PHILIPPINES: Case of Jedil Esmael Mestiri-ALRC responds to Government’s report to UN Committee against Torture

A Statement by the Asian Legal Resource Centre

PHILIPPINES: Case of Jedil Esmael Mestiri-ALRC responds to Government’s report to UN Committee against Torture 

On July 2012, the UN Committee against Torture, the Treaty Body that monitors the implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (CAT), had requested the government to respond to a List of Issues (LoI) (UN Doc. CAT/C/PHL/Q/3) as part of its review process.

As a State party to the CAT, the Philippines was expected to respond to the Committee’s questions, and include their response in its periodic report. Included in the list of issues are requests for information on cases that the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), the ALRC’s sister organisation, submitted to UN agencies.

On November 2014, the Government submitted its third periodic report, and responded to questions by the Committee in their report. In the first part of our response, we will focus on the case of Jedil Esmael Mestiri, a torture victim.

Below is the Committee’s questions, the response of the Government, and comments of the ALRC:


Please comment on the case of Jedil Esmael Lylestiri, who was allegedly tortured by military intelligence personnel on 26 June 2011; (para. 5)


Jedil Esmael Mestiri was arrested by the PNP, with the assistance of members of the 32nd Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army by virtue of a warrant of arrest for murder and arson.  Per investigation conducted by the Basilan Provincial Police Office (PPO), Mestiri was turned over to Lamitan City Police Station the following day after his arrest, for his proper disposition and subsequent commitment to the court.  Before Mestiri was brought to the Provincial Jail of Isabela, he was given a medical examination at the Basilan General Hospital where no signs of physical abuse or maltreatment were found. Basilan PPO maintained that Mestiri was treated fairly at the time of his confinement and that he was not subjected to any kind of torture.

ALRC comments:

Jedil Esmael Mestiri’s arrest was neither based on a warrant for murder or arson nor was he arrested by a police officer. On June 26, 2011, a certain alias Ben, a military intelligence officer, took Mestiri from his home in Lamitan City to Camp 1 of the military battalion in Lamitan City, Basilan. He agreed to follow Ben’s requests as he knows Ben, and he himself had previously served the military as an informant. (For details: AHRC-UAC-174-2011)

At the camp, Captain Guianan, instructed his men to tie Mestiri’s hands and feet with a nylon cord, and blindfold him. He was then repeatedly punched in the chest. The soldiers questioned him, not for murder or arson, but for a bombing incident in 2010 and the kidnapping of an engineer. All this was done without the presence of legal counsel.
On June 27, still under the soldier’s custody, Mestiri was deprived of food but given only water to drink.  Soldiers took him to the police station. Here they removed his blindfold, and untied his hands. He was then brought to the court in Isabela City. When he was taken to the hospital, Mestiri complained of chest pains to the examining Doctor. However, the doctor ignored his complaint. 

It is clear that it was a soldier, not the police who took Mestiri into their custody. The soldier’s seizure, detention and questioning of Mestiri had no legal basis. By claiming that the police arrested him “with the assistance” of the soldiers, the police had in effect exonerated the soldiers from any illegal acts and the crime of torture. Under the law, only the police have the power to arrest, not a soldier or an intelligence officer, unless the person had just committed a crime. Mestiri did not commit a crime.

Also, the charge of arson and murder laid on Mestiri was put forward only after he was questioned by soldiers and taken to the police station, not prior to his arrest. Thus, if the police claims are to be taken at face value, he was arrested before an arrest warrant was issued. Also, the police’s claims that Mestiri was “treated fairly” and “not subjected to any kind of torture” are unsubstantiated and based on a general denial. Obviously, “no signs of physical abuse or maltreatment were found” because the doctor ignored his complaint.

The Government’s response is no different than the police reply to the AHRC when we expressed concern that Mestiri’s claims of chest pain was ignored by the doctor, and that his torture allegations not effectively investigated by the police. 

In the absence of an effective and impartial investigation, no less than the Police Director Nicanor Bartolome, the former chief of the PNP, rejected the allegations of torture against the soldiers (in fact we did not accuse the police). In their letter to the AHRC, Police Director Bartolome conjectured that Mestiri’s chest pains “could have been inflicted when the arresting officers placed him in a prone position to handcuff him.” Bartolome explains that this position “requires a suspect to lie on the ground facing down and is standard technique applied in performing an arrest”.

However, the police claims could not be verified because Mestiri was first arrested not by the police, but by a military intelligence officer. He was tortured by soldiers inside their military camp, not in a police station. He was tortured while he was under the custody of the soldiers and not the police. Clearly, the police who are expected to investigate torture have become an agency that exonerates torturers. (For details: AHRC-UAU-003-2012)

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About the ALRC
: The Asian Legal Resource Centre is an independent regional non-governmental organisation holding general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. It is the sister organisation of the Asian Human Rights Commission. The Hong Kong-based group seeks to strengthen and encourage positive action on legal and human rights issues at the local and national levels throughout Asia.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : ALRC-STM-001-2015
Countries : Philippines,