The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) writes to inform you that a farmer, who was last seen being tortured while in the custody of members of a paramilitary unit of the military, has disappeared since January 2010. The perpetrators were formerly members of an illegal armed group before becoming members of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU), a paramilitary unit which the military continues to maintain and controls.
CASE NARRATIVE: (According to information received from the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines – Visayas (TFDP))
The victim, 40-year-old Ambrosio Derejeno, disappeared after he was last seen being tortured while in the custody of Ilo and Lontoy Surio, both members of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU), at 1pm on January 12, 2010. CAFGU is a paramilitary unit under the control and supervision of the Philippine Army. The members of this unit act on the orders of their commanding officers to whom they are accountable.
At the time, Ambrosio was with his son 19-year-old son, Edwin, working in their farm in Barangay (village) Sumoroy, Lope de Vega, northern Samar. They were stripping abaca. When it was time for them to take a break for lunch, Ambrosio had asked Edwin to fetch water from a nearby creek, which is not far from the makeshift hut where they were staying.
In his testimony, Edwin said that as he was returning, he had seen several armed men surrounding their hut where his father was. They were wearing camouflage fatigues. Edwin has positively identified two of the men as Ilo and Lontoy Surio whom he had seen tying the hands of his father with a rope behind his back. He was familiar with the two because they are also locals in their area. The two were formerly members of an armed group, Dose Pares, who had been absorbed by the military as members of CAFGU. Their companions were seen pointing their weapons at his father.
Under the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 the act of tying someone and threatening them with firearms constitutes torture. No other physical act is deemed necessary.
The membership of Ilo and Lontoy Surio in CAFGU had also been confirmed by the commanders of the two Infantry Battalions (IB) of the Philippine Army (PA)–Lt. Col. Paloma of the 63rd Infantry Battalion (IB) in Tinambacan, Calbayog and Lt. Col. Narciso of the 20th Infantry Battalion (IB) in Catubig, Northern Samar. However it was not immediately known to which of these battalions the perpetrators were directly attached.
When Edwin witnessed the incident, he was hiding in a bamboo grove to avoid drawing attention to himself. Edwin saw his father being taken away by the group as they walked past the grove where he was hiding. He waited for his father at the makeshift hut hoping the he would return but he did not. It was the last time he saw him alive.
When night fell, Edwin left their farm and reported the incident to the barangay officials in the same village. Edwin also requested a village council member, Paeng, to accompany him in going to their home to be able to tell his family, who live in Poblacion (downtown area) Lope de Vega, Northern Samar.
On January 13, 2010, Edwin requested his two cousins, Boyet and Edgar, to accompany him back to their farm in the hopes that his father might have returned; or they could still find him somewhere should they look for him there, but to no avail. Since then, they have not received any information about the whereabouts of his father apart from a message sent to them by a concerned neighbor (the identity of whom cannot be revealed) who claimed that his father had been killed in Barangay Victory, Silvino Lobos.
On March 25, 2010, Edwin filed a complaint with the regional office of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR VIII) in Tacloban City, Leyte with the assistance of the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP). However, in resolving the complaint, the CHR ruled in its resolution dated July 1, 2010 that the alleged perpetrators could only be criminally liable for ‘Arbitrary Detention’. The CHR has already recommended the filing of charges with the Provincial Prosecutors Office (PPO) in Catarman, Northern Samar.
The CHR’s resolution however did not include the criminal liability of the military commanders who had direct supervision and control over the alleged perpetrators, under the principle of command responsibility of the Anti-torture Act of 2009 (R.A. 9745). Section 13 of this law provides that: “the immediate commanding officer of the unit concerned of the AFP or the immediate senior public official of the PNP and other law enforcement agencies shall be held liable as a principal to the crime of torture”.
In the Philippines enforced and involuntary disappearance is not yet a criminal offense. There are no legal remedies for the families of disappeared victims. However, although there is no domestic law on forced disappearances, the newly passed Anti-Torture Act of 2009 has provision wherein the superiors or commanders of the alleged perpetrators could also be held criminally liable under the principle of ‘command responsibility’.
The Philippine government has not ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Thus, the possibility of obtaining domestic remedies for disappeared victims–for example, in this case wherein the victim is himself a torture victim is negligible. Also, in murder cases, the public prosecutors do not prosecute murder complaints in court against perpetrators despite strong evidence that the disappeared victim is dead unless the body is found. This is what has happened to the case of Reynaldo “Bebot” Momay, a journalist who is already presumed dead during the November 23, 2009 Maguindanao Massacre. Reynaldo was a photographer of Midland Review, a local community newspaper. His family, however, were not included amongst the complainants in the charges of murder filed against the perpetrators because apart from his dentures, his body has not been found.
Please write letters to the authorities below requesting them to intervene in this case. The whereabouts of the disappeared victim should be ascertained and the military commanders of the paramilitary unit involved must be held to account under the principle of command responsibility.
The AHRC has also written letters to the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID).
To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER
PHILIPPINES: A farmer tortured in paramilitary’s custody disappears
Name of the victim: Ambrosio Derejeno, 41 years old
Alleged perpetrators: Ilo and Lontoy Surio, both are members of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU), a paramilitary unit. Their commanding officers Lt. Col. Paloma of the 63rd Infantry Battalion (IB) in Tinambacan, Calbayog and Lt. Col. Narciso of the 20th Infantry Battalion IB in Catubig, Northern Samar.
Date and place of the incident: January 12, 2010 in Barangay (village) Sumuroy, Lope de Vega Northern Samar
I am writing to draw your attention to the torture and disappearance of a farmer, Ambrosio Derejeno, on January 12, 2010. He was last seen being tortured in the custody of members of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU), a paramilitary unit, in Lope de Vega, Northern Samar. He has not been seen for eight months and is believed to have been killed.
Ambrosio and his 19-year-old son, Edwin, were taking lunch break from stripping abaca in their farm when a group of CAFGU members, two of whom were positively identified as Ilo and Lontoy Surio and several others, arrived. They were all carrying firearms. The alleged perpetrators were easily recognizable by the victim’s son because they are also locals in their area.
When the group arrived though, Edwin was not present at the makeshift hut. When he was returning from a nearby creek where his father has asked him to fetch water he saw Ilo and Lontoy Surio tying the hands of his father with a rope behind his back. The others were seen pointing their weapons at his father. To avoid drawing attention, Edwin immediately hid himself at the back of a bamboo grove and took up a position where he could keep an eye on what the group was doing. Later he saw his father being taken away towards the creek when the group walked past the bamboo grove.
I have been informed that the two men, Ilo and Lontoy Surio, were formerly members of armed group Dose Pares, known for its illegal activities and abuses, before they were absorbed as members of CAFGU. Their membership had also been confirmed by the two military commanders–Lt. Col. Paloma of the 63rd Infantry Battalion (IB) in Tinambacan, Calbayog and Lt. Col. Narciso of the 20th Infantry Battalion (IB) in Catubig, Northern Samar, all of the Philippine Army (PA).
While I appreciate the action taken by the regional office of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Tacloban City, Leyte in recommending the prosecution of the alleged perpetrators involved for ‘Arbitrary Detention’; I am deeply concerned that no action had been taken against their military commanders. Under section 13 of the Anti-Torture Act of 2009, cases involving a crime of torture, in which the disappeared victim had also experienced, commanders of the perpetrators are also criminally liable.
Also, the military commanders should be compelled to provide a rational explanation for taking Ambrosio into the custody of CAFGU. The burden of the disappearance and locating the body of the victim–whether he is alive or otherwise–is firmly on the shoulders of the Philippine Army and the commanders named above. The failure of the military establishment to take action on this raises serious questions as to how much control and supervision they exercise on the military and paramilitary members under their command.
I fail to comprehend as to why the military commanders in this case have not been included in the prosecution of the case under the principle of command responsibility. I am renewing the call for the disbandment of the paramilitary unit maintained by the military establishment; and to immediately initiate a thorough review into the background of the members who are still active in CAFGU. I am deeply concerned by these ongoing violations the paramilitary members are committing.
Finally, I urge your intervention to ascertain the plight of the disappeared victim. The CHR should also consider reviewing thoroughly the resolution and the recommendation that it has given on the case. I am deeply concerned that unless this is done the CHR has effectively allowed the exoneration of the military commanders from any responsibility from the crime of torture despite knowing full well that they are the commanders.
I also take this opportunity to request the Philippine government to immediately ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. The government’s failure in doing so has continuously denied the families of the victims of enforced and involuntary disappearance any possibility of a remedy.
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:
1. Mr. Benigno Aquino III
Republic of the Philippines
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel
Fax: +63 2 736 1010
Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80
2. Ms. Loretta Ann Rosales
Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., Commonwealth Avenue
U.P. Complex, Diliman
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
Fax: +63 2724 8763
Tel: +63 2 726 4361/4366/8763
4. Ms. Leila de Lima
Department of Justice (DOJ)
DOJ Bldg., Padre Faura
Fax: +63 2 521 1614
5. Mr. Emilio Gonzalez
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
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (email@example.com)