UPDATE (Philippines): No protection for family of murdered activist facing continuing threats


Urgent Appeal Case: UP-116-2007
ISSUES: Extrajudicial killings, Legislation, Victims assistance & protection,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) writes to inform you regarding the continuing threats to the family of murdered activist Jose Manegdeg III (a.k.a. Pepe). They are forced to take security measures by themselves due to the lack of protection and assistance by the authorities for nearly two years on. The police investigating the case also have not involved them in the investigation process. The murder complaint filed against a military captain who allegedly killed the victim was dismissed by the prosecutor due to insufficiency of evidence and  because the witness, who could supposedly identify the perpetrator, withdrew his statement for fear of his life.

UPDATED INFORMATION: (Based on information from victim’s wife, Florence Manegdeg)

As reported in our previous appeal (UP-158-2005), Jose Manegdeg III (a.k.a. Pepe) was brutally murdered on 28 November 2005 in San Esteban, Ilocos Sur. He suffered 22 gunshot wounds to different parts of his body when he was shot by his attacker. Soon after his murder, Task Force Manegdeg, a team of police investigators was created to investigate his case. The task force was been able to identify the alleged perpetrator, Captain Joel Castro, formerly attached to the 50th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army, and subsequently filed murder charge against him before the prosecutor’s office.

One of the witness identified Castro who allegedly shot Manegdeg. Castro was charged before the Ilocos Sur Provincial Prosecutor’s Office based on the witness’ testimony. However, in March 2007, the prosecutor dismissed the complaint after the witness withdrew his sworn statement. It took over a year before the prosecutor resolved the case that was dismissed for lack of sufficient evidence and witnesses. Under Rule 112, Sections 3 and 4 of the Rules of Court though, the prosecutors are supposed to resolve the complaint at least 30 days from the date that the complaint is filed.

In this case, the filing of the complaint by the police and the resolution by the prosecutor were delayed. After the prosecutor’s dismissal of the case, no petitions were made for prosecutors to reconsider its resolution. The police and the victim’s legal counsel have had to produce other witnesses and additional evidence before the prosecutor’s office should the case be reconsidered and filed in court. The possibility that the case would be filed again in court though is negligible. No witnesses are coming forward to testify for fear of reprisal. The police, particularly the Task Force Manegdeg, likewise failed to ensure and facilitate that witnesses were given protection and covered by the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act (6981). However, the implementation of this programme is nonexistent. Even the victim’s family in this case are not aware of where and how to apply for the programme. The recommendation and inclusion of witness into the program is supposed to be a duty of the police.

At the time of his death, Jose was supposed to meet his wife, Florence, arriving in Manila the following day from Hong Kong where she worked for a short period as domestic worker. Her husband had since been taking care of their two children, Andrea and Geraldine, while she was working abroad. Jose was working as Regional Coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Ilocos province.

Florence and her two children have had to take upon themselves the security matters in the absence of any intervention by the authorities, particularly the police. They had been moving from one place to another following their experience of unknown persons with suspicious movements riding on motorcycles that they suspect could have been spying on them. Florence has sent a letter to several government agencies appealing for their intervention into her husband’s case, but there has not been any substantial progress.

Despite the urgent need to afford them arrangements necessary for their protection, there has not been any action taken by concerned authorities. Following the dismissal of the complaint against the alleged perpetrator, Florence and her children had been experiencing continuous threats. Below is the excerpt of Florence’s testimony regarding their security concerns and how they struggled to pursue legal remedies;

“Sooner or later, some intelligence officers will be mobilized to monitor me whether I like it or not. I hope not the stabbing or shooting kind or anything disguised to commit ordinary crimes. Besides, they have nothing to gain from me. I have a very cheap bamboo nose flute, my only instrument. [She and her family had engage themselves in a healing process by way of music and arts together with other families of victims of killings and disappearance]”

“I am interested in pursuing the case in the spirit of understanding and for public education as well that there may be light indeed. The CHR (Commission on Human Rights) Region I has done its investigation as a prerequisite to the financial assistance they are granting so they have some reports. Task Force Usig came up with the name of the trigger man even as the witness balked for fear of his life.”

“I hope I would not be asked to provide and secure the documents I do not have. Also to find a witness who would not balk for fear of his own life. I work on the framework that the offender bears the burden to prove their innocence and not for me to prove their guilt beyond doubt. I am jobless at this moment so I can not spare anymore money and on exodus as well after being harassed by masked men on motorcycles several times. I could only summon my strength and courage to be present and say one word or two.”


This case illustrates yet another instance of lack of remedies and relief for families of the dead facing continuing threats to their lives. The victim’s family is forced to take upon themselves arrangement for their protection and security. There is no law giving specific guidelines to policemen or other concerned agencies on how they should deal with this situation. The police, however, could provide protection should there be request from persons experiencing threats but the sustainability and practicability is negligible. Should there be request for protection, the requesting party are expected to bear the cost of expenses incurred by the police escorts in carrying out their duties like food and transportation. It thereby put heavy burden on the persons that are supposedly given protection particularly the poor. This arrangement discourages them from seeking security and protection. The requesting party also had to proved and convince the police that indeed their lives is threatened which takes a usual lengthy process.

Although there is a law on Witness Protection Security and Benefit Act (RA 6981), it was completely ineffective on cases requiring immediate intervention. It also does not cover security and protection for persons whose cases are not filed in court or persons experiencing threats but are not testifying in court or quasi-judicial bodies as stipulated in Section 3 of the Act. (See further: RA 6981) In this case, the prosecutor has already dismissed the complaint against the perpetrator after the witness withdrew his testimony. Therefore, legally there is no case filed in court.

When there is no case filed in court, the law cannot be invoked and the authorities, particularly police are under no obligation to protect the witness or persons who may have knowledge for the effective prosecution of the crime experiencing threats. The police, however, are obliged to either facilitate ensure that witness are recommended to be included in the programme to the Department of Justice (DoJ) who is the implementing agency of RA 6981. The prosecutors also had obligations to do the same to ensure the case they are handling could be effectively prosecuted in court. The police and prosecutors however routinely ignored this.

Often, when the witnesses refuse to cooperate or withdraw her or his statement, the police are not looking into why the witnesses become hostile or the circumstances why they withdraw their statement. What the police does is to file the case and considers it solve as matter of policy effectively excusing themselves from any responsibility. Whether it would be effectively prosecuted or the case progress in court they paid no attention to it.

It is also more complicated for the victim’s family. When the case was dismissed, the possibility for the victim’s family to seek security and protection is negligible if not extremely difficult. Firstly, the possibility for potential witness be given protection is nonexistent following the case’ dismissal. Secondly, there is no existing law or arrangement where families facing threats could be given protection at all. In Manegdeg’s case, his wife Florence and two children have already been unnecessarily exposed to risk the time the police filed the case but no protection or security arrangement were afforded to them since.

Please write letters to the concerned authorities requesting their appropriate action into this case particularly the provision of protection and assistance to the victim’s family promptly. The authorities must also take proactive role in ensuring protection to potential witnesses to ensure the case against the perpetrator would be effectively prosecuted in court.

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PHILIPPINES: No protection to family of murdered activist facing continuing threats

Name of victims facing threats: Florence Manegdeg, wife of murdered activist Jose, and her two children
Alleged perpetrators: Unknown persons riding on motorcycles

I am writing to voice my grave concern regarding the lack of protection to the family of murdered activist Jose Manegdeg III (a.k.a. Pepe) despite continuing threats they are experiencing. His wife Florence and her two children, Andrea and Geraldine, have had to take upon themselves arrangements to ensure their safety and without any means of assistance and intervention by the authorities.

As you are aware, Florence’ husband, Jose, was murdered in 28 November 2005 in San Esteban, Ilocos Sur. He suffered 22 gunshot wounds during the shooting incident. Although one of the alleged perpetrator, Captain Joel Castro, formerly of the 50th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army, had been charged before the prosecutor’s office in Ilocos Sur, the case did not progress due to lack of sufficient evidence and the withdrawal by the witness statement for fear of his life. The witness’ testimony could have identified him in the murder case. I have learned the witness and other potential witness fears for their lives thus they refuses to cooperate.

I am particularly concerned by the authorities continuing inaction and failure to take appropriate measure to ensure the victim family’s security and welfare. I have learned that following the dismissal of murder case against the perpetrator by the prosecutors, there has not been any action taken to ensure the safety of Florence and her children despite the continuing threats they are facing. No further actions were taken nor were they involved by the police in the process of their investigation. Furthermore, I am gravely concern that the dismissal of the complaint had in effect excuse the police and concerned authorities on matters involving protection.

I am aware that arrangement for protection and security is only possible once there is a case is filed in court whereby persons facing threats, particularly witnesses, would be considered under the Witness Protection Security and Benefit Programme (RA 6981). But in this case, the police and prosecutors were unable facilitate to recommend the witness to the programme. I am deeply concerned also of the lack of means whereby the victim’s family could be given protection and assistance. Firstly, since there was no case is filed the witness could not be applied for protection. Secondly, since the victim’s family is not witnesses themselves to the case but are also experiencing threats the protection programme had become not applicable to them. The authorities, however, fails to afford them remedies promptly.

I am gravely concerned the welfare of the victim’s family had been undermined following the dismissal of the case which is a result of the police and prosecutor’s failure to ensure that the witnesses would cooperate. For witness who had already given his sworn statements and subsequently become hostile it should have been looked into and it should have been adequately address as a requirement to ensure the effective prosecution of case in court. However, I am unaware of actions taken on this manner. The case was dismissed and the possibility to prosecute the perpetrator had become negligible.

I am gravely concerned of the police and prosecutor’s failure to ensure that witness would cooperate by giving assurance to their security; and likewise to ensure the family is protected as well. It is disappointing to know the family have not even been given copies of the police’ investigation report though they have filed already filed a charged in court. This illustrates the police’ lack of cooperation, particularly the Task Force Manegdeg, with the victim’s family. They must be given copies of the police report without delay.

I therefore urge you to take prompt action and adequate action in this case.

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. Mrs. 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. Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera
Officer in Charge
Department of Justice (DoJ)
DOJ Bldg., Padre Faura
1004 Manila
Fax: +63 2 521 1614

5. Mr. Emilio Gonzalez
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: +63 2 926 9032
Fax: +63 2 926 8747

6. Mrs. Esperanza I. Cabral
Department of Social Welfare and Development
3/F DSWD Building, Batasang Pambansa Complex,
Constitution Hills
Quezon City
Tel: +63 2 931 7916 / 931 8068
Fax: +63 2 931 8191
Email: eicabral@dswd.gov.ph

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

8. Ms. Hina Jilani
Special Representative of the Secretary General for human rights defenders
Room 1-040
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 93 88

9. Ms. Yakin Erturk
Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women
Room 3-042
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 9615

Thank you.

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

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Update
Document ID : UP-116-2007
Countries : Philippines,
Issues : Extrajudicial killings, Legislation, Victims assistance & protection,