PHILIPPINES: Five months on, no charges filed against soldiers who tortured indigenous villagers


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-074-2010
ISSUES: Arbitrary arrest & detention, Indigenous people, Inhuman & degrading treatment, Torture,

Dear Friends, 

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) writes to inform you that charges have not yet been filed in court against soldiers involved in illegally arresting, detaining, torturing and threatening to kill five indigenous tribe members over a number of days. On December 1, 2009 the victims, one of them a minor, were arrested while searching for rare bird’s nest in the forest. The soldiers also reportedly forced them to act as guides during a combat operation after claiming that they were rebel sympathizers. 


It was on 1 December 2009 at 6pm that five people, Rolan Corpuz, 20; Jun Jun Acleto, 17; Ricky Torres, 21; Lolit Agbayani; and Edwin Buryo, 30, were illegally arrested by soldiers attached to the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army (PA) in Barangay Dikapinisan, Dingalan town, Aurora province of Luzon. The victims, who are members of an indigenous tribe Dumagat, were searching for rare birds’ nests when the soldiers arrested them. 

Before the soldiers caught up with them in the forest, the five victims had already been searching for “Layang-layang”, a local term for the rare expensive and rare bird’s nest; a source of income for the indigenous people of the area. They are people whose way of life still revolves around the forest. They have no education and cannot read and write. 

The victims were surprised when ten fully armed soldiers stopped and searched them without explaining why. The soldiers conducted body searches and demanded a Community Tax Certificate (CTC), a document that government agencies require as proof of a Filipino’s local residency. 

The soldiers arrested them after they failed to produce this certificate and identification documents. In the Philippines, soldiers systematically suspect and search people, particularly those they had caught in forest area, as either being rebels or persons doing suspicious activities once they cannot show proof of their residency and identity. This has already affected villagers in the remote areas, particularly the indigenous people, who still continue to live in what may be considered a backward lifestyle. 

Upon reaching the camp the victims claim that the soldiers began to torture them. One after the other they were subjected to interrogation. The soldiers demanded that they cooperate and affirm that they indeed have knowledge about the activities of the New Peoples’ Army (NPA), a rebel group, in the area. 

One of the victims, Rolan, was told that they would give him Php 10,000 (USD 215) as a reward once he revealed the location of the rebels’ firearms and ammunitions. When he told the soldiers that he had no knowledge about the NPA and that he and companions were only searching for bird’s nest, they reportedly choked and kicked him. Two other soldiers also repeatedly kicked him. 

Another victim, Ricky, was also repeatedly kicked in different parts of his body in front of Rolan, and soldiers also punched another victim, Jun Jun, in his stomach; a Sergeant named Moreno allegedly beat him with a steel pipe. The soldiers also threatened that if they did not reveal any information about the rebels they would kill them. The soldiers ordered Ricky to dig a pit and warned that if he refused to cooperate he would be buried in it. Out of fear Rolan falsely confessed that they were members of the NPA. 

On December 2 the other victims were taken by the soldiers towards the mountainous they called “Balagbag” in Barangay Alasanay supposedly in search of the firearms that Rolan had buried. To make sure that the victims would not escape, the soldiers tied them together by their waists and hands with rope. For two days, they were in soldiers’ custody in the forest. 

On December 3, Lolit and Rolan were able to escape. Rolan managed to descend from a cliff near a river bank and board a small passenger vessel. He went straight to Fr. Pete Montallana–OFM, a local missionary priest, in Barangay (village) Ibona, where he sought refuge and asked for help. 

On December 5, the other three victims, Jun Jun, Ricky and Edwin, were released from the soldiers’ custody. When they were released, no information was given on what charges they had been held. Despite having been identified, the soldiers have continuously denied either taking them into custody or having tortured them. 

Since the incident some of the victims have sought refuge at one of the churches in Metro Manila. When Dr. Ben Molina, a medical expert, examined Rolan and Jun Jun the torture marks and bruises were still visible, particularly along their arms. Rolan has been finding it difficult to breathe due to his injuries. 

According to our reports soldiers in this area have been conducting an anti-insurgency campaign, distributing leaflets to the communities that warn of insurgents using church staff, particularly priests, to advance an anti-government agenda. 

The victims have filed a complaint against the soldiers with the regional office of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR-III) in San Fernando, Pampanga. Although the investigation has been completed and the findings forwarded to the head office in Manila, no charges have been filed in court. The CHR initially refused the local groups helping the victims (the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines or TFDP-Luzon) access to documents about their investigation, claiming that they are confidential. 


Please write letters to the authorities listed below asking for their intervention to ensure that charges under the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 are filed against the soldiers involved. 

The AHRC has also written letters to the Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the Independent Expert on Minority Issues. 

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


Dear ___________, 

PHILIPPINES: Five months on, no charges filed against soldiers who tortured indigenous villagers 

Name of the victims
1. Lolit Agbayani 
2. Rolan Corpuz 
3. Jun Jun Acleto 
4. Ricky Torres 
5. Edwin Buryo 
All of them are Dumagats, a group of Indigenous People (IP) in the area 
Alleged perpetrators: Soldiers attached to the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army (PA) based in Fort Ramon Magsaysay, Palayan City, Nueva Ecija 
Place of incident: Barangay Dikapinisan, Dingalan, Aurora province 
Date of incident: December 1, 2009 

I am writing to draw your attention to the illegal arrest, detention and torture of five people belonging to an indigenous group on December 1, 2009. The victims, whose names are mentioned above, were searching for a rare bird’s nest to sell when the soldiers stopped and searched them without explanation. 

All the victims were taken to a place believe to be the soldier’s camp, attached to the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army (PA). While they were in soldier’s custody, all were subjected to questioning one after the other, and told to affirm that they have knowledge about the activities of New Peoples’ Army (NPA), a rebel group, in the area. 

The soldiers reportedly tried to bribe one of the victims, Rolan, with Php 10,000 (USD 215), should he reveal the location of rebel firearms and ammunition. The soldiers instead choked him and simultaneously kicked him when he told them he had no knowledge and they were only searching bird’s nest in the forest. The two other soldiers had also pushed and repeatedly kicked his chest, stomach and his back. 

Another victim, Ricky, was also repeatedly kicked in different parts of his body in front of Rolan. Another victim, Jun Jun, was also punched in the stomach and a certain “Sergeant Moreno” beat him with a steel pipe. The soldiers also threatened to kill them all if they could not reveal any information about the rebels. Ricky was also asked to dig a pit and threatened that if he continuously refuse to cooperate he would be buried in the same pit he was digging. 

Because of the pain and the fear, Rolan reports falsely admitting to their being NPA members. The following day, Rolan and his companions accompanyied the soldiers in Barangay Alasanay to retrieve the firearms that he had supposedly buried. The soldiers tied all the victims with a rope by their waists and hands. They were in the soldier’s custody for two days in the forest. 

I have learned though that two of the victims, Rolan and Lolit were able to escape from the soldier’s custody on December 3, the three remaining victims were not released from custody until December 5. However on their release there were no explanations as to why, and on what charges they had been arrested and held. The soldiers, whose unit the victims had been positively identified, have either denied any responsibility, or the fact that they had taken the victims into their custody at all. 

While I understand that the regional office of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR-III) has investigated the victims’ case, I am deeply concerned by the lack of transparency and the delay in the filing of any charges against the soldiers in court. I have learned that the groups helping the victims have been denied access to the results of the investigation, and have been told that they are confidential. I cannot comprehend why persons or groups helping the victims are not allowed to read this document. 

I therefore urge you to ensure that appropriate charges are taken against the soldiers involved without further delay under the provision of the Anti-Torture Act of 2009. The victims should also be afforded adequate assistance, particularly for rehabilitation and treatment for the injuries they suffered; and adequate compensation should also be afforded to them as provided by the law. 

Respectfully yours, 


1. Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo 
Republic of the Philippines 
Malacanang Palace 
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel 
Manila 1005 
Fax: +63 2 736 1010 
Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80 

2. Ms. Leila De Lima 
Commission on Human Rights 
SAAC Bldg., Commonwealth Avenue 
U.P. Complex, Diliman 
Quezon City 
Fax: +63 2 929 0102 
Tel: +63 2 928 5655 / 926 6188 

3. Deputy Director General Jesus A. Verzosa 
Chief, Philippine National Police (PNP) 
Camp General Rafael Crame 
Quezon City 
Fax: +63 2724 8763 
Tel: +63 2 726 4361/4366/8763 

4. Mr. Alberto Agra 
Acting Secretary 
Department of Justice (DoJ) 
DOJ Bldg., Padre Faura 
1004 Manila 
Fax: +63 2 521 1614 

5. Mr. Emilio Gonzalez 
Deputy Ombudsman 
Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Military 
and Other Law Enforcement Offices 
3rd Floor, Ombudsman Bldg., Agham Road, Diliman 
1104 Quezon City 
Fax: +63 2 926 8747 
Tel: +63 2 926 9032 

6. Mrs. Celia Capadocia-Yangco 
Acting Secretary 
Department of Social Welfare and Development 
DSWD Bldg., Constitution Hills, Batasan Complex, 
Quezon City 
Tel: +63 2 931 8191 / 931 8068 
Telefax: +63 2 931 8191 

Thank you. 

Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission ( 

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : AHRC-UAC-074-2010
Countries : Philippines,
Issues : Arbitrary arrest & detention, Indigenous people, Inhuman & degrading treatment, Torture,