PHILIPPINES: Not only witnesses, but complainants needs protection, too 

An Open Letter from the Asian Human Rights Commission to Sr. Supt. Generoso Cerbo Jr., spokesperson of the Philippine National Police (PNP)

Sr. Supt. Generoso Cerbo Jr.
Philippine National Police (PNP)
Camp General Rafael Crame
Quezon City

Tel: +63 2 726 4361/ 4366/ 8763
Fax: + +63 2724 8763

Dear Sr. Supt. Cerbo:

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has read with interest your interview in an article, entitled “Geography, clan protection blamed for police failure to arrest them”, published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer on June 30, 2012. In that report, you were quoted to have told the witnesses in the Maguindanao massacre case:”They just have to go to us, and we will guide them on what to do in order to get police protection.”

You also went on to say: “even without protective security, the witnesses, especially those who live in Maguindanao, should report to us any threats on their lives”. This renewed assurance, however, obviously came about after “reports of the killings. Six people — three witnesses and three relatives of other witnesses — have been killed in connection with the Maguindanao massacre case.”

To hear that the Philippine National Police (PNP) is now publicly encouraging witnesses in coming forward and to give instructions as to how they could secure protection and those who faces threats “should report to us” is good. However, we have strong reservations wether they do apply in reality. From our experience, the complainants and families of the dead who reported overt surveillance on them and threats on their lives had not obtain any sort of protection they urgently require. They never failed in reporting to the police, asking the police to investigate and to provide them protection.

This is what has happened to the case of Noel Christopher Reblando and his sibling, James Ryan and Maria Priscilla, all are children of Alejandro “Bong” Reblando. Alejandro is one of the murdered journalists. We did write to Director General Nicanor Bartolome, chief of the PNP, on March 16, 2012 informing him that Reblando’s children had been the object of an “overt surveillance”. We also requested that the police “takes immediate action and ensure their safety”.

The complaints of the Reblando were recorded in Book of Blotter, Volume 46, Series of 2011 of Station No. 05 in General Santos City. The extract is below:

On November 23, 2011 at 1:04pm; Entry No. 3687:
Noel Christopher Reblando “appeared to this office and requested to put on record as alleged that OOA (on or about) 12:37 November 23, 2011 he saw a person in military uniform push his single motorcycle and passed to the front of their residence by the time that he was saw by the said person who is in military uniform. He start his single motorcycle and speed up towards north direction” [quoted verbatim].

On the same day, his other son also reported; Entry No. 3687:
James Ryan Reblando “appeared to this office and requested to put on record that sometimes of first week of October there was a group of Muslim’s person from North Cotabato was for him it was gaining information for his father was a victim of Maguidanao massacre (Bong Reblando) and 2nd time sometimes of 3rd week of October 2011 a group of three (3) malefactor boarded on top down passed three (3) times to the front of their residence and sightseeing to their house, by the time that they got assumed said top down speed-up towards south direction” [quoted verbatim]

On December 9, 2011, his other daughter also reported; Entry No. 3865:
Maria Priscilla Zainal “appeared to this office and requested to put on record as alleged that OOA (on or about) 5:05pm of this date one multicab color white stop fronting a little to their house boarded with one person and sightseeing to their house from the northside of their home the driver drove his multicab slowly mobiling to the south direction of their home” [quoted verbatim]

As quoted from the extract, Reblando’s children had done what obviously you would want witnesses and others facing threats should have been doing: they report to the police, they record their complaint. Yes, you are correct that they could report but whether what they had reported complaining about threats on their lives would result to police providing them protection, we have yet to see.

In fact, despite the urgency of our appeal to protect Reblando’s children, as of today we have not received any reply from the PNP. It is obvious that no action were taken by the police neither to our urgent appeal letter nor the complaints of the Reblandos.

We appreciate that the police had reaffirmed the importance of protecting witnesses and those needing protection; however, we have yet to see evidence that they would be applied in practice; and that what has been said would be done.

Yours sincerely,

Md. Ashrafuzzaman
Programme Officer
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong

Document Type : Open Letter
Document ID : AHRC-OLT-014-2012
Countries : Philippines,
Campaigns : Maguindanao Massacre
Issues : Extrajudicial killings, Freedom of expression, Victims assistance & protection,