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UPDATE (Philippines): Continued illegal detention of an arrested labour leader

March 7, 2006

UPDATE ON URGENT APPEAL UPDATE ON URGENT APPEAL UPDATE ON URGENT APPEAL

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION- URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Update on Urgent Appeal

7 March 2006

[RE: FA-006-2006: PHILIPPINES: Arrest of a labour leader subsequent to state of national emergency declaration]
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UP-041-2006: PHILIPPINES: Continued illegal detention of an arrested labour leader

PHILIPPINES: Arbitrary arrest and detention of a labour leader; denial of constitutional rights of a detained person; solitary confinement; arbitrary use of power by the police; defects in the prosecution system
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received further information from a reliable source regarding the continued illegal detention of a labour leader, Crispin Beltran (73), following his arrest on 25 February 2006. Beltran was arrested by police authorities allegedly led by Senior Inspector Rene Corpuz of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police by strength of an arrest warrant involving a case in 1985 which has already been dismissed. Beltran was arrested a day after the Presidential Proclamation 1017, which placed the entire country under a “State of National Emergency”. The proclamation was lifted on March 3.

According to information received, Beltran was denied his right to a preliminary investigation. After it was found that the arrest warrant served on him is already non-existent, he was not released. Instead, he was subsequently charged with inciting sedition and rebellion. The charges filed on him, however, exceeded beyond the allowable 36 hours upon arrest according to law. 

On 2 March 2006, Beltran was taken to the Philippine National Police (PNP) general hospital at the PNP National headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City due to hypertension or high blood pressure. It is reported that prior to Beltran’s confinement at the hospital, he was solitarily confined at the detention cell of CIDG custodial. Beltran’s wife, Rosario (64), was denied a visit on March 1.

Although the authorities who took custody of Beltran soon after allowed visits, there are incidents wherein his staff and supporters have been barred from entering the hospital. Beltran’s staff are finding it difficulty to serve documents to him which require his signature from the House of Representatives to which he is a member. They were also allegedly harassed and intimidated by police authorities securing the area. Beltran is presently confined at the PNP general hospital.

On 6 March, the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Makati City postponed a hearing for Motion for the Determination of Probable Cause on Beltran’s case. It is reported that the prosecutors from the Department of Justice (DoJ) did not show. In the afternoon of the same day, a coalition of various groups launched the “Free Ka Bel (Beltran) Movement” at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City. The group is calling for Beltran’s immediate unconditional release.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write letters to the authorities below and raise your concern regarding the irregularities taken by government agencies, in particular the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Department of Justice (DoJ) in their handling of Crispin Beltran’s case. Beltran must be released without delay if there are no grounds to warrant his prolonged detention. His family, staff and supporters must be allowed visits without being harassed and intimidated by the authorities. He must be afforded with adequate medical attention while in detention.

Suggested letter:

Dear ________,

PHILIPPINES: Continued illegal detention of an arrested labour leader

Name of victim: Crispin Beltran (73), a member of the House of Representatives representing party list Anakpawis
Arresting officers: Senior Inspector Rene Corpuz of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police (PNP)
Place of victim’s present detention: Philippine National Police (PNP) General Hospital
Date of incident: 25 February to present

I am writing to draw your attention to the case of Crispin Beltran, a member of the House of Representatives who was illegally arrested and is presently being detained. I am aware that Beltran was arrested by elements of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) led by Senior Inspector Rene Corpuz on 25 February 2006, a day after Proclamation 1017 was declared, by strength of an arrest warrant in 1985, which has already been dismissed.

I am extremely disappointed by the alleged arbitrary use of authority by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Department of Justice (DoJ) in this particular case. Instead of releasing Beltran after the arrest warrant served on him was found to have been non-existent, he continued to be detained and was subsequently charged beyond the allowable period of 36 hours following arrest. I am deeply concerned by the denial of Beltran’s constitutional right to preliminary investigation.

I am deeply concerned by the alleged irregularities and improper handling by the PNP and the DOJ in Beltran’s case. I am extremely shocked and disappointed by the concerned government agencies arbitrary use of authority, thus violating the provisions of the 1987 Constitution and the Republic Act (RA) 7438. To deprive an individual of their constitutional right in any circumstance is totally unacceptable.

Furthermore, I have also learned that authorities are allegedly harassing and intimidating several persons who are visiting Beltran at his detention cell and at the hospital. It is even reported that his wife, Rosario, was denied a visit on March 1. Such an act by authorities clearly violates Section 2 (f) of RA 7438 allowing visits to detainees.

I urge you to consider withdrawing the charges against Beltran and ensure that he is released unconditionally if it is found that there are no grounds to warrant his continued detention. The authorities concerned must be investigated to answer to the allegations against them. They must be held accountable for their actions if the allegations are true. I also request you to ensure that Beltran is afforded with adequate medical attention to ensure his health while in detention.

I trust that you will take immediate action in this case.

Yours sincerely,


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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

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

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
PHILIPPINES
Tel: +632 926 9032
Fax: +63 2 926 8747

3. P/DIR Gen. Arturo Lumibao
Chief, Philippine National Police (PNP)
Camp Crame
Quezon City
PHILIPPINES
Tel: +63 2726 4361/4366/8763
Fax: +63 2724 8763

4. Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
President
Republic of the Philippines
Malacanang Palace
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel
Manila 1005
PHILIPPINES
Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80
Fax: +63 2 736 1010

6. Ms Leila Zerrougui
Chairperson
Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
Attn: Mr Miguel de la Lama
OHCHR-UNOG
1211 Geneva 10
SWITZERLAND
Fax: +41 22 917 9006 (ATTENTION: WORKING GROUP ARBITRARY DETENTION)
Email: mdelalama@ohchr.org

7. Mr. Leandro Despouy
Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers
Att: Sonia Cronin
Room: 3-060
OHCHR-UNOG
1211 Geneva 10
SWITZERLAND
Tel: +41 22 917 9160
Fax: +41 22 917 9006 (ATTN: SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR INDEPENDENCE JUDGES & LAWYERS)
E-mail: scronin@ohchr.org

8. Professor Manfred Nowak
Special Rapporteur on the Question of Torture
Attn: Mr.Safir Syed
c/o OHCHR-UNOG
1211 Geneva 10
SWITZERLAND
Tel: +41 22 917 9230
Fax: +41 22 9179016 (ATTN: SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR TORTURE)
E-mail: ssyed@ohchr.org


Thank you.

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

Document Type :
Urgent Appeal Update
Document ID :
UP-041-2006
Countries :
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Extended Introduction: Urgent Appeals, theory and practice

A need for dialogue

Many people across Asia are frustrated by the widespread lack of respect for human rights in their countries.  Some may be unhappy about the limitations on the freedom of expression or restrictions on privacy, while some are affected by police brutality and military killings.  Many others are frustrated with the absence of rights on labour issues, the environment, gender and the like. 

Yet the expression of this frustration tends to stay firmly in the private sphere.  People complain among friends and family and within their social circles, but often on a low profile basis. This kind of public discourse is not usually an effective measure of the situation in a country because it is so hard to monitor. 

Though the media may cover the issues in a broad manner they rarely broadcast the private fears and anxieties of the average person.  And along with censorship – a common blight in Asia – there is also often a conscious attempt in the media to reflect a positive or at least sober mood at home, where expressions of domestic malcontent are discouraged as unfashionably unpatriotic. Talking about issues like torture is rarely encouraged in the public realm.

There may also be unwritten, possibly unconscious social taboos that stop the public reflection of private grievances.  Where authoritarian control is tight, sophisticated strategies are put into play by equally sophisticated media practices to keep complaints out of the public space, sometimes very subtly.  In other places an inner consensus is influenced by the privileged section of a society, which can control social expression of those less fortunate.  Moral and ethical qualms can also be an obstacle.

In this way, causes for complaint go unaddressed, un-discussed and unresolved and oppression in its many forms, self perpetuates.  For any action to arise out of private frustration, people need ways to get these issues into the public sphere.

Changing society

In the past bridging this gap was a formidable task; it relied on channels of public expression that required money and were therefore controlled by investors.  Printing presses were expensive, which blocked the gate to expression to anyone without money.  Except in times of revolution the media in Asia has tended to serve the well-off and sideline or misrepresent the poor.

Still, thanks to the IT revolution it is now possible to communicate with large audiences at little cost.  In this situation there is a real avenue for taking issues from private to public, regardless of the class or caste of the individual.

Practical action

The AHRC Urgent Appeals system was created to give a voice to those affected by human rights violations, and by doing so, to create a network of support and open avenues for action.  If X’s freedom of expression is denied, if Y is tortured by someone in power or if Z finds his or her labour rights abused, the incident can be swiftly and effectively broadcast and dealt with. The resulting solidarity can lead to action, resolution and change. And as more people understand their rights and follow suit, as the human rights consciousness grows, change happens faster. The Internet has become one of the human rights community’s most powerful tools.   

At the core of the Urgent Appeals Program is the recording of human rights violations at a grass roots level with objectivity, sympathy and competence. Our information is firstly gathered on the ground, close to the victim of the violation, and is then broadcast by a team of advocates, who can apply decades of experience in the field and a working knowledge of the international human rights arena. The flow of information – due to domestic restrictions – often goes from the source and out to the international community via our program, which then builds a pressure for action that steadily makes its way back to the source through his or her own government.   However these cases in bulk create a narrative – and this is most important aspect of our program. As noted by Sri Lankan human rights lawyer and director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Basil Fernando:

"The urgent appeal introduces narrative as the driving force for social change. This idea was well expressed in the film Amistad, regarding the issue of slavery. The old man in the film, former president and lawyer, states that to resolve this historical problem it is very essential to know the narrative of the people. It was on this basis that a court case is conducted later. The AHRC establishes the narrative of human rights violations through the urgent appeals. If the narrative is right, the organisation will be doing all right."

Patterns start to emerge as violations are documented across the continent, allowing us to take a more authoritative, systemic response, and to pinpoint the systems within each country that are breaking down. This way we are able to discover and explain why and how violations take place, and how they can most effectively be addressed. On this path, larger audiences have opened up to us and become involved: international NGOs and think tanks, national human rights commissions and United Nations bodies.  The program and its coordinators have become a well-used tool for the international media and for human rights education programs. All this helps pave the way for radical reforms to improve, protect and to promote human rights in the region.