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UPDATE (Philippines): Military fails to turn personnel charged with murder over to the police

May 25, 2007



Update on Urgent Appeal

26 May 2007

[RE: UA-72-2005: PHILIPPINES: Prosecutor's inaction to file murder charges against military officers who killed two people; UP-130-2006: PHILIPPINES: Court judge delays issuance of arrest warrants for military men charged with murder; UP-211-2006: PHILIPPINES: Replacement of a prosecutor required; complaint filed against a judge for grave abuse, violation of code of conduct; UP-233-2006: PHILIPPINES: Court orders arrest of a military sergeant and his accomplices on the charges of homicide]
UP-076-2007: PHILIPPINES: Military fails to turn personnel charged with murder over to the police

PHILIPPINES: Extrajudicial killings; failure of the justice system; delays in serving arrest warrants; collapse of rule of law;

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) writes to inform you of the continuing failure by the leadership of the military to surrender their men, including a sergeant who is subject to arrest for the murder of a couple, Bacar and his wife Carmen Japalali nearly three years ago in Tagum City, Mindanao. Even though arrest warrants have already been issued five months ago, only three of the eight accused have so far been turned over to police custody on 21 May 2007. There are also difficulties by the victims' family and the police to locate the whereabouts of the other accused even though they are still active in service.


According to the information received from the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP)-Mindanao, only Private first class (PFCs) Mark Perocho Sabellano, Rodel Nali Bacangoy and Jupil Perocho Balilihan, have so far been turned-over to the custody of the Tagum City Police Office on May 21.

Prior to this, it took the victims' family and staff of TFDP an extremely hard time together with the police even to serve the arrest warrants at the military headquarters where the accused are reported to have been assigned. The police officers attached to the Mawab Municipal Police Station, Compostela Valley, who are supposed to serve the arrest orders in the past had also earlier showed either or unwillingness or inaction to serve the order for insufficient reasons.

It was only on 11 December 2006, when the Regional Trial Court (RTC) transmitted the arrest order to the Mawab Municipal Police Station. The sending of order, however, was overly delayed and was relayed to the victims' family and TFDP only on December 8; thereby raising suspicions the court personnel could have deliberately tried to hide the information from them. Had it not due to the repeated follow up and inquiries made they would have not known it. When they obtained the copy of the arrest orders, they found out it was signed as early as November 22.

The apparent unwillingness by the police to serve the order likewise took place on January 24 when warrant officer Senior Police Office 1 (SPO1) Ronaldo Bizar, told the victims' families that he was waiting for them to accompany the police in serving the arrest orders. The police' inaction to immediately serve the order resulted to its default which is only effective ten days upon their receipt. What the police did instead was to return the copies of the orders to the court, as required by law, informing the court they have not made arrests yet.
On January 26, when another follow-up was made, the Chief of Police (CoP) of the same police station had informed the victims' family that he already instructed his warrant officer to serve the order but the military men have already been transferred to another area of assignment. As a result of this delay, the victims' family and the police had to finalize the serving of warrant together with the police. On January 30, the warrant officer and two of his colleagues went to the military’s headquarter in Mawab, Compostela Valley. They were accompanied by TFDP staff when they speak to Colonel Roberto Domines, Jr., the Deputy Brigade commander of the 1001st Infantry Brigade (IB), Philippine Army, to whom they showed copies of the arrest orders. They were told by Col. Domines that the unit where the said military men are attached, 404th Infantry Battalion, was already transferred to another area and that they would have to verify it yet. He, however, promised that once they finish verifying their whereabouts, they would surrender them by early February to the custody of the police station in Mawab.

It is later learned that four of the accused had been transferred to the 4th Infantry Division (ID) in Camp Edilberto Evangelista in Cagayan de Oro City-- the place that is too far from where they were previously assigned. The other four were also reported to have been assigned in 10th Infantry Division (ID), Philippine Army in Davao City.

On February 26, Brigadier General Carlos Holganza, commanding general of the 1001st IB, had announced in public when interviewed by a local television station at that time that they have already recalled the said military men back to their post in order to face their charges.

On May 3, the victims' families went to 1001st IB headquarters and once again spoke with Col. Domines. When they were inquiring the whereabouts of the accused military, Col. Domines informed them that he already forwarded their names and submitted a report to their battalion at their Camp in Panacan, Davao City.

Later the victims' family went to 10th ID and spoke with their legal officer, Captain Jenny Limjuco, once again inquiring about the whereabouts of the military men. Capt. Limjuco informed them instead to serve the arrest orders and that they would locate their whereabouts. It was on May 10 when the TFDP staffs were informed by Lieutenant Irma Ramos of the 1001st IB, by way of an SMS message, that the military men have been detailed at the 10th ID headquarters purposely for the trial of their case. To read the background of the case: UA-72-2005; UP-130-2006.

On May 16, another follow up was made from Capt. Limjuco regarding the military men's whereabouts, she had confirmed that five of them are assigned at their office but did not name them, while the other three others had been assigned to Camp Edilberto Evangelista. There are strong beliefs however that one of them could be the team leader of the military unit when the killing took place, Sergeant Serafin Jerry Napoles, could be in 10th ID. An arrangement was made to serve the arrest orders on May 21.

When a team of police from Tagum City served the arrest warrant on May 21, only three of the military men were turned over by Capt. Limjuco to the police. She said that the two others are still on mission order and that they could serve again the arrest orders once they would come back. On May 23, the three military men were already release from police custody after posting bail.

On May 22, the victims' family and TFDP have coordinated with the police in serving the warrant of arrest in Camp Edilberto Evangelista. It was later known that one of the accused, Sergeant Napoles had already been formerly assigned there since late 2006. Sergeant Napoles had appealed that he be reassigned to 10th ID in Davao City in order to work out the pending case against him. Sergeant Napoles was placed on detached service (DS) effective May 15.

It is reported that Sergeant Napoles had already applied for retirement by the end of 2006 and sought clearance from the office of the Ombudsman for Military but was denied because of the pending case against him. He also had a pending administrative case with Office of the Judge Advocate General (Jago). On May 23, when the victims' family went to 10th ID in Davao City, to verify the whereabouts of Sergeant Napoles they were prevented from entering the camp telling them that they had been given a directives from their senior officers to prevent human rights groups from entering.

Sergeant Napoles' whereabouts, however, have yet to be verified whether or not he is presently assigned at 10th ID headquarter, and his four other men who are yet to be arrested or turned over to police custody are assigned in their respective headquarters. It is learned that Private Eusebio Entero is assigned at 36th Infantry Battalion (IB) in Bislig, Mangagoy, Surigao del Sur; Private Niel Araneta at the 401 IB in Dayo-an, Tandag, Surigao del Sur; Private Ugsod at the 29th IB in Noli, Bayugan, Agusan del Sur. But the whereabouts of Private Sumogoy remains unknown.

Please write letters to the authorities listed below requesting for their effective and immediate intervention to exhaust all means that the whereabouts of the military men, in particular Sergeant Serafin Jerry Napoles, are located and that they are subsequently turned over to police custody to face charges against them. The leadership of the military should cooperate with the police. It must prove it does not condone acts of their men by ensuring that they taken before a court of law to face their charges.

To support this appeal, please click here:

Suggested letter:

Dear ________,

PHILIPPINES: Military fails to turn personnel charged with murder over to the police

I am writing to express my grave concern regarding the continued failure by the leadership of the military to have their men, including a military sergeant, facing murder charges for the death of Bacar and his wife Carmen Japalali in Tagum City, turned over into police custody. While I am aware that three of the accused, namely Privates Mark Perocho Sabellano, Rodel Nali Bacangoy and Jupil Perocho Balilihan, have already been turned over to police custody on May 21, the whereabouts of five others are yet to be known.

I am aware that arrest warrants have already been issued against them, including Sergeant Serafin Jerry Napoles--the team leader, and his men, Privates Sumogoy, Entero, Araneta and Ugsod as early as November 2006. I am extremely disappointed however to the delays in serving these arrest orders by the police, and subsequent failure and inaction by leadership of the military to ensure that these men are turned over to police custody promptly to face their charges. As I am aware, even though the order had been issued in November 2006, not until December 11 did the victims' family and those helping them came to know of this information had they not repeatedly follow it up in court.

I am disappointed that although these military men are active in service, the military leadership could not even ascertain their whereabouts, and closely cooperate with the victims' family and police seeking for their immediate arrest or turned over. Their failure to cooperate with police authorities and families of the victims is inexcusable, in particular for the Commanding general of the 1001st Infantry Brigade, Philippine Army, Brigadier General Carlos Holganza, who is reported to have jurisdiction over the units where these military men are presently assigned. These men should have been turned over to police custody promptly to face their charges.

I am also gravely concern of the apparent lack of cooperation by the 10th Infantry Division in Camp Panacan, Davao City, with the victims' family and police authorities to locate their men's whereabouts. For instance, on May 23 they were prevented from getting inside their camp while about to inquire on whether Sergeant Napoles already been assigned there or not. This could have helped them inform the police authorities or the police themselves to serve the orders. They have likewise declined to identify the names of two military men subject for arrest presently assigned under their headquarters. They are strong beliefs that one of them could be Sergeant Napoles. These acts by military leadership and their continued failure to turn over this military men object for arrest are totally unacceptable. This could constitute harboring of alleged criminals and preventing the course of justice.

As you are aware, the military men involved had been charged for the death of a couple in Tagum City on 8 September 2004. I am extremely disappointed that not only did victims' families have to suffer delays in the prosecution procedures of this case, but even serving arrest orders from court could hardly be implemented and accused are not arrested; and that the military leadership's action taken is completely negligible. I also criticised the police' inability to serve the arrest orders promptly; thereby delaying the arrest of the military men.

Finally, I urge you to use you authority to look into allegations of police' failure to effect the arrest order promptly, in this case the Mawab Municipal Police Station. The police authorities must exhaust all means to implement the arrest orders for those remaining military men, in particular Sergeant Napoles, and to require the senior military officials to ensure they have their men located and turned over to them.

I trust that you will take appropriate action in this matter.

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
Email: drpvq@yahoo.com

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
Email: bluetree73@gmail.com

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
Email: omb1@ombudsman.gov.ph

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
Email: osnd@philonline.com

7. 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)

Thank you.

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

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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.