PHILIPPINES: Killing of five more activists and forcible disappearance of another one in separate incidents


Urgent Appeal Case: UA-168-2007
ISSUES: Enforced disappearances and abductions, Extrajudicial killings, Police negligence, Police violence, Violence against women, Women's rights,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) deeply regrets to inform you that another five activists have been killed while another one was forcibly disappeared in separate incidents in February, March and May of this year. These belated reports received from various sources clearly exposes the reality of the alarming state of insecurity the Filipino people are forced to lived with, in particular human rights and political activists, as a result of unabated extrajudicial killings and the complete absence of remedies for victims’ families.


The information below was received from various sources, including the Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights (Karapatan), a human rights organisation based in Quezon City, Metro Manila.

Case 1: Two young men found dead

Around 7:00am on May 15, Ronilo Brezuela and Roberto Bagasbas, Jr. (a.k.a. Junjun) were tasked to deliver food rations for their colleagues who were serving as election watchers at that time. That was the last time they were seen alive. Their bodies were recovered by their relative days later.

According to the information received it was only on the morning of May 17 when Bagasbas’ father, Roberto Sr., learned that two dead were lying at the Capalonga plaza for the purpose of determining their identities. When the elder Bagasbas learned that one of the bodies resembled his son, he hurriedly went to the plaza to check. Upon arrival he found two boxes made of plywood in which the bodies were placed. Soon after opening one of the boxes, he found the decomposing body of his son. His son’s chin was damaged and there was a hole in his chest. His hands were tied with rope behind his back and his feet were also tied.

The elder Bagasbas then sought the permission from the police officers of Capalonga to take his son’s body back home. After the police completed their procedures they allowed him to do so.

While Bagasbas’ body had already been claimed, the body of Brizuela was not claimed until May 19. It was only on this time that his mother, Anita Brezuela, learned about the death of her son from her neighbours. She was not able to claim her son’s body at the time it was presented at the plaza. When she came to know about his son’s death, his body was already buried because nobody had come forward to either claim or identified it when it was presented.

Days before the victims’ bodies were recovered, the villagers in the area on May 16 had heard in the local radio station in Daet, Camarines Norte the announcement by the Philippine Army that it had killed two rebels during an encounter. The military’s claim was however denied by the villagers living in the area where the military claim an encounter took place. The villagers insisted that no such fighting had occurred.

Additionally, hours after the two victims were last seen on May 15, it is learned that their bodies had already been recovered at around 2:00pm. A man whom the military ordered to take the dead bodies and hired vehicles to ferry them towards the village center of Barangay Mataqui, recounted that he had loaded the bodies in a “paragos” (a carabao-drawn cart). He took them down to the village centre where they were presented to the public for identification. Later that evening, the parish priest of Capalonga had blessed the dead bodies which were later found out to be belonging to Bagasbas and Brizuela.

This man who carried the dead bodies had been interviewed by a staff of the Camarines Norte People’s Organization (CNPO).

Case 2: A man was shot dead following arrest and questioning by soldiers

On March 14, Cipriano Ligaspo was on his way home at about 1:30 pm when he was shot dead by two unidentified men wearing bonnets in Masapia, San Andres, Bunawan. Masapia is located about 18 kilometers from the village of Sta. Monica where the victim was residing. It is also close to where the military camp is located. Ligaspo suffered 16 gunshot wounds said to be from 9mm and .45 caliber pistols. Ligaspo is survived by his wife and two children.

At the time of his death, Ligaspo was earning a living as motorcycle driver. Prior to Ligaspo’s death, however, the military had already been allegedly harassing and threatening to kill him. The military had accused Ligaspo of being a sympathizer of a rebel group, the New People’s Army.

A month prior to his death, Ligaspo was together with his brother and five other peasants when they were forcibly taken by 14 military men belonging to the 36th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army, into a military truck on February 20. They were taken to their headquarters stationed in Scaling, Barangay San Roque, Bislig City, Surigao del Sur. The military accused them of supporting the rebels.

While inside the headquarters, the military subjected them to questioning and took photos and video recordings of them. They had them interrogated separately in different rooms as to whether or not they had a certain affiliation or knowledge of the rebel’s activities and their supporters. They were subjected to questioning in the absence of their legal counsels, and were psychologically tortured.

At about 3:00 pm that same day, their relatives and family members went to the military’s headquarters asking for their whereabouts. At that time they were under the military’s custody. Only until at around 5pm when the military allowed their relatives to meet the victims and they were subsequently released. However, they were made to sign a waiver stating that they were in good condition when they were released. Before leaving the camp, they were allegedly threatened that they would be killed if they continued supporting the rebels, allegations which the victims denied.

After Ligaspo’s killing, no suspect has so far been arrested or charged. The military unit involved in allegedly threatening him and his colleagues have not been subjected to investigation to answer the allegations of their possible involvement in the victim’s killing subsequent to the February 20 incident. No appropriate actions have likewise been taken against the said military unit for illegally arresting and detaining the victim and his colleagues.

Case 3: A woman was murdered a day after she was spied on

At around 7:30 am on March 2, Felisa Ocampo was walking in front of her sister’s store when two men suddenly approached and shot her in the forehead. The gunmen waited for awhile to make sure the victim was dead before leaving the area. They also threatened those people who tried to intervene from making any move. The attackers escaped in a car waiting nearby in which two other men were inside. Two other men were seen riding on a motorcycle escorting the car.

After the shooting, Ocampo was immediately rushed to the Morong Municipal Health Unit but was already declared dead on arrival.

A day before the incident, on March 1, it was around 2:30 pm while she was doing her laundry she noticed that four men were apparently monitoring her house. The two men were carrying mobile phones with them. When she noticed the suspicious movement of these two men, she hid in a corner. Ocampo’s neighbours likewise spied on the movement of the two men. The two were seen in front of the victim’s house while the other two men were seen at the nearby marketplace. One of Ocampo’s neighbours asked the two men in front of the house of who are looking for. One of them replied; “Nobody, we’re just waiting for someone.”

Only after two hours or so later did these two men left the area. After they left, Ocampo immediately went outside her house towards her sister’s. She slept at her sister’s place that whole night. She was supposed to report to the police station the following day that she was being spied upon by two men.

Prior to Ocampo’s killing, she had been repeatedly summoned by the military attached to the 24th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army (IBPA) in Balanga, Bataan but she had refused to go for questioning. It is reported that she was allegedly included in the military’s “Order of Battle” list. At the time of her death, Ocampo was a well respected person in their community. She was described as a person whom the villagers could at least seek assistance from. She was the municipal coordinator of a political party, Bayan Muna (People First) in Morong, Bataan chapter.

Case 4: Killing of a man and irregular police investigation
On March 11, Carlito Getrosa was having a usual gathering with his friends and relatives at the back of his house at around 8:30 pm. When Carlito stood up to take his dinner inside the house, a man shot him on the head with a .45 caliber pistol equipped with silencer. The gunman was described as wearing dark long sleeves and a ski mask when he attacked the victim killing him instantly.

After the shooting, the gunman immediately escaped onboard a red motorcycle towards the direction of the national highway. But before leaving, the gunman warned the witnesses not to follow him.

Hours before the shooting incident, it was at around 7:30 pm the witnesses noticed the red motorcycle, a Honda XRM model, parked in front of a small market. Close by was the person sitting on a stall that would later shoot the victim. According to the witnesses, the said person was later seen heading towards Getrosa’s house onboard the motorcycle. The witnesses, however, could not recognize the man at that time because the place was dark. One of the victim’s friends have likewise notice two other men behind a nearby tree, which indicates that the attackers was not alone. The following day, residents discovered traces of boots markings.

Days before the shooting incident, sometime on March 8 to10, the villagers in the area likewise claimed to have noticed persons with suspicious movements. The persons were riding on a motorcycle roaming in the area often during in the afternoon. The motorcycle they were riding on did not bear a license plate number.

At the time of his death, Getrosa was a member of a political party, Bayan Muna (People First).

In late April, the police authorities, in particular the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG XII), have reported to have already filed charges against perpetrators of Getrosa’s murder. The police charged three of Getrosa’s “close associates” as allegedly responsible for the victim’s murder. They claimed to have obtained an affidavit from the victim’s mother, Alicia, as a complainant. Her affidavit was said to have been used in the filing of charges against the three persons.

However, according to sources, there were irregularities in the manner by which the police conducted their investigation and subsequent filing of charges. It is reported that the victim’s mother could not recollect any instances where police investigators have her signed an affidavit regarding her son’s murder. It is alleged that the Alicia’s signature in the complaint could have been forged.

Case 5: Forcible abduction and disappearance of a man

In another incident, it was around 2:00 am on February 25 when five armed men in military uniform and with faces covered with ski masks forcibly entered inside Romualdo Balbuena’s house where he and his family were sleeping inside.

The armed men forcibly destroyed the door and went straight to where Balbuena was sleeping. They immediately grabbed him from his room and forcibly dragged him outside their room. They had his hands tied behind his back. The soldiers dragged him out of their house and forced him towards a vehicle waiting nearby.

Balbuena’s wife, Violeta, was in a state of shock during the incident that she has not been able to immediately intervene and run after her husband’s abductors. At the time, their house had been surrounded by around 17 military men. The vehicle where the victim was taken was seen heading towards national highway.

Although Balbuena family had already sought police assistance and had the incident registered into the police blotter, there has not been substantial progress since. They also went to a nearby detachment of the 34th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army, located few kilometers from their house but they were told they were not holding the victim in their custody. The family likewise sought the help of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) but they are not aware of any progress on the case since. The victim’s whereabouts has remained unknown and still could not be located.

Please write letters to the authorities listed below requesting for them to take the appropriate and effective actions, in particular in identifying, arresting and prosecuting the perpetrators of these cases. The alleged involvement of the military; for instance the cases of Ronilo Brezuela and Roberto Bagasbas, and Cipriano Ligaspo, must be thoroughly investigated. The authorities must exhaust all means to hold those military men involved accountable by filing appropriate charges. To ensure this, they must likewise guarantee the security and protection of the witnesses and the victims’ families without further delay.

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PHILIPPINES: Killing of five more activists and forcible disappearance of another one in separate incidents

Case 1:
Name of the victims killed:
1. Ronilo Brezuela, 16 years old, a resident of Sitio, Maligaya, Barangay (village) Alayao, Capalonga, Camarines Norte. He was a farmer and a member of a youth political party, Kabataan Youth
2. Roberto Bagasbas, Jr. (a.k.a Junjun), 27 years old, a resident of Sitio Ulipanan, Barangay Dahican, Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte. He was also a member of the same party. He was a fisherman
Alleged perpetrators: Elements of the Alpha Company of the 31st Infantry Battalion Philippine Army based in Tigbinan Base, Labo, Camarines Norte 
Place of incident: Sitio Santolan, Barangay Old Camp and Barangay Mataqui, Capalonga, all in the same province.
Date of incident: 15 May 2007

Case 2:
Name of the victim killed: Cipriano Ligaspo, 43 years old, a resident of Sta. Monica, Bunawan Brook, Bunawan, Agusan Del Sur. He had two children. He earns living by driving a motorcycle
Alleged perpetrators: Two unidentified armed men wearing bonnets believed to be members of security forces
Place of incident: Masapia, San Andres, Bunawan, in the same province
Date of incident: At around 1:30pm on 14 March 2007

Case 3:
Name of the victim killed: Felisa Timog Ocampo, 59 years old, a resident of Barangay Poblacion, Morong, Bataan. She was a widow with one child. She was the municipal Coordinator for Bayan Muna (People first) in Morong
Alleged perpetrators: Two unidentified armed men with four other accomplices, two of them were in car and another two were riding on a motorcycle 
Place of incident: In front of a store owned by the victim’s sister in the same place
Date of incident: At 7:30am on 2 March 2007

Case 4:
Name of the victim: Carlito Getrosa, 49 years old, a resident of Purok Narra, Midpapan 2, Pigcawayan, North Cotabato. He was a member of Bayan Muna (People First) in Pigcawayan
Alleged perpetrators: An unidentified gunman described as wearing dark long sleeves and a mask. The person was riding on a red motorcycle. He was alleged to have several accomplices during the attack.
Place of incident: Near the victim’s residence
Date of incident: At around 8:30pm on 11 March 2007

Name of disappeared victim:
1. Romualdo Balbuena, 55 years old, a resident of Barangay 1, Poblacion, Quinapondan, Eastern Samar
Alleged perpetrators: Twenty two persons who are believed to be security forces carrying long firearms and ski masks.
Place of incident: At the victim’s home in Quinapondan, Eastern Samar
Date of incident: At around 2am on 25 February 2007

I am writing to raise my grave concern regarding the killing of another five activists and forcible disappearance of another one in separate incidents in February, March and May this year.

I have learned that on May 15, two young men, namely Ronilo Brezuela (16) and Roberto Bagasbas, Jr. (27), both members of a political party for the youth, Kabataan Youth, were found dead after they are supposed to deliver food rations to their colleagues serving as watchers in elections in Labo, Camarines Norte. I am gravely concerned to allegations of the military’s possible involvement into their death.

I have learned that although the military had already claimed the two victims had been killed during an encounter, there are circumstances that have not been thoroughly investigated thereby putting serious question on this claim. Firstly, while the military claimed an encounter had taken place in the area where the victims’ bodies were recovered, I have learned that according to villagers and witnesses’ accounts there was no such encounter that have occurred.

I am also disappointed on the manner by which the victims’ bodies were displayed for identification at a park in public. It was disorderly that even one of victims’ mothers, Anita Brezuela, was unable to claim it and give his son a descent burial. Had she not been informed by her neighbours four days later, she would have not known the circumstances behind her son’s death. Her son was buried with no one claiming it.

I have also learned that three other activist, namely Cipriano Ligaspo of Bunawan, Agusan Del Sur;  Felisa Timog Ocampo of Morong, Bataan and Carlito Getrosa of Pigcawayan, North Cotabato, have also been killed in separate incidents.

While I am aware that the police have already filed charges against the alleged perpetrators of two of these cases; for instance Ocampo and Getrosa, I am gravely concerned to allegation of irregularities in the police investigation and the subsequent filing of criminal charges in court. For instance, I have learned that the affidavit taken from Getrosa’s mother, Alicia, used in filing the case was alleged to have been fabricated. Gestrosa’s mother, according to my sources, could not remember having signed an affidavit with the police as a complaint.

Should these allegations are found to be true; this will have serious implications into validity of the complaint on Getrosa’s case. I therefore urge you to look into these allegations. To ensure this, I urge the police authorities to instead actively involve the victim’s families in any process of this case. This is necessary because should any fabricated or invalid complaint be allowed to be filed in court, it undermines the effective prosecution of the case. To prosecute person who could have been not involved in the Getrosa’s murder, and as a result of fabricated charges, is also unacceptable. Justice cannot be achieved by wrongly prosecuting individuals.

In another case, I am also concern of the possible involvement by the military into the killing of Ligaspo. Although the perpetrators have yet to be identified, I have learned that prior to his killing there have been incidents of harassment and intimidation perpetrated against him by the military attached to the 36th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army stationed in Bislig City. For instance, on February 20, Ligaspo and his six other companions were illegally arrested, detained and psychologically tortured while being questioned by the military in absence of their legal counsel.

I have also learned that Ligaspo and his companions were threatened that they would be killed should they continue to support a rebel group, the allegations by which the victim and his companions had claimed innocence. Had their families not intervene and went to the military camp demanding for their release, they would have not been release. I therefore urge you to seriously look into this incident and let the military men involved to answer the allegations against them.

Finally, the forcible abduction and disappearance of Romualdo Balbuena should also be properly investigated. I urge you to exhaust all means to locate the whereabouts of Balbuena by closely cooperating with his wife. I have learned that Balbuena’s wife Violeta was present when the armed men, believed to be military, forcibly took her husband inside their house while they were asleep. Although she has reported to the police and other agencies, there has not been substantial progress on the case. To my knowledge, the victim’s whereabouts remained unknown.

I also urge you to ensure the witnesses and families of this victims are guaranteed with security and protection promptly. This is essential to ensure the effective prosecution of perpetrators in court. Also, the authorities must consider without delay affording appropriate assistance and compensation to the victims’ families. I am aware that Section 3(d) of the Republic Act 7309 affords compensation to people who are victims of violent crimes.

I trust that you will take appropriate action in these cases.

Yours sincerely,



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

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

4. Mr. Raul Gonzalez
Department of Justice
DOJ Bldg., Padre Faura
1004 Manila
Fax: +63 2 521 1614

5. Mr. Orlando Casimiro
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
Tel: +632 926 9032
Fax: +63 2 926 8747

6. Gen. Hermogenes Ebdane
Department of National Defence
Room 301, DND Building
Camp Emilio Aguinaldo
E. De los Santos Avenue
Quezon City
Fax: +63 2 911 6213

7. Ms. Yakin Erturk
Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women
Attn: Ms Vernonica Birga
Room 3-042
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 9615
Email: (please also cc:

8. Mr. Philip Alston 
Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions 
Atten: Lydie Ventre 
Room 3-016 
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 9155
Fax: +41 22 917 9006 (general)

9. Ms. Hina Jilani
Special Representative of the Secretary General for human rights defenders
Attn: Melinda Ching Simon
Room 1-040
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 93 88

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (