PHILIPPINES: No action against soldiers who kill youth; another activist survives attack


Urgent Appeal Case: UA-202-2007
ISSUES: Extrajudicial killings, Human rights defenders, Judicial system, Legislation, Rule of law, Victims assistance & protection,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) deeply regrets to inform you that no action has been taken against the soldiers, including a lieutenant, accused in killing youth leader Nelson Asucena, six months ago in Rizal, Cagayan. No investigation was conducted despite the filing of criminal charges against them in court. In a separate case, another land reform activist, Ruperto Opeña, survived an attempt on his life on 5 May 2007. The attacker’s weapon malfunctioned and could not be fired as they approached the victim. The gunman and his team hurriedly left the scene. The victim, however, suffered injuries after he was repeatedly beaten when being dragged out of his van.


The information below was received from the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) and Partnership for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development Services (PARRDS), human rights and genuine land reform groups respectively based in Metro Manila.

According to the TFDP, youth leader Nelson Asucena (19) was killed allegedly by members of the 21st Infantry Battalion (IB), Philippine Army (PA), in front of his house in Barangay (village) San Juan, Rizal, Cagayan on 13 December 2006. The victim’s father, Hipolito (51), identified Lieutenant (Lt.) Marcelo Pascua, as a member of the same unit, as one of the gunmen who killed his son.

It was around 10:00pm on December 13, the Asucenas were already asleep when awakened by successive barking of dogs outside their house. The elder Asucena heard persons calling his son’s name outside: “Bot” (Nelson’s nickname). “Bot, umay kami man” (Bot may we come in). Nelson rose from the bed when he heard the voice, recognizing it as that of Lt. Pascua.

The elder Asucena lit an improvised gas lamp or “simbolyon” while his son walked towards their door. Before Nelson opened the door, he tapped his son’s back asking who was calling him outside. Nelson told him: “Tang, Ni Lieutenant Pascua” (Tang, it is Lt. Pascua). They then stepped outside their house to receive the visitors.

When the approached them, with the elder Asucena carrying a lighted lamp with him, confirmed that it was indeed Lt. Pascua. He was wearing a camouflage uniform. He was accompanied by five other armed and unidentified men. They are believed to be members of the same unit as that of Lt. Pascua. The five men were wearing balaclavas.

Lt. Pascua apparently annoyed with the lighted lamp the elder Asucena was carrying, told him to take it back inside their house. “Iserrek yu man dayta silaw ta madi mi kayat masilawan” (they don’t want to be in the light), Pascua told him. He took the lamp inside.

Lt. Pascua then asked Nelson to cook food for them. However, he changed his mind few seconds later, and asked for a cup of coffee instead. Yet again, Lt. Pascua changed his mind and asked for glasses of water instead of coffee. The elder Asucenas then took glasses and a pitcher of water outside for them to drink. At that time Nelson had stayed inside the house.

The elder Asucena went back inside their house. Later, one of the soldiers called his son: “Bot inka man alaen daytoy basun” (Bot, come here and get the glasses). Without a second thought, Nelson went outside alone. A few seconds later, the elder Asucena heard sounds of firearms being loaded followed by rapid burst of gunfire. He heard his apparently terrified son’s voice saying: “Ay! Ay!”

Those inside the house, the elder Asucena, his daughter Catalina and daughter-in-law Marifel, immediately ran outside. They saw Nelson lying dead on the ground. The perpetrators, Lt. Pascua and his five other companions, were no longer outside. They had fled after the shooting.

Prior to the shooting, it is learned that Nelson was allegedly listed in the military’s Order of Battle (OB), the supposed list includes the people monitored by the Philippine Army (PA) suspected of being members or supporters of a rebel group.

According to the elder Asucena, Lt. Pascua and several soldiers earlier visited their house in 26 November 2006. At that time, Lt. Pascua and his companion have arrived in the morning and spoke to Nelson. Nelson’s wife, Marifel, recounted she overheard a conversation between Pascua and her husband where the former was urging the latter to surrender to them. “agsurender kan” (You surrender to us) Pascua supposedly told Nelson after an exchange of jokes. “Sir, anya ngarud iti isurender ko? Aradu ken buneng? Maysa nak la nga SK (Sangguniang Kabataan) Chairman ittuy barangay mi” (What shall I surrender, sir, my plow and my bolo? I am just SK Chair in our barangay). Then, Lt. Pascua warned him “Bot, agannad ka!” (watch out for yourself).

After the victim’s murder, his family filed a criminal complaint against Lt. Pascua and his companions. However, since the complaint was filed no investigation has so far been conducted in the case. No substantial progress has likewise taken place as regards the complaint they filed in court. The Asucenas, however, fled from their village for fear of their lives. It is learned that the soldiers are already aware of the charges filed against them. However, despite the great security risk the victim’s family is facing, there has not been any protection afforded to them so far.

In another case, Ruperto Opeña, president of Sitio Putol Mahada Neighborhood Association (SPMNA) in Biñan, Laguna, was driving his van around 9pm on 5 May 2007, when two men riding on a motorcycle blocked his path. Opeña was travelling along the Canlubang-Biñan highway near a pavilion in Biñan town when he was attacked. The attackers, hooded with balaclavas, forcibly grabbed him out of his van and kicked him hard on his back.

As he fell to the ground, the gunman grabbed his 45 caliber pistol, and tried to shoot him. Fortunately the pistol malfunctioned and did not fire. After several attempts, the firearm still did not fire. Frantic at what had happened, the gunman took off his balaclavas before hurriedly leaving the victim. It gave Opeña a chance to ascertain the identity of his would be killers.

When policemen arrived at the crime scene, Opeña immediately recounted to them what happened. But when the police conducted their investigation they insisted that it was a clear attempt to steal the victim’s car. They also quickly ignored the victim’s suspicions that the motive for the attempt could have been part of his work, and that the attackers could have been hired to kill him.

Opeña had been deeply involved in campaigning for genuine land reform, including the landholding of the Hacienda Yulo. Opeña was one of the tenants farming the 7,000 hectares farmland in the said Hacienda. He was evicted together with the other tenants when the land was sold to the Diezmo River Realty Corporation in 1999 over questionable circumstances. His land is part of the 925-hectare sugar plantation that was covered by the area being bought. The farmland had been reclassified after the Yulos applied for it, and it was subsequently exempted from the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program’s (CARP). The farmland was in effect exempted from being subjected for distribution to land less tenants and farmers.

In September 2006 Opeña, through SPMNA, an affiliate member of UNORKA-Pilipinas (Pambansang Ugnayan ng mga Nagsasariling Organisasyon sa Kanayunan), filed for a petition to revoke land exemption of the Hacienda Yulo before the Department of Justice (DOJ) in order to reclaim their farmland. Opeña is a council member of UNORKA-Pilipinas. In March 2007, another motion for cease and desist order was also filed before the DAR to prevent any development work inside the contested property.

It is strongly believed by his colleagues that the attempt on Opeña’s life could be related to his work. This, however, has so far not been investigated by the police, or any concerned agencies. No security or protection has likewise given to him after the incident. No progress took place also in the investigation even though the victim could identify his attackers.

Please write letters to authorities below requesting for an immediate action taken into Nelson Asucena and Ruperto Opeña’s cases. Credible investigation must be conducted into Asucena’s murder as well as the attempt on Opeña’s life. The Asucenas family must be afforded with adequate protection promptly. Opeña must also be assured of such service. Investigations must also be exhausted to identify, arrest and prosecute Opeña’s attackers promptly.

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Dear _________,

PHILIPPINES: No action on soldiers who kill youth; another activist survives attack

Case 1:
Name of the victim: Nelson Asucena. He was the chairperson of the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK), an elected position representing youths, in their village.
Alleged perpetrators: Lieutenant Marcelo Pascua of the 21st Infantry Battalion (IB), Philippine Army and five other men hooded with balaclavas
Place of incident: Barangay (village) San Juan, Rizal, Cagayan
Date of incident: At around 10pm on 13 December 2006

Case 2:
Name of the victim: Ruperto Opeña, president of Sitio Putol Mahada Neighborhood Association (SPMNA) in Biñan, Laguna.
Alleged perpetrator: Two armed men wearing balaclavas
Place of incident: Along the highway near the Pavilion in Biñan, Laguna
Date of incident: At around 9pm on 5 May 2007

I am writing to voice my concern to yet another killing of a youth leader, Nelson Asucena, and the continued failure my authorities to take action against those allegedly responsible for his murder. Six months on, no credible investigation has so far been conducted following his murder in Rizal, Cagayan. Although the victim’s family was able to file complaint in court, no substantial progress has so far been took place regarding the complaint. Thus, the victim’s family had to endure further risks and threats on their lives due to insecurity while the complaint in dragging.

In another case, following the attack on land reform activist Ruperto Opeña, who had survived the incident, there have not been conclusive findings by the police on who are responsible for his attack. I am aware that after Opeña was attacked, the policemen investigating the case have instead rejected his suspicions that the attack could have been related to his work. Instead of conducting a thorough investigation, the police have concluded the attack was an attempt to steal his car.

I am aware that on Asucena’s case, one of the perpetrators had been identified as Lieutenant (Lt.) Marcelo Pascua of the Philippine Army’s (PA) 21st Infantry Battalion (IB). During the attack on December 13, Pascua was together with five men who are wearing balaclavas when they arrived at the victim’s house. Since Pascua is known to the Asucenas and had made previous visit to the house, they properly received them when they asked for drinking water. Surprisingly, the victim was shot dead soon after his father, Hipolito, gave them drinking water.

I have also learned that prior to Asucena’s murder, Pascua has previously made visit to his place, telling him to surrender. The soldiers had since been falsely accusing the victim as being a supporter or sympathizers of a rebel group, to which the victim strongly denied at that time. It is also learned that the soldiers had allegedly included the victim’s name in the Order of Battle (OB). Six months on after the murder, no actions have so far been taken against the soldier involved.

On Opeña’s case, I strongly urge you to look into allegations that his work as land reform activist could have been the motive for the attempt on his life. I have learned that Opeña had previously been figured in a high profile case involving land reform, in particular in the Hacienda Yulo, which he demands to be subjected for land distribution. Opeña was one of former tenants cultivating part of the said Hacienda. He and his fellow farmers, however, were evicted from their land when the Yulos sold it.

Opeña’s had been struggling to reclaim the said land. For instance, he had filed a motion before the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to reconsider Hacienda Yulo’s exemption from the land distribution in September 2006, and subsequently filed a motion to halt any development into the contested property in March this year.

I therefore urge you to look into these matters as part of the investigation, by which the police earlier quickly rejected. Furthermore, I urge you to ensure that security and protection is also afforded to Opeña promptly. The Hacienda owner must also be considered in the investigation to answer the serious allegations against them, in particular the alleged hiring of paid killers. This would also clear their name should the allegations are found not true.

The government’s failure should it fail to once again secure and protect the victims facing serious threats of the lives, the families of Asucena and Opeña, is inexcusable. The government’s continued failure, in particular the police, to ensure proper and credible investigation in these cases, are completely unacceptable. Should these matters are not acted upon effectively, it would send strong message of the lack of remedies for victims of abuses, and incapability of the authorities.

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. Mrs. 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. Datu Nasser C. Pangandaman, Al Hadj 
Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR)
Eliptical Road, Diliman
Quezon City 1104, Metro Manila
Fax: +63 2 929 3088 
Tel: +63 2 929 3460 / 930 0380

7. Mrs. Esperanza I. Cabral
Department of Social Welfare and Development
3/F DSWD Building, Batasang Pambansa Complex,
Constitution Hills
Quezon City
Tel: +63 2 931 7916 / 931 8068
Fax: +63 2 931 8191

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

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 (