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2 Filipino military rebel officers ‘mentally’ tortured, wives claim

by Pesante-USA Saturday, Jan. 06, 2007 at 9:02 PM 213-241-0906 337 Glendale Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026

The wives of two Filipino military rebel junior officers have claimed their husbands are being “mentally tortured” by the Army since their capture six months ago. Philippine Army 1st Lt. Sonny Sarmiento and 2nd Lt. Aldrin Baldonado have been kept in “bartolina” (solitary confinement) at the maximum-security compound of the Intelligence Security Group (ISG) at Fort Bonifacio since July 27, their wives said. They said the two officers were not being adequately fed, and deprived of reading materials and personal grooming items like combs.

2 Filipino military rebel officers ‘mentally’ tortured, wives claim

Manila-- The wives of two Filipino military rebel junior officers have claimed their husbands are being “mentally tortured” by the Army since their capture six months ago.

Philippine Army 1st Lt. Sonny Sarmiento and 2nd Lt. Aldrin Baldonado have been kept in “bartolina” (solitary confinement) at the maximum-security compound of the Intelligence Security Group (ISG) at Fort Bonifacio since July 27, their wives said.

They said the two officers were not being adequately fed, and deprived of reading materials and personal grooming items like combs.

Sarmiento and Baldonado are among the 97 junior officers, who styled themselves as the Magdalo group, undergoing court-martial for allegedly participating in the July 2003 failed coup, also known as the Oakwood mutiny.

The Army has denied it was keeping Sarmiento and Baldonado in solitary confinement.

But it refused to allow a team from the Commission on Human Rights to inspect the detention facilities for the two officers last Dec. 28.

In an interview, Venus Sarmiento and Wilma Baldonado said they were afraid their husbands would soon lose their minds under such conditions.

“We just want them taken out of ISG. They don’t see anyone, they can’t talk to anyone. It’s mental torture,” said Wilma Baldonado who is based in General Santos City and was only able to come to Manila three weeks ago with her two young children.

“We are not asking for special treatment. We just ask for what is humane. They might go crazy there,” said Venus Sarmiento who lives in Bulacan.

Sarmiento escaped from detention in Fort Bonifacio on Jan. 17, 2006, along with 1st Lieutenants Lawrence San Juan, Nathaniel Rabonza and Patricio Bumidang Jr.

Sarmiento, Rabonza and Bumidang were recaptured at a Quezon City safe house last July.

With them were Baldonado, Army 2nd Lt. Angelbert Gay and Navy Lt. Kiram Sadava.

San Juan was captured earlier on Feb. 21, 2006 in Batangas. But Lt. San Juan later recanted and joined in with his former boss, the AFP chief of staff, General Esperon and disclaimed his comrades.

Philippine military officials claimed the group at the safe house was planning to stage an attack during President Macapagal-Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address before Congress last July 24, 2006. They said they found explosives, firearms and a blueprint of the Batasan Complex in the safehouse.

Since their capture, some of the rebel officers have turned state witness, except for Baldonado and Sarmiento who remain in solitary confinement.

Solitary confinement

Sources said the Magdalo rebel officers were forced into signing a prepared affidavit that would name their alleged coddlers while they were on the run.

Baldonado and Sarmiento reportedly resisted implicating anyone, particularly opposition figures for their escape, according to the sources.

“They are afraid for their family’s safety because the people they are forced to implicate could get back at them,” said one source.

Their wives claimed Baldonado and Sarmiento were being separately kept in small cells with a single window, a bed, toilet and a single dim bulb providing illumination.

They are not allowed to leave their cells except for half an hour a day to sun themselves in a small terrace with bars.

They do not see any other person except the guard accompanying them.

The two officers are allowed to see visitors during weekends for half an hour. On the way to and from the visitors’ room, the two are blindfolded and handcuffed, their wives said.

Venus Sarmiento said her husband looked “thin, pale, and very weak” when she last visited him.

Wilma Baldonado described her husband as “buto’t balat (all skin and bones).”

During one visit, Baldonado’s three-year-old son reportedly rushed into the room and was shocked to see his father handcuffed and blindfolded.

The wives said they were denied entry to the compound during Christmas Day because the camp was on “red alert.”

Another rebel Army junior officer is reportedly also being kept in solitary confinement at the ISG compound.

Capt. Dante Langkit has reportedly been in solitary confinement since his arrest last April for alleged participation in the Feb. 24 failed coup plot.

He is the only one of the 30 officers undergoing court-martial for the coup plot who has not been transferred to the detention facility in Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal.

The Army did not give any reason why Langkit has not been transferred to Camp Capinpin.

Sources said Langkit was also being forced to turn into “state witness.”


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