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UPDATE (Philippines): Jail authorities failing to ensure adequate security despite grave danger torture victims are facing

May 8, 2006



Update on Urgent Appeal

9 May 2006

[RE: UA-082-2006: PHILIPPINES: Brutal torture of 11 persons and subsequent filing of fabricated charges against them; UP-063-2006: PHILIPPINES: Lawyers for 11 torture victims file motion to withdraw charges against them; UP-067-2006: PHILIPPINES: Torture victims file charges against policemen; UP-092-2006: PHILIPPINES: Plot to kill torture victims in jail]
UP-099-2006: PHILIPPINES: Jail authorities failing to ensure adequate security despite grave danger torture victims are facing

PHILIPPINES: Torture; illegal arrest and detention; denial of adequate medical and trauma treatment; security and protection concerns; detention of minors together with adult detainees; complete collapse of rule of law

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) writes to inform you that jail authorities in La Trinidad, Benguet where 9 of the 11 torture victims are presently detained are still failing to ensure security and protection to two inmates who are in grave danger. It is reported that although they are aware of the plot and threats on torture victims Jefferson dela Rosa and Rundren Lao inside the jail, there have been no significant improvements to ensure their security and protection.

In addition to our appeal on 25 April 2006 regarding a plot to kill torture victim Lao, (Please see our previous appeal: UP-092-2006) his fellow inmate has informed him that sometime in April was offered P100,000.00 (USD 1,946) to kill him. The money was placed in an envelope along with a knife. The inmate, however, refused to accept the offer and instead warned Lao to take precautions as others may have also been requested to execute the killing.

Although the names of those six persons who made the offer have not been identified, there are indications that they could be military men. It is reported when the offer took place, the inmate was given clear instructions to kill Lao as he was responsible for the death of a military man in Cabiten, Mankayan, Benguet whose camp was attacked on 10 February 2006. There are also suspicions the killing could be to silence Lao and his peers in connection with the case they filed against the six policemen of the 1604th Police Provincial Mobile Group (PPMG) for violation of the Republic Act 7438. (Please see our previous appeal: UP-067-2006)

According to a reliable source Lao has already been warned of the plot on his life. He was also warned to be cautious and not to eat foods coming from outside the jail as they may contain poison. Lao and his peers have been receiving visits from persons whom they do not know--sometime being accompanied by Benguet Provincial Jail Warden James Simon.

On March 17 three persons went inside the jail purposely to visit each of the victims who are detained in separate detention cells. Jail warden Simon accompanied those three persons without properly explaining to the victims who those persons were and what was the purpose of their visits. The victims suspect they are being spied on and that the jail authorities are unable to ensure their safety even with improved security and protection measures.

One of the torture victims, Jefferson dela Rosa noticed that the movements of one of his fellow inmates in detention cell number 3 were suspicious. The said inmate was remanded on April 24, the same day that some suspicious looking persons also made visits to the jail. In one incident, dela Rosa was frightened because he caught the inmate staring at him while he was sleeping. He likewise added the person had been questioning him about their case, he had been allowed discreet visits outside the jail premises and not within the visiting schedule and other privileges were afforded to him that were not usual to other inmates inside the jail.

It was learned that this inmate has yet to be transferred to an alternative detention centre, despire his suspicious movements. As a result, dela Rosa is living in fear and is unable to sleep. It is also reported that the other inmate, who was reported earlier to have received the offer to kill Lao but refused to, was again transferred to dela Rosa’s detention center.

On April 29, another torture victim, Aldoz Christian Manoza, noticed suspicious movements by one of the visitors coming inside the jail. Manoza believed the person might be spying on him in his detention cell number 9 and his peers detained in other detention cells. The suspicious looking person, however, reportedly left shortly after without even visiting any inmates inside the jail.

The victim’s lawyers and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA), an umbrella of human rights organisations based in Baguio City, have already informed Jail Warden Simon about the threats on the life and plot made on the detained torture victims, in particular Rundren Lao. After the report was made, Simon assured the security of the nine torture victims in jail. Even though Jail Warden Simon has already been informed of the grave danger the torture victims are in, there have been no significant improvements made with regard to the security of the inmates facing serious threats. Further, no investigation has been conducted into the matter.

Meanwhile, the two minor torture victims, Frencess Ann Bernal and Ray Lester Mendoza, are still being detained together with adults at the La Trinidad District Jail, La Trinidad, Benguet. Although the location of the detention centre, which is under the Bureau Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) -- Safekeeping Development, is separate to the building where the nine other victims are detained, it was learned that adults were also detained inside the detention centres where the two minors are. Mendoza is detained with seven adult males while Bernal was with 11 female inmates.


Please write letters to the concerned agencies listed below, in particular the Office of the Governor of Benguet province and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) in Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) requesting for their immediate action in this matter. The Governor must take immediate steps to ensure the security of the inmates. The BJMP should also be requested to relocate the two minors to juvenile detention centres, instead of only separating them from the detention center of their peers. Most importantly, they must not be detained together with adults.

Suggested letter:

Dear __________,

PHILIPPINES: Jail authorities failing to ensure adequate security despite grave danger torture victims are facing

Name of torture victims facing threats:
1. Rundren Lao
2. Jefferson dela Rosa
Place of detention: Lao is presently detained in cell number 11 while dela Rosa is in cell number 3 at the La Trinidad Provincial Jail, La Trinidad, Benguet
Threat on their lives began in: April up until present
Name of minor inmates detained with adults:
1. Frencess Ann Bernal
2. Ray Lester Mendoza
Place of detention: La Trinidad District Jail, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) Safekeeping Development, La Trinidad, Benguet
Date of detention: Bernal was remanded on 16 February 2006 while Mendoza was remanded on March 26. They are still detained at the said detention centre.

It has come to my attention that two of the 11 torture victims presently detained at the La Trinidad Provincial Jail, La Trinidad, Benguet are in grave danger due to threats on their lives. I have learned that a huge amount of money was reportedly offered to a fellow inmate of Rundren Lao in a plot to kill him sometime in April. One of Lao’s peers, Jefferson dela Rosa is also reported to have been spied on by an inmate who is also detained in the same detention centre where he is being held.

I am deeply concerned that even though the jail authorities, in particular the Provincial Jail Warden James Simon, have been informed of this serious development, there have been no significant improvements to secure the safety of the inmates. I have learned that the fellow inmate of dela Rosa whose movements were suspicious has not been transferred to another detention centre.

I have also learned that even though the jail authorities have recorded this serious development following discussions with the victim’s legal counsel and the organisation helping them, there has been no further improvement on their security or any effort to investigate this matter. I urge you to have the inmate who admitted receiving an offer of money to kill Lao investigated to identify who is behind the plot. The result of the investigation must be reported to the court handling the victim’s case for proper action. Appropriate action must be taken with urgency to prevent any violence against the inmates.

I would like to remind you of your responsibility to ensure the safety of persons under your custody. Should you fail to meet this objective, your office will be liable should you fail to take effective and immediate action to protect the lives of inmates, in particular the two torture victims who are in grave danger.

Additionally, I have also learned that the La Trinidad District Jail, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) in La Trinidad, Benguet, is still failing to ensure that the two minor detainees, Frencess Ann Bernal and Ray Lester Mendoza, are not detained together with adult detainees. I have learned that despite the strict orders by the Court to have them detained separately from adults, still the jail authorities are failing to comply with the court’s order.

I would like to remind you that the detention of minors together with adults is strictly prohibited under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) to which the Philippine government is a State party. Under par. 91 (b) 21 September 2005 concluding observation by the Committee on the Rights of the Child, it clearly stipulates: “that persons below 18 years of age are not detained with adults”.

I trust that you will take action in this case with great urgency.

Yours sincerely,



1. Mr. James Simon
Provincial Jail Warden
La Trinidad Provincial Jail
La Trinidad, Benguet
Tel: +63 74 422 2304

2. Director Arturo W. Alit
Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP)
144 Juco Bldg. Mindanao Avenue
Quezon City
Tel No: +632 9276154 / 927 6383
E-mail: itu@bjmp.gov.ph

3. Governor Borromeo P. Melchor
Provincial Capitol
2601 La Trinidad, Benguet
Tel. No: +63 74 422 3223
Fax No. +63 74 422 2004

4. Senior Superintendent Wilfredo L Navarrete
RBJMP-Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR)
2/F., Baguio City Jail, Albano St.,
Baguio City
Tel. No: +63 74 443 5295
E-mail: jmpcar@bjmp.gov.ph

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

6. Ms. Jocelyn Castillo
Regional Director, Commission on Human Rights
Cordillera Administrative Region
3rd floor SSS Baguio Branch Bldg., Harrison Road
2600 Baguio City
Tel: +63 074 619 9088/ 074 619 9089

7. Mr. Raul Gonzalez
Department of Justice
DOJ Bldg., Padre Faura
1004 Manila
Fax: +63 2 521 1614
Email: sechbp@infocom.com.ph

8. Professor Manfred Nowak
Special Rapporteur on the Question of Torture
Attn: Mr.Safir Syed
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 9230
E-mail: ssyed@ohchr.org

9. Mr. Jacob Egbert Doek
Committee on the Rights of the Child
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10
Fax: +41 22 917 9022

10. Ms Leila Zerrougui
Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
Attn: Mr Miguel de la Lama
1211 Geneva 10
Email: mdelalama@ohchr.org

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.