PHILIPPINES: Police justify arrest and detention of an ailing man as a substitute for a wanted man because they ‘look the same’


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAU-018-2013
ISSUES: Arbitrary arrest & detention, Fabrication of charges, Prosecution system, Right to fair trial, Victims assistance & protection,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has been informed that an ailing man whom the police have illegally arrested and detained as a substitute for a wanted man will not be released from jail. The police justified their action by insisting they had proof that the victim’s facial features and those of the wanted person are the same. However, the evidence was the testimonies of the policemen and a witness neither of whom had personal knowledge of the victim’s real identity nor they had witnessed the victim perpetrating the bombing as charged.

UPDATED INFORMATION: (Based on the information from the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP))

In our previous appeal we reported that Mohjeennar Dagam Cabalo (reported earlier as Mujeenar), a 35-year-old man, was illegally arrested and detained as a substitute for a wanted man allegedly for the purpose of claiming the reward money. On March 5, 2013, nine policemen, two of whom were identified as P03 Chester Reyes and PO2 Wilfredo Bobon, of the Mindanao Area Police Intelligence Operation (MAPIO) of the Philippine National Police (PNP), arrested Mohjeennar while he was being treated for his heart ailment inside the Ciudad Medical Zamboanga, Zamboanga City. For details please see: AHRC-FUA-001-2013.

In our appeal letter to the PNP, we have asked for an investigation into allegations that Mohjeennar Cabalo’s arrest was without legal basis. However, the police insist they have proof that Mohjeennar and “Aman Kabalu”, one of the accused in the October 5, 2007 bombing incident in Kidapawan City, are one and the same. But apart from the joint testimony of P03 Reyes and P02 Bobon declaring the victim and an alias Aman Kabalu/Rahmin/Rahim are the same person, neither of them had any personal knowledge of his actual identity.

Also, in P03 Reyes and P02 Bobon’s testimony it was clear that the photograph the policemen presented to the witness, Tukan Dogongan, was taken during a covert operation by the intelligence officers of MAPIO, on February 22, 2013 in Isabela, Basilan province. Tukan, a former rebel who claimed to have known all the accused, declared in his affidavitthat Mohjeennar is “Aman Kabalu” by looking at the photo without even seeing him in person.

Therefore, the photograph that the police used as justification for the victim’s illegal arrest, detention and prosecution, could not have been credible as first, it was obtained illegally via a covert police operation and secondly, neither in the policemen’s nor the eyewitness testimony did they mentioned that they had witnessed “Aman Kabalu” perpetrating the bomb blast. In his testimony, Tukan’s claim was only “I knew the personalities involved” and “they were my friends”.

In response to the AHRC’s appeal, a letter dated May 2, 2013, P/Chief Supt. Francisco Don Montenegro, acting director for Investigation and Detective Management, concluded that “his (victim) facial composite matched the photograph in intelligence files and description of the witness.” He, however, did not offer substantive explanations to address the concerns that the name of the person they have arrested is different.

Also, the detention and prosecution of a person who had been arrested based on an alias or nickname can only be legal when the information and the warrant of arrest is amended to include the person’s real identity. However, the information and the warrant of arrest have not been amended, notably using the real name of the victim written in his clearancefrom the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

Please write letters to the concerned authorities below asking for their intervention to ensure that an effective investigation is conducted into the victim’s allegations.

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Dear __________,

PHILIPPINES: Police justifies arrest and detention of an ailing man as substitute for a wanted man because they ‘look the same’

Name of the victim:
Mohjeennar Dagam Cabalo, 35 years old, married with six children. He is presently detained at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City.
Date of incident: March 5, 2013 
Place of incident: Ciudad Medical Zamboanga, Zamboanga City
Alleged perpetrators:
PO3 Chester Mortola Reyes and PO2 Wilfredo Tarroza Bobon III, members of Philippine National Police (PNP) assigned with Mindanao Area Police Intelligence Operation, under the command of P/Supt. Romeo.

I am writing to express my grave concern regarding the continued detention of Mohjeennar Cabalo, an ailing man whom the police have arrested on March 5, 2013 while receiving treatment at Ciudad Medical Zamboanga, Zamboanga City. I am aware that Mohjeennar’s arrest is based on arrest warrant in connection with the bomb blast in October 5, 2007 in Kidapawan City which killed a child and wounded 25 other people.

I welcome the investigation by the police on allegations questioning the legality of Mohjeenar’s arrest, notably since the victim’s real name is neither in criminal complaint for murder nor the warrant of arrest which could have justified his arrest. I am aware that the police’s justification to continuously detain and prosecute Mohjeennar is based on the testimony of the two arresting officers, whose names are mentioned above; and a witness, who claims the victim and the wanted person are the same only by looking at the photograph. The policemen who arrested the victim had also been accused of committing irregularities in arresting and detaining the victim.

However, upon reading the joint testimony of P03 Reyes and P02 Bobon; and of Tukan Dogongan, the prosecution’s witness and former rebel, there was nothing in their testimony which they indicated that “Aman Kabalu”, the person they claimed as Mohjeennar, was responsible for the bomb blast. Moreover, the identification of the victim as “Aman Kabalu” was only through photographs taken from a covert operation. In Tukan’s testimony, he only indicated that he knew the personalities involved and that they were his friends. And, in all their testimonies they had relied on the photograph taken during a well-planned covert operation by the police intelligence officers on February 22, 2013 in Isabela, Basilan province. I have concerns regarding the use of the photograph for identification since it was taken a month before the victim’s arrest, and nearly six years after the bomb blast.

Also, even if we accept the police claim that Mohjeennar is indeed “Aman Kabalu” the criminal complaint and the arrest order have not been amended to include the victim’s real identity. Therefore, the victim’s arrest and detention is questionable, if not illegal. I am deeply concerned that this person had been arrested, detained and prosecuted by heavily relying on the testimonies of policemen and a witness. I am aware that the victim had shown proof, notably his clearance from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) that he is not the wanted person in the murder case; however, it appears that his documentary evidence about his identity has not been considered in this case.

I urge you to review the result of your investigation. Unless the concerns and issues questioning the legality of the victim’s arrest and detention are resolved the police authorities would be complicit in the detention and prosecution of the wrong person as a substitute for the actual criminal.

I trust that you take immediate action on this matter.

Yours sincerely,


1. Mr. Benigno Simeon Aquino III
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
Email: /

2. Ms. Loretta Ann Rosales 
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. Police Director Alan LM. Purisima
Philippine National Police
Camp General Rafael Crame
Quezon City
Fax: +63 2 724 8763/ +63 2 723 0401
Tel: + 63 2 726 4361/4366/8763

4. Ms. Leila de Lima 
Department of Justice (DOJ) 
DOJ Bldg., Padre Faura 
1004 Manila 
Fax: +63 2 521 1614 

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Desk 
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) (