UPDATE (Philippines): Forcible abduction and disappearance of an activist in Baler, Aurora
March 17, 2006
UPDATE ON URGENT APPEAL UPDATE ON URGENT APPEAL UPDATE ON URGENT APPEAL
ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION- URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME
Update on Urgent Appeal
17 March 2006
[RE: FA-36-2005: PHILIPPINES: A learning center run by religious groups allegedly torched by military agents in Aurora, Luzon]
UP-048-2006: PHILIPPINES: Forcible abduction and disappearance of an activist in Baler, Aurora
PHILIPPINES: Abduction and forcible disappearance; violence against human rights activists by military; inadequate investigation; absence of an enabling law to seek justice, remedies and prosecute perpetrators of disappearance
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received further information from Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples Rights) stating that Joey Estriber, a programme officer of the Bataris Formation Center, was abducted and forcibly disappeared on 3 March 2006. Estribers whereabouts continue to remain unknown.
On March 3, at around 6:20pm, Estriber was on his way home when forcibly dragged by four armed men towards a tinted maroon van parked nearby. The get-away van had no license plate number. Estriber was at the time waiting for a ride along San Luis Street corner Burgos Extension when abducted. Estriber yelled to get attention but bystanders thought he was joking. One of the abductors grabbed Estriber while the others subdued him before speeding towards the southbound direction.
Later at 6:45pm, Estriber supposedly sent an SMS message saying: "Huwag kayong mag-alala, ok lang ako" (Don't worry, I'm alright) to his relatives. But when he was asked of his whereabouts he replied: "Nagtatago ako" (I'm in hiding). The recipient of the messages, however, doubted if indeed it was Estriber who had sent the message. After that, Estribers number could no longer be contacted.
When they came to know of the abduction, his relatives and co-workers immediately went to the police station to report the incident. It is reported that an hour before the incident, the van involved in the abduction was seen parked in front of the Aurora Electric Company, a few meters away from an Internet café where Estriber went. Witnesses also noticed the presence of suspicious looking men near the place.
After being informed by the relatives, members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) from Baler Police Station immediately put up checkpoints in various areas but failed to recover the victim or trace his location. Estribers family called up radio stations calling upon those that may have knowledge of the victims whereabouts to come forward. However, they failed to get any response. Estribers forcible abduction and subsequent disappearance is having a profound effect on his children.
Estribers abduction is yet another incident of violence and harassment against staff members of the Bataris Formation Center. On 14 December 2005, two of their colleagues were threatened with arrest when they removed a streamer critical of them in San Luis, Aurora. On 25 December 2005, a section of the Bataris Formation Center building was torched. Please see our previous appeals: FA-36-2005. On 15 February 2006, a group of military led by 1st Lt. Tony Pilas went to Bataris office looking for Josie Panginen and Nilo Serrano, staff members working for Bataris network. The group spoke rudely to Bataris staff but later left when local officials from the Baler Provincial government intervened. On 16 February 2006, 1st Lt. Pilas publicly pronounced in an interview on radio station dzJO FM that he had in his possession a list of the militarys "Order of Battle" (OB), which included various People's Organization (Pos) and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs).
On February 28, four soldiers attached to the 48th IB wearing plain clothes led by 2nd Lt. Molina went uninvited to a workshop on Charter Change at the Mt. Carmel College to which disappeared victim Joey Estriber was then the guest speaker. The presence of Molina and his men was deeply suspicious even though they claimed they wanted to participate in the said workshop.
Please write letters to the agencies listed below requesting them to exhaust all means in locating Joey Estribers whereabouts. Allegations into the possible involvement of elements of the Intelligence Group of the Philippine Army of the 48th Infantry Battalion (IB) into Estribers disappearance must be investigated. The Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Military and Other Law Enforcement Office must commence an impartial investigation into allegations of violence, threats and harassment allegedly perpetrated by elements of the 48th IB against staff members of the Bataris Formation Center. They must be suspended or restricted from their official duties once the investigation commences, and charges must be filed if the allegations are found to be true. Finally, please urge the Philippine government to take effective measures to enact the proposed Act Defining and Penalizing The Crime of Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance (HB 1556) and consider it a priority. The enactment of this bill should be in accordance with the provisions of the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
PHILIPPINES: Forcible abduction and disappearance of an activist in Baler, Aurora
Name of victim: Joey Estriber (37), married with four children. He is the programme officer of Bataris Formation Center and a radio anchor/commentator of program "Pag-usapan Natin" (Let's talk) over local radio dzJO in Baler, Aurora
Name of alleged perpetrators: Intelligence Group of the Philippine Army of 48th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army under the command of Lt. Col. Joselito Kakilala
Place of incident: Burgos Street corner San Luis Street, Baler, Aurora province
Date and time of incident: 3 March 2006 at around 6:20pm
It has come to my attention that Joey Estriber, programme officer of the Bataris Formation Center, was forcibly abducted and disappeared on 3 March 2006. I have learned that four armed men allegedly forcibly abducted Estriber and took him onboard a get-away van while he was waiting for a ride on his way home. His whereabouts remain unknown.
I am deeply concerned by this further incident of violence, threat and intimidation against staff members of the Bataris Formation Center. I am aware that prior to Estribers abduction, there were various instances when Estriber and his group were harassed and spied upon by the elements of 48th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army. According to the information I received, on 14 December 2005, two of Estribers colleagues were threatened with arrest after they removed a streamer critical of them in San Luis, Aurora. On 25 December 2005, a section of the Bataris Formation Center building was burned down. On 15 February 2006, military agents led by 1st Lt. Tony Pilas went to the Bataris Formation Centers office allegedly harassing some staff members. On 16 February 2006, 1st Lt. Pilas pronounced in public of having in his possession a list of the militarys "Order of Battle" which included members of People's Organization (Pos) and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs). No further investigations were conducted in this matter.
I am deeply concerned by the authorities inadequate action to investigate these matters prior to Estribers abduction. Estriber himself had experienced being allegedly spied on. On 28 February 2006, a group of military led by 2nd Lt. Molina of the 48th IB and his men appeared in a workshop at the Mt. Carmel College uninvited. Estriber was the guest-speaker at the workshop.
That the concerned authorities have not thoroughly and impartially investigated this case despite being essential in the investigation to locate the victims whereabouts is entirely unacceptable. The alleged perpetrators have not been investigated to answer to the allegations made against them. I am unaware of any restriction or sanctions placed upon Molina and his men as part of any investigation into the case.
I urge you to exert all means to locate Estribers whereabouts. Should there be any development in this case, Estribers family and relatives must be informed accordingly. Any actions taken by the government must be in accordance with the provisions of the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance adopted on 18 December 1992 to which the Philippines is State party.
Finally, I take this opportunity to urge you to consider the passage of the proposed bill in Congress An Act Defining and Penalizing The Crime of Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance (HB 1556 as a priority. The negligible effort in having this law enacted without delay is a matter of concern as it is essential to ensure for the protection of rights of disappeared victims and their families.
I trust that your intervention in this case is forthcoming.
PLEASE SEND LETTERS TO:
1. Ms. Purificacion Quisumbing
Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., Commonwealth Avenue
U.P. Complex, Diliman
Tel: +63 2 928 5655 / 926 6188
Fax: +63 2 929 0102
2.P/DIR Gen. Arturo Lumibao
Chief, Philippine National Police (PNP)
Camp General Rafael Crame
Tel: +63 2726 4361/4366/8763
Fax: +63 2724 8763
3. Mr. Orlando Casimiro
Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Military and
Other Law Enforcement Offices
3rd Floor, Ombudsman Bldg., Agham Road, Diliman (1104)
Tel: +632 926 9032
Fax: +63 2 926 8747
4. Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
Republic of the Philippines
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel
Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80
Fax: +63 2 736 1010
5. Gen. Generoso Senga
Chief of Staff
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)
Armed Forces of the Philippines General Headquarters Offices (AFP-GHQ)
Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo
6. Mr. Diego Garcia-Sayan,
UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
1211 Geneva 10
Fax: +41 22 917 9006
7. Prof. Manfred Nowak
Special Rapporteur on the Question of Torture
Attn: Mr. Safir Syed
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 9230
Fax: +41 22 917 9016 (general)
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (firstname.lastname@example.org)