Victims of human rights abuses knock at door of Carpio-Morales Torture survivors urge new Ombudsman to resolve case vs military

“Kahit gaano katagal, hindi kami susuko. Ang mahalaga mabigyan ng katarungan ang nangyari sa amin. Nananawagan kami sa bagong Ombudsman na si Conchita Carpio-Morales na umaksyon sa mga nakabinbing reklamo at bigyang-katarungan ang mga biktima ng paglabag sa karapatang pantao.” (However long this takes, we will never give up. What is important is we get justice for what was done to us. We urge newly-appointed Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to act on the cases filed before the agency that aim to seek justice for victims of human rights violations.)

These were the words of farmer Raymond Manalo, a survivor of torture and enforced disappearance, who together with former security guard Oscar Leuterio and their lawyers, filed a motion today to resolve the administrative and criminal charges they filed against their captors on September 2008 and November 16, 2006 respectively, at the office of former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. 

Manalo and Leuterio stand as key witnesses to the abduction and disappearances of UP students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan and farmer Manuel Merino. In 2007, they testified before the Court of Appeals that they saw Karen and Sherlyn inside a military camp, and they suffered severe torture in the hands of soldiers then under retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr.

Together with counsels from the National Union of People’s Lawyers, human rights alliance Karapatan, organization of victims of human rights violations Hustisya and Desaparecidos, Manalo and Leuterio filed respective motions to resolve the charges they filed against retired AFP officers Lt. Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr., Maj. Gen. Juanito Gomez and other officials and personnel of the 24th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and members of the Citizen’s Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU).

The respondents were accused of kidnapping, arbitrary detention, physical injuries, maltreatment of prisoners, threats, involuntary servitude, torture, gross misconduct, and grave abuse of authority, among others. 

Victims’ accounts all point to the AFP
Leuterio, a former security guard at the Iron Ore Mining Corp. in Doña Remedios Trinidad, Bulacan, was abducted by military personnel in April 17, 2006 together with his three companions. They were repeatedly tortured in Camp Tecson, San Miguel, Bulacan and in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija, where Leuterio was able to see Empeño and Cadapan. He was released by the military after he “agreed” told to cooperate with them.

Meanwhile, in his sworn statement, Manalo said they were abducted in San Ildefonso, Bulacan on February 14, 2006 and were detained in three military camps and two safehouses. They were first brought to Fort Magsaysay, Laur, Nueva Ecija before being transferred to Camp Tecson in San Miguel, Bulacan and later in a safehouse in Zambales. They were again transferred to the headquarters of the 24th Infantry Battalion in Limay, Bataan and lastly, to another safehouse in Pangasinan where the Manalo brothers finally escaped on August 13, 2007.

Within 18 months of captivity, they suffered from severe torture, endured involuntary servitude and inhumane treatment in the hands of their military captors. This is also when Manalo witnessed the torture of Karen, Sherlyn and farmer Manuel Merino, who all remain missing to this day. The Court of Appeals (CA) has granted the Writ of Amparo for Manalo in 2007, while the Supreme Court affirmed the findings of the CA.

Time to act for Ombudsman
In the motion filed by NUPL in behalf of Manalo, they averred that “Considering that the complaint has been filed as early as September 12, 2008, that some of the respondents have already filed their Counter Affidavits, "Pinagsamang Sinumpaang Salaysay" and Position Paper, while the other respondents are deemed to have waived the right to file and submit their Counter Affidavits or controverting evidence, the instant cases are now ripe for resolution.”

Similarly, they also asserted in their motion on Leuterio’s behalf that since no counter affidavits have been filed by any of the respondents and since the Office of the Ombudsman has not resolved Leuterio’s case despite the fact that the complaint has been filed as early as November 16, 2006, the criminal and administrative complaint should be immediately resolved.

“Sa tagal na inupuan ang aming kaso sa ilalim ni Ombudsman Gutierrez at Pangulong Arroyo, hustisya pa rin ang hangad namin ilang taon pagkatapos ng nangyari sa amin. Walang mangyayari kung matatakot lang kami, samantalang napakaraming biktima ang naghahangad ng hustisya. (After years that our cases were not acted upon by Ombudsman Gutierrez and Pres. Arroyo, we still call for justice years after our ordeal. Nothing will happen if fear overcomes us, while so many victims are seeking justice),” said Raymond. 

The Department of Justice is currently conducting a preliminary investigation on the charges of illegal arrest, arbitrary detention, rape, serious physical injuries, among others filed against Palparan and military officials last May 4 by the mothers of Karen and Sherlyn. The next hearing of the DOJ panel will be on August 3, 2011. ###


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