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PHILIPPINES: 2 desaparecidos escape from military captors

by PESANTE-USA Friday, Aug. 24, 2007 at 12:11 PM
magsasakapil@hotmail.com 213-241-0906 337 Glendale Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026

Two farm workers who claim to have been detained and tortured for a year-and-a-half by military men before managing to escape have petitioned the Supreme Court (SC) for protection. Represented by lawyers from the civil rights group Free Legal Assistance Group (Flag), the two brothers in their 13-page petition yesterday also asked the high tribunal to designate either an incumbent or retired SC justice to act as a commissioner and verify the allegations. The two brothers, Raymond, 26, and Reynaldo Manalo, 38, filed the suit for prohibition, injunction and temporary restraining order (TRO) through Flag lawyers Jose Manuel Diokno, Theodore Te and Ricardo Sunga.

PHILIPPINES: 2 desaparecidos escape from military captors

By Benjamin B. Pulta

The Daily Tribune

08/24/2007

Manila-- Two farm workers who claim to have been detained and tortured for a year-and-a-half by military men before managing to escape have petitioned the Supreme Court (SC) for protection.

Represented by lawyers from the civil rights group Free Legal Assistance Group (Flag), the two brothers in their 13-page petition yesterday also asked the high tribunal to designate either an incumbent or retired SC justice to act as a commissioner and verify the allegations.

The two brothers, Raymond, 26, and Reynaldo Manalo, 38, filed the suit for prohibition, injunction and temporary restraining order (TRO) through Flag lawyers Jose Manuel Diokno, Theodore Te and Ricardo Sunga.

The Flag lawyers also asked the court to issue a TRO and a writ of injunction that would prevent the military and the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) from again taking and detaining their clients.

Whisked to different safehouses and military bases in Luzon and Palawan in the course of their abduction, the brothers claim that, while under detention, former Army Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. talked to them and asked them to tell their family not to attend the habeas corpus hearings at the Court of Appeals (CA).

The habeas corpus suit had been filed by their families.

Raymond said while at Camp Tecson and again in Limay, Bataan, he allegedly saw abducted University of the Philippines students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno.

It was also in detention where he saw abducted activist Manuel Mirino.

Raymond said he later learned that Mirino had been killed by his captors.

Respondents in the petition were the offices of the Secretary of National Defense and the offices of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff.

In their petition, the Manalo brothers alleged that they were forcibly abducted on Feb. 14, 2006 in San Ildefonso, Bulacan, in successive operations by then unidentified men from their house in Barangay

Buhol Na Manga.

During their captivity, the brothers claimed they were blindfolded, severely beaten, bathed in their own urine and whipped with a chain with a barbed wire attached at one end.

They alleged that their captors also poured water in their nostrils and were forced to eat rotten food.

The brothers also allege that their captors threatened to harm their families should they later reveal their experience or escape.

Raymond, in an affidavit attached to the petition, said he later learned that he and his brother were taken by members of the Cafgu whom he identified as Michael Dela Cruz, a certain Puti and Pula Dela Cruz, Randy and Rudy Mendoza. He added he and his brother were taken to Fort Magsaysay in Palayan City, Nueva Ecija and were tortured by their captors during the first three months of their captivity.

Raymond said they were later transferred to Camp Tecson in San Miguel, Bulacan, and then later to a safehouse in Zambales.

After three weeks, they were again transferred to the camp of the 24th Infantry Battalion in Limay, Bataan.

The families of the brothers, during their captivity, meanwhile, exerted every effort to locate them and even filed a habeas corpus petition with the appellate court.

The brothers, in their petition, however, said the military merely denied having them in their custody.

The appellate court later upheld the military’s claim and ordered the Cafgu to release the Manalos.

Raymond said while in captivity, a certain Rollie Castillo warned them that their families will be killed if they ever try to escape.

The brothers later learned that Rolle Castillo was Army Sgt. Rizal Hilario.

Raymond also said it was at this point in captivity that Palparan talked to him and asked him to tell his family not to attend the habeas corpus hearings at the CA.

He added while at Camp Tecson and again in Limay, he personally talked to Cadapan and Empeno.

Last Aug. 13, the Manalo brothers escaped from their safehouse in Pangasinan after their captors fell drunk asleep.

The brothers said they then walked toward the highway where they boarded a bus going to Cubao, Quezon City.

Diokno said they have decided to ask the protection of the SC for their clients as they could not trust the police, the military and even the Witness Protection Program of the Department of Justice, which uses agents of the military and the police.

“The brothers Manalo have now surfaced, after having escaped from their captors on Aug. 13, 2007. But they cannot escape the danger to their lives and liberty, which is now at its most critical level. Without the protection of this court, they have every reason to believe that they will be hunted down, abducted again or simply killed outright,” Diokno said.

He added in filing the petition, they are asking for ancillary remedies from the high court such as protective custody orders, the appointment of an inspection commissioner and access orders under Article III, Section 5, of the 1987 Constitution and Rule 135, Section 6, of the Rules of Court. Article III, Section 5, of the Constitution gives the SC the exclusive authority to issue rules concerning the protection and enforcement of human rights.

“There is no government agency or entity that petitioners trust with their physical custody, other than this court. Thus, petitioners now seek this court’s urgent and immediate intervention by the issuance of a protective order to take them under its custody,” the Flag lawyers said.

Diokno told reporters that they could not reveal where their clients are now and for what reasons why they were taken by the Cafgu.

He, however, hinted that they were taken on suspicion of being involved with the communist New People’s Army.

“The best persons to ask that (reasons for detention) would be their captors themselves,” Diokno said.

He also refused to give further details on the Manalo brothers for fear that it would compromise their safety.

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