FORWARDED APPEAL (Philippines): A learning center run by religious groups allegedly torched by military agents in Aurora, Luzon 

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is forwarding to you an appeal from KARAPATAN (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights), a human rights organization based in Manila. The group reported that a learning center, Bataris Formation Center, which was built by the religious groups, was torched by unidentified men believed to be military agents on 27 December 2005.

The Bataris Formation Center was built as a shelter for alternative learning for the basic sectors and lay people in Baler, Aurora. The staffs working for the center strongly suggests of the military’s alleged involvement in the fire incident. Prior to the incident, the staffs working at the Center were reportedly harassed by the military. This is yet another case of harassment and violence against the religious community and human rights activist in the Philippines.

Your immediate intervention is required to ensure that a thorough investigation is conducted into this case. The allegation of the military’s possible involvement must also be investigated. If the allegations are found to be true, appropriate charges must be filed against them.

If you have any questions, please contact the KARAPATAN.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission

UA Date: 27 December 2005

UA Title:*JPAG Office and Alternative Learning Center burned down on Christmas Day in Aurora Province, Philippines
UA Case: Destruction of Property; Harassment

Victim/s: Bataris Formation Center Staff and Beneficiaries of the sectoral People’s Organization (Pamana) and of the local Church (Prelature of Infanta)Located in Sitio Binilwag, Barangay Buhangin, Baler, Aurora, Philippines
Place of Incident: Sitio Binilwag, Barangay Buhangin, Baler, Aurora, Philippines
Date of Incident: 25 December, 2005, around 4:00 AM
Alleged Perpetrators:  elements of the 48th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) based in Aurora province (Brgy. Diabuyo, San Luis, and Brgy. Wenceslao, Maria Aurora, Aurora) under the command of Lt. Col. Joselito Kakilala

Account of Incident:

At around 4:30 am, one of the neighbors at the back side of the Bataris Formation Center in Sitio Binilwag, Brgy. Buhangin, Baler, Aurora, heard what sounded like that of rain drops, which later on proved to be the early stages of burning inside building ‘Che-Che’, the women’s sleeping quarters in the compound. At around 5:30 am a loud explosion was heard in the neighborhood which came from the exploding oil tank of the nearby parked motorcycle (Yamaha 250). This motorcycle was owned by Eddie Pujeda, vice-president of Justice and Peace Action Group of Aurora (JPAG) who had left his motorcycle with the staff’s permission in the compound because he went home to Dingalan the other day.

Upon seeing the burning center, neighbors immediately called the Philippine National Police Baler Station who informed the Fire Brigade station of Baler.

When the staff of Bataris arrived, they, together with the neighbors and other concerned citizens started to put off the high and intensive flames and kept the nearby buildings wet with buckets of water from the water tank inside the compound.

Later the Baler Police came to the site. The Fire truck followed suit at around 6:20 am and with a long hose they were able to reach the burning building. After more or less 30 minutes they adequately put the fire under control. The ‘Che-Che’ Building was totally destroyed as well as the motorcycle of Eddie Pujeda and the other parked motorcycle (Yamaha RS 100) owned by Joey Estriber, staff of Bataris.

The other buildings, the session Hall ‘Obeth’ and the male sleeping quarter’s building ‘Ben & Pio’ only suffered water damage. The wall of ‘Ben & Pio’ building was partially burned.

The damages were estimated to be close to Php 1 million.

After the smoke cleared, the Center’s staff found a partially burned plastic container with its cap and a plastic bag. They also discovered a broken steel bar of the fence. These were turned over to Fire Investigator FO2 Larry Lorente.

Witnesses later shared that at around 4:00 AM, two or three unidentified people got off a tricycle in front of the small market, near the Radio Station of DZRN along San Luis Street, Brgy. Buhangin, Baler, Aurora.

From there they entered the alley going to the backside of the Bataris Formation Center, where they forcibly lowered the cyclone wired fence by bending and breaking the steel bars holding the cyclone wire, and stepping over the fence, thus entering the Center’s compound.

It is suspected that the perpetrators proceeded to the nearest building which is the female sleeping quarters ‘Che-Che’. They entered the building by opening the sliding windows at the entry side close to the door which was locked. They threw gasoline inside the building and set it on fire. After that they proceeded to the session hall ‘Obeth’, the next building inside the compound and again poured gasoline on the staircase, the door, which was locked, and some parts of the wall which they ignited using a piece of cloth and a broom; these were later found near the staircase. However, the flames only blackened the door and the wall, but did not do much damage. Then the suspects left the place going back to the San Luis Street through the alley, where residents heard the suspects’ voices saying: ‘Bilisan mo, Bilisan mo’ (‘Hurry, hurry’) Afterwards they heard a tricycle speeding away.

No one was reported hurt as staff members were on Christmas vacation.

Founded in 1987, Bataris Formation Center has served as an alternative learning center for the basic sectors and lay people. Bishop Emeritus Julio X. Labayen OCD of the Prelature of Infanta chairs the Board of Trustees. The Compound also served as home to the Justice and Peace Action Group a network of KARAPATAN, Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights, National Office.

The incident was immediately reported by the Bataris Staff to the Governor?s Office, Bishop Rolando Tria Tirona, OCD and Bishop Julio X. Labayen, OCD,

Staffers have a strong suspicion that the arson was the handiwork of the military of the 48th IBPA in Aurora, based on the several previous incidents, the latest of which was the harassment by the military of Alfonso van Zijl, Justice and Peace Advocacy Group Secretary General and Manding Colcol, staff member of Bataris on December 14, 2005.

This is the first time in recent history of Aurora, that such form of harassment (arson) took place.

*JPAG: Justice and Peace Advocacy Group; the JPAG is a human rights network of KARAPATAN in Aurora Province.


Send letters, emails or fax messages calling for:

1. The immediate formation of an independent fact-finding and investigation team composed of representatives from human rights groups, the Church, local government, and the Commission on Human Rights that will look into the destruction of property of the Bataris Formation Center and harassment of its staff.

2. The arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators of the crimes of destruction of property and harassment.

3. The immediate and proper indemnification of the family/relatives of the victims; and

4. The Philippine Government to be reminded that it is a signatory to  the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that it is also a party to all the major Human Rights instruments, thus it is bound to observe all of its provisions.

You may send your communications to:

H.E. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
President of the Republic
Malacanang Palace,
JP Laurel St., San Miguel
Manila Philippines
Voice: (+632) 564 1451 to 80
Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968
Cell#: (+ 63) 919 898 4622 / (+63) 917 839 8462
E-mail: /

Hon. Rene V. Sarmiento
*Office of the Peace Process
7th Floor Agustin Building I
Emerald Avenue
Pasig City 1605
Voice:+63 (2) 636 0701 to 066
Fax:+63 (2) 635 9579

Hon. Avelino J. Cruz, Jr.
Room 301 DND Building, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo,
E. de los Santos Avenue
Quezon City
Voice:+63(2) 911-9281 / 911-0488
Fax:+63(2) 911 6213

Hon. Purificacion Valera Quisumbing
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., UP Complex
Commonwealth Avenue
Diliman, Quezon City
Fax: (+632) 929 0102

Please send us a copy of your email/mail/fax to the said government official to our address below.

URGENT ACTION Prepared by:

KARAPATAN (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights)-National Office
43 Masikap St. Barangay Pinyahan, Quezon City 1100 PHILIPPINES
Voice: (+632) 435 4146 / Fax: (+632) 928 6078
Emails: <> /


Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Document Type : Forwarded Urgent Appeal
Document ID : FA-36-2005-01
Countries : Philippines,
Campaigns : Stop extra-judicial killings in the Philippines
Issues : Freedom of religion, Human rights defenders,