 in Nueva Vizcaya. On July 6, the court dismissed the robbery with murder case — the last of six charges filed against Principe– for lack of probable cause.

All other cases against Principle that were filed in Cauayan, Isabela; Dupax, Nueva Vizcaya and Candon, Ilocos Sur were earlier dismissed, according to the Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at para sa Amnestiya (Selda).

Principe, a health worker in Cagayan Valley and consultant for the negotiating panel of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in the peace talks with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP), was abducted by five elements of the Military Intelligence Group on Nov. 28, 2007 in Cubao, Quezon City. For three days, she was handcuffed, blindfolded, heavily interrogated and kept incommunicado. She was presented to the media as a high-ranking member of the New People’s Army (NPA) before being transferred to Camp Crame, the police headquarters. Full article

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Abducted Peasant Activist Found Detained in Camp Crame Without Charges

Posted by lenolea on July 4, 2009

MANILA — A peasant activist who was abducted in Taguig City on June 21 has been found after 10 days. His family located him inside the police headquaters in Camp Crame in Quezon City, detained without formal charges, a human-rights lawyer told Bulatlat.

Obito Marquez, 31, a peasant activist from Occidental Mindoro, was taken just outside his house at the Maharlika Village in Taguig City at around 10 p.m. on June 21 by four armed men in civilian clothes. According to witnesses, Marquez was forced inside a beige Toyota Innova. The other abductors rode a white Nissan Sentra sedan.

The next morning, Marquez’s wife discovered one of his slippers outside their home while looking for him. Only then did she realize that her husband was missing.

Marquez is just one of the recent cases of abductions of activists in the Philippines, where many activists have been abducted, tortured and killed by state security forces.

Marquez was one of the 72 activists from Southern Tagalog who were charged with murder in connection with a New People’s Army raid in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro, a charge that the activists had denied.

In February this year, however, the case was dismissed on technical grounds.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas said elements from the Philippine National Police in Southern Tagalog were responsible for Marquez’s abduction.

Members of Karapatan organized a quick reaction team to search for Marquez. On July 2, Marquez’s family and Karapatan staff saw Marquez’s name on the list of detainees at Camp Crame, the general headquarters of the PNP. They were, however, not allowed to see Marquez.

The next day, lawyer Rex Fernandez, legal counsel of Karapatan, went to Camp Crame to visit Marquez. Fernandez told Bulatlat that Marquez was tortured, blindfolded for four days and handcuffed.

“He said no warrant was shown to him when he was arrested. He was denied access to his family and to legal counsel. He was made to sign and thumb mark documents under duress,” Fernandez said.

The human-rights lawyer added that the authorities have not informed them of any pending case against Marquez.

Fernandez said Marquez was taken to two other places before he was brought to Camp Crame. “He was interrogated and was being made to admit that he is a member of the New People’s Army,” Fernandez said.

In an interview with Bulatlat, Ghay Portajada, secretary-general of Desaparecidos, said that while they were happy to see Marquez alive, they denounce the violation of Marquez’s rights.

Marquez’s father Ernesto called on the authorities to release his son. “He did not commit any crime. He just wants to help our fellow farmers,” Ernesto said.

In a statement, the KMP said the Arroyo government has “a huge blood debt to the peasantry” for implementing its counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya (Operation Freedom Watch) 1 and 2.

The counter-insurgency program, the KMP deemed, is characterized by extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and arrest and detention of members and leaders of people’s organizations.

Antonio Flores, convenor of Tanggol Magsasaka (Defend Peasants) and spokesman of the KMP, said 553 or more than half of the total victims of extrajudicial killings under the Arroyo regime were peasants. According to Karapatan, more than a thousand activists have been killed since 2001, still a thousand more were tortured and more than 200 have disappeared.

Flores cited the killing of Fermin Lorico of Kaugmaon (KMP Negros Oriental) who was killed on June 10 after attending an anti-charter change rally in Dumaguete; the killing of Eddie Gumanoy of Kasama-TK and Renato Pacaide of KMP Far Southern Mindanao Region, the enforced disappearance of Nilo Arado of KMP Panay and the continuing detention of Randall Echanis, KMP deputy secretary general for external affairs.

“This is the legacy of the Arroyo government, almost a decade of being in a dark age for human rights in the country. All democratic forces and groups and those concerned for human rights should work together to call for justice and force the Arroyo government to answer for her bloody and deadly rule over the people,” Flores said. (Bulatlat.com)

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