UPDATE (Philippines): Court acquits four torture victims after nearly seven years of trial


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAU-002-2010
ISSUES: Administration of justice, Arbitrary arrest & detention, Torture,

Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is pleased to inform you that four of the five torture victims whose illegal arrest, torture and trial under fabricated charges we reported earlier, have been acquitted by a local court. The victims, two of whom were minors at the time of their arrest, were prosecuted for two bombing incidents in 2003 in Davao City.


When we first reported this case (UA-69-2005) in April 2005, the victims had already been charged with multiple murders and frustrated murders in connection with the March and April 2003 bombing incidents in Davao City, which killed dozens of people. Their case had been pending for two years without trial (UP-92-2005).

But on 29 January 2010 the media reported that four of the victims, namely Tohamie Ulong, Ting Idar, Jimmy Balulao and Esmael Mamalangkas, had been acquitted by Judge Pelagio Paguican of the Regional Trial Court Branch 12 in Davao City, from two charges because “the prosecution was unable to provide sufficient evidence that would prove the guilt of all the accused beyond reasonable doubt”.

When they were arrested, Tohamie and Jimmy were minors. Judge Paguican, however, convicted the co-accused Toto Akmad, for his ‘direct participation’ in the 4 March 2003 bomb blast, which took place in the waiting shed of Davao International Airport, killing 22 persons and wounding 145 others. Like the four others, Akmad was tortured after his arrest.

The military and the police deliberately covered up the incidents of torture. However several days after their arrest, a former staff member of the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), a local human rights organization, was able to interview each of the victims while they were held at the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG XI) headquarters in Davao City.

However after the victims had signed their sworn statements the following day, Senior Police Officer 2 (SPO2) Gabunada of the CIDG had them confiscated and the police refused to return them. Fortunately an electronic copy of three of the victim’s statements had been stored by the TFDP in Davao City.  Yet though SPO2 Gabunada was reprimanded after he was charged with administrative complaint, the copies have never been returned.

Reproduced below are excerpts of the testimonies that Balulao, Idar and Mamalangkas made regarding their torture:

Jimmy Balulao:
“I was blindfolded with a cloth and masking tape. They interrogated and tortured me inside the 6th ID (Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao) camp and forced to admit of participating in Davao International airport bombing and Sasa wharf bombing. I was repeatedly mauled. They placed my belt on my neck and pulled it upwards to strangle me until I could already hardly breathe. I was dragged near a dog pen and I was threatened to be fed to the dogs every time I deny any involvement in those bombings.

While I was interrogated, one of my abductors kept on hitting my elbow with a hard object until it got numbed. I was made to lie on the cement floor while three (3) bullets were place between his three (3) left fingers and then it was pressed which was very painful. They placed an object on my lap, which according to them was a bomb, to frighten men and then they did it twice. They repeatedly punched my head and other parts of my body.

Then they brought Tohamie (his co-accused) near me who persuaded me to admit participation in the Davao airport and Sasa wharf bombing so that our abductors will stop torturing us but I still refused. One of my abductors told me to admit the bombing otherwise more harm will be inflicted on us once we are brought to Davao City. I was complaining of my body pains but I was not allowed to be examined.

Because of fear that I will be eventually killed if I will continue denying it I was forced to admit my participation in those bombings while undergoing investigation at the CIDG”

Ting Idar:
“I was placed in a room where I was tortured. One of my abductors placed an object on my lap to frighten me, which according to him is a bomb, but it did not explode when it fell to the floor. Our abductors forced me to admit participation in the Davao International airport and Sasa wharf bombing incidents. They repeatedly mauled me and placed a rope around my neck which they pulled up every now and then, until I could not breathe.

They again placed an object on my lap which according to them is a bomb and they let me sit on the bowl inside a comfort room. Then they brought me out of the comfort room and they threatened to electrocute me if I will not admit my participation in the said bombings. They electrocuted my left foot, which caused me intense pain and I almost lost consciousness. When I was almost unconscious they poured water on me

Upon reaching the CIDG in Davao City (after being flown from Cotabato City), they compelled me to affixed my thumb mark on some documents which I do not know and one of the officers assigned there even pointed his handgun between my eyes. I complained of body pains, but I was not examined.”

Esmael Mamalangkas:
“They forced me to a waiting vehicle were my co-accused were already held. They brought us to the 6ID at Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao where we were held in a room. They punched and kicked me in different parts of my body while I was blindfolded with a cloth and a masking tape. I was forced and tortured by my abductors to admit participation in the bombing incidents which I have nothing to do with. They repeatedly mauled me.”

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) extends its deep appreciation to the victims’ families and their lawyer Hamlet Pahm, for their enormous contribution in exonerating the victims from the false charges, and obtaining their release. We also thank those who intervened in this case through our Urgent Appeals program.

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Update
Document ID : AHRC-UAU-002-2010
Countries : Philippines,
Issues : Administration of justice, Arbitrary arrest & detention, Torture,