KARAPATAN slams abduction-fake surrender modus of PNP, military in Batangas

Once again, state security forces are playing the game of abduction-fake surrender.

Jose Maria Estiller, whose abduction in Sto. Tomas, Batangas on the afternoon of February 20, 2024 by five armed men in plain clothes was captured on CCTV cameras, was reported by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police (PNP-CIDG) to have “voluntarily surrendered” on February 23, 2024, three days after his abduction. The PNP-CIDG also claimed that they served warrants on Estiller on the same date for a string of non-bailable cases.

It is mind-boggling how the PNP-CIDG expects the public to believe its claim of “voluntary surrender” by a person who has been in police custody for three days.

Estiller’s case reminds us of that of Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano, who were abducted, threatened, subjected to psychological torture and later coerced by their captors into signing affidavits stating that they had “surrendered.” The surrender narrative would have stuck if Jonila and Jhed did not have the courage and presence of mind to go off-script and speak the truth at a press conference called by their abductors where they would have been presented as “surrenderees.”

Given this backdrop, we urge the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to investigate the abduction of Jose Maria Estiller and look into the veracity of his alleged surrender. Estiller’s right to have an independent counsel of his choice must be guaranteed, and human rights and faith-based groups as well as humanitarian organizations should be allowed to visit him. He must also be transferred to a regular detention facility while his cases are being heard.