UPDATE (Philippines): Police apparent cover up on Cabanit murder investigation reproved in Melo Commission hearing


Urgent Appeal Case: UP-009-2007
ISSUES: Extrajudicial killings,

[NOTICE: The AHRC have developed a new automatic letter-sending system using the “button” below. However, in this appeal, we could not include e-mail addresses of some of the Philippine authorities. We encourage you to send your appeal letters via fax or post to those people. Fax numbers and postal addresses of the Philippine authorities are attached below with this appeal. Thank you.]

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received updated information regarding the murder of the activist Enrico Cabanit, which took place in Panabo City, Davao del Norte, Mindanao, the Philippines on 24 April 2006 (See further: UA-140-2006). He was the Chairperson of WADECOR Employees Agrarian Reform Benificiaries Association Inc. (WEARBAI) at the time of incident. It is reported that the president appointed Melo Commission conducted a hearing to review the police investigation about this case on 11 December 2006 but took little action about the inconsistence of eyewitness’s testimony and several irregularities of the police investigation found during the hearing. The AHRC has already raised its serious concern that the police investigation into this killing might have been flawed (See further: UP-175-2006). This illustrates that the families of the victims of alleged extra-judicial killings have little chance to get effective redress and justice due to dysfunctioning investigation bodies in the Philippines. We call for your urgent intervention to pressure the Philippine government to ensure proper and impartial inquiry into this case.


According to a press release issued by Ugnayan ng mga Nagsasariling Lokal na Organisasyon sa Kanayunan-Philipinas (UNORKA-Pilipinas), UNORKA-Mindanao, Philippine Ecumenical Action for Community Empowerment Foundation (PEACE) Foundation, Inc., Mindanao Farmworkers Development (MFDC), and the Partnership for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development Services, Inc. (PARRDS), the discrepancies and the violation of police investigation protocols have surfaced through the hearings of the Melo Commission that indicates that the police and investigation authorities have been trying to cover up the murder investigation..

On 11 December 2006, it was reported that the Melo Commission heard the testimonies of Police Officer 3(PO3) Domingo Ranain and Police Intelligence Chief Wilfredo Puerto on the Enrico Cabanit Murder case. AHRC has pointed out the police authority’s flawed investigation on this murder case (See further: UP-175-2006).

On 5 December 2006 just several days before the hearing on Cabanit’s murder by the Melo Commission, Cabanit was exhumed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for an autopsy at the request of the victim’s family. According to the result of the autopsy, Dr. Edgar Savella of NBI testified that the two fatal wounds found in the victim’s head were caused, not by a 9mm handgun which the police claimed during the hearing, but by 45 caliber ammunition.

In the hearing, it was especially learned from the police eyewitness’ testimony that “he was able to identify the face of the cadaver of one Enrique Monching Solon based on his recall of the face of the alleged assassin during the murder”, on the contrary however, the eyewitness’ sworn affidavit indicated that he was not able to see the face of the alleged assassin.

When Police Intelligence Chief Wilfredo Puerto testified before the Commission, he stated that the Cabanit case is closed as the main suspect in the killing was killed last 26 May 2006 based on their investigation. Furthermore, when Chief Counsel Vinluan raised the failure of the police to follow basic rules and procedures in handling murder cases since the police failed to conduct an autopsy on Cabanit, PO3 Domingo Ranain, on the witness stand, stated that the failure to conduct the autopsy do not constitute a violation of police procedures. It seems that Police Officer 3 (PO3) Domingo Ranain does not feel any responsibility for the police’s dereliction which resulted in the failure to conduct neither an autopsy nor a postmortem examination as well as the unfairness with which he demanded money from the victim’s family as expenses for autopsy.

Despite these flawed investigation and sufficient suspicions that Cabanit’s killing might be politically motivated and the police was deeply involved in his murder, the Melo commission has merely reproved the defects of the police investigation. Even though some specific contradictions in the police investigation and witnesses’ testimonies were found by the Melo Commission, if the police implicated in the murder cannot be thoroughly disclosed and no punishment is given against them, the extra-judicial killings and endemic impunity in the Philippines will remain unabated.

As a matter of fact, this limited function of Melo Commission was pointed out in AHRC past statement (AS-211-2006) and Urgent Appeal (UP-174-2006). As the Commission has no power to prosecute a case as well as has never investigated into a murder case thoroughly and independently, few cases are brought to the Commission by the victim’s families.


Enrico Cabanit, who was the secretary general of UNORKA-Mindanao) working for agrarian reform in the Philippines, was killed by multiple gunshots on 24 April 2006 (For details, see: UA-140-2006). The Panabo City Police authority has failed to investigate this murder case by the basic rules and procedures.

It was reported that the police authority was negligent in securing the crime scene, collecting evidence and securing photos or sketches of the crime scene. In addition, neither autopsy or postmortem examination, which are necessary procedures for murder cases was conducted due to the absence of PO3 Domingo Ranian, one of the police investigators, for a month from the beginning of the investigation. It was learned that PO3 Ranain demanded payment of P 25,000 (US$ 512) from Cabanit’s family as expenses as the family wanted Cabanit’s body to be exhumed for autopsy. In the adoption of witnesses and their testimonies, it was allegedly reported that the witnesses the police investigated were in fact police informants and the police authority failed to take other reliable witnesses into account. Despite the inconsistency among the witnesses and the allegation regarding a hired killer’s relation with the police, the police authority has tried to close the murder case as the alleged murderer was killed in General Santos City in a shooting incident on 26 May 2006.

Please write letters to agencies listed below requesting them to conduct thorough and impartial investigations regarding Enrico Cabanit’s case.

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Dear __________,

PHILIPPINES: Police apparent cover up on Cabanit murder investigation reproved in Melo Commission Hearing

Name of victim killed: Enrico Cabanit, a.k.a. Ka Eric. An ex-chairperson of WADECOR Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association Inc. (WEARBAI)
Alleged perpetrators: 
1. An unidentified armed man who was wearing a bonnet (for killing)
2. Wilfredo Puerto: Police Chief Intelligence Officer (for improper investigation)
3. Domingo Ranain: Police Officer 3 (for improper investigation)
Place of assassination: At a public market of Panabo City
Date and time of assassination: 24 April 2006 at 6pm

I am writing to draw your attention to the cases of murdered activists Enrico Cabanit of Panabo City.

According to the latest information that I have received, during the Melo Commission Hearing held on 11 December 2006, the shortcomings and the contradictions of the police investigation were proved once again. Especially the police eyewitness’s testimony that he was able to identify the face of the cadaver of one Enrique Monching Solon based on his recall of what he had seen during the murder. On the contrary, the eyewitness’s sworn affidavit indicated that he was not able to see the face of the alleged assassin. In addition, the police report that the murder weapon was a 9mm handgun was inconsistent with the result of autopsy conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) a few days before the hearing according to the request of the victim’s family.

I was informed that despite these discrepancies of the police investigation, Police Intelligence Chief Wilfredo Puerto stated that Cabanit case was closed as the main suspect in the killing was killed last May 2006. It was also reported that Police Officer 3 (PO3) Domingo Ranain who had been absent during the police investigation and requested the victim’s family for expenses of autopsy later told that the failure of the autopsy did not constitute a violation of police procedure.

I believed that insecurity of the crime scene, lack of indispensable legal procedure including autopsy and postmortem examination, adoption of inadequate witness and sufficient suspicions of a politically motivated killing and police involvement were indicated once again in this Melo Commission Hearing on Cabanit’s murder case.

However, if the Cabanit’s case is considered closed without more thorough and independent investigation, not only the Commission’s hearing would not deserve to exist but the political killings in the Philippines could continue unabated. According to the findings of an independent International Fact Finding Mission in June 2006, who investigated the worsening agrarian reform and human rights violations in so called ‘AR Hotspot Area’ in the country side, political or agrarian related crimes like Cabanit case should be tasked by independent special composite team.

As I leant from the police investigation, especially by Police Chief Intelligence Officer Wilfredo Puerto and PO3 Domingo Ranain exposed endemic dereliction and apparent cover-up of this alleged extra-judicial killing. They are also responsible for deliberate inaction into police inquiry of this case.

I therefore urge that you intervene that the punishment should be taken against them so that the impunity can not be tolerated and in addition to that, their superiors should be charged for their responsibility.

I trust that you will take immediate action concerning these matters.

Yours sincerely,



1. Ms. Purificacion Quisumbing
Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., Commonwealth Avenue
U.P. Complex, Diliman
Quezon City
Tel: +63 2 928 5655 / 926 6188 / 927 0467
Fax: +63 2 929 0102
Email: drpvq@yahoo.com

2. 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

3. Director General Oscar Calderon
Chief, Philippine National Police (PNP)
Camp General Rafael Crame
Quezon City 
Tel: +63 2726 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. Ronaldo V. Puno
Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG)
A. Francisco Gold Condominium II
EDSA cor. Mapagmahal St., Diliman
Quezon City 
Voice: +63 2 925 0330 / 31
Fax: +63 2 925 0332
Email: rvpuno@dilg.gov.ph

6. Mr. Philip Alston
Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions
Attn: Lydie Ventre
Room 3-016
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 9155

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ahrchk@ahrchk.org)

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : UP-009-2007
Countries : Philippines,
Campaigns : Stop extra-judicial killings in the Philippines
Issues : Extrajudicial killings,