Arbitrary detention / Ill-treatments / Judicial proceedings PHL 002 / 0709 / OBS 096

09/07/2009
Urgent Appeal

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), expresses its deepest concern regarding the following situation in the Philippines.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) and the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) about the arbitrary detention of Messrs. Rafael Limcumpao and Domingo Alcantara, respectively peasant and community organisers, as well as Mr. Archie Bathan, Secretary General of the Nuclear-Free Bataan Movement (NFBM) and student leader for the Youth for National Democracy (YND), in Samal, Bataan.

On May 27, 2009, Messrs. Rafael Limcumpao, Domingo Alcantara and Archie Bathan were arrested by around 20 combined elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) 303rd Provincial Mobile Group (PMG), of a unit from the Military Intelligence and of the 3rd Infantry Battalion, all under the 703rd Brigade of the Philippine Army (PA), as they were having a meeting in a house in Samal, Bataan.

Prior to this arrest, the three defenders had been planning to organise campaigns to protest the possible renewed operation of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) in the area. The group is opposed to this renewed operation as it would have serious environmental and health implications on local residents.

At the time of arrest, the police and military personnel shouted at them, ordering them to lie down facing the floor. Mr. Archie Bathan, who was caught by surprise by the incident, immediately ran outside the meeting place towards the rice fields. However, the arresting officers chased him and he was subsequently arrested after a warning shot was fired. Messrs. Limcumpao, Alcantara and Bathan were kicked and hit with riffles simultaneously while they were being searched. They were then handcuffed without any arrest warrants being presented.

The three were separately dragged outside and the arresting officers blindfolded them by covering their heads with their own clothing. The officers who arrested them came in three separate vehicles. One of the vehicles was seen to belong to the 303rd PMG. The three defenders were reportedly seen having been forcibly and brutally pushed into the vehicles. Messrs. Limcumpao and Bathan were taken inside the police mobile while Mr. Alcantara was taken to the pick-up.

The three men were then brought to the headquarters of the PNP’s 303rd Police PMG in Camp Tolentino. Soon after arriving at the camp, they were taken to the provincial hospital, but were taken back to Camp Tolentino two hours later, after having been examined by medical personnel. While inside Camp Tolentino, Messrs. Limcumpao, Bathan and Alcantara reported that they had been tortured while the police questioned them. Their finger prints were also taken by force and submitted to the police investigators. The beatings continued until around 2 am the following day.

Mr. Bathan said that one of the interrogators hit his face with a solid object while he was blindfolded. They also performed "Russian-roulette" and hit his ears without warning on several occasions. Mr. Alcantara also suffered bruises to his face and chest due to a number of blows he received while in custody. Mr. Limcumpao was beaten and was suffocated by a thick plastic bag. They were told to admit that they were members of a rebel group, the People’s Revolutionary Army (Rebolusyunaryong Hukbong Bayan - RHB) of Marxist-Leninist Proletarian Party (MLPP).

On May 28, 2009, at around 8 am, the three defenders were forced to attend a press conference with local journalists. As they were presented to journalists, the policemen responsible for the arrest claimed they were leaders of a rebel group, and that they were legal fronts of the said rebel group. However, at the time no formal charges were brought regarding this allegation.

At 2 pm, the three men were taken to the Office of the Prosecutor where they were charged with “attempted murder” and “illegal possession of explosives and firearms”. Later in the afternoon, the victims were turned over to the Bataan Provincial Jail (BPJ), Balanga City, where they remained detained as of issuing this urgent appeal.

A hearing on their case is scheduled to take place on July 29, 2009 before the Branch 1 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC).

According to relatives who had visited them, Mr. Limcumpao did have an arrest order issued prior to his arrest. However, this was not shown to him nor were the reasons for the arrest explained to him at the time of arrest. Besides, abrasions on his face were still clearly visible when he was visited at the detention centre. Mr. Bathan’s jaw was swollen and he had abrasions on his legs where he had been repeatedly kicked when arrested.

The allegations of the police are similar to other incidents in the past where activists have been labelled as rebel leaders, or accused of being legal fronts of the communist movement. Although these allegations are rarely brought before a court, in the Philippines these allegations are enough to vilify and discredit a person, in particular human rights defenders[1].

This is all the more worrying that, in a broader context, an earlier leak of a "secret" military document of a Mindanao’s "Order of Battle" was made public, which contained names and organisations of many human rights defenders. The document classified as ‘secret’ was entitled “3rd Quarter O.B. [Order of Battle] Validation result”, purportedly prepared by the so-called “JCICC Agula” under the office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence of the 10th Infantry Division. The Observatory expresses its utmost and particular concern about the inclusion of the TFDP into this document, which obviously insinuates the targeting of all those who particularly work in TFDP as well as all who generally are active in the promotion and defence of human rights.

A significant number of those in previous lists have been shot with the implication of military, police and other officials. The Observatory thus fears particularly for the safety of Ms. Rita Melencio, from TFDP, placed on the list of the O.B. of the 10th Infantry Division (I.D) as “Marietta Mulato y Maring”, Mulato being her maiden name. In more than ten years with TFDP, Ms. Melencio has figured prominently in seeking justice in several high-profile cases. Even before being on the 10th O.B I.D list, Ms. Melencio had noted signs of surveillance.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of the Philippines, urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Messrs. Rafael Limcumpao, Domingo Alcantara and Archie Bathan, as well as of Ms. Rita Melencio and all human rights defenders included in the above-mentioned OB;

ii. Release Messrs. Rafael Limcumpao, Domingo Alcantara and Archie Bathan immediately and unconditionally as their detention is arbitrary since it only aims at sanctioning their human rights activities;

iii. Order a prompt, effective, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the above-mentioned allegations of torture and ill-treatments, the result of which must be made public, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before a competent, independent and impartial tribunal and apply to them the penal sanctions provided by the law;

iv. Put an end to any kind of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Messrs. Rafael Limcumpao, Domingo Alcantara and Archie Bathan, as well as against human rights defenders in the Philippines, and ensure in all circumstances that they be able to carry out their human rights activities without hindrances;

v. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular with Article 1, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, as well as with Article 12.2 (“the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”);

vi. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by the Philippines.

Addresses

· H.E. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, President of the Republic, New Executive Building, Malacañang Palace, JP Laurel St., San Miguel, Manila 1005, Philippines. Fax: +63 2 736 1010, Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80; E-mail: corres@op.gov.ph / opnet@ops.gov.ph;

· Hon. Eduardo Ermita, Chairperson, Presidential Human Rights Committee (PHRC), 3rd Flr. New Executive Bldg. Office of the President, Malacanang Compound, Manila, Philippines. Trunk Line: + 632 735 6201 Loc. 5301 & 5503. Telefax: + 632 734 6761. Email: phrc.phil@gmail.com

· Hon. Leila De Lima, Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights, SAAC Bldg., UP Complex, Commonwealth Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines. Fax: +632 929 0102. Email: : atty_delima@yahoo.com.ph

· Atty. Jasmin Navarro-Regino, Regional Director, CHR, Region 3, 3rd Flr. Kehyeng Bldg, Dolores Junction, Dolores, City of San Fernando, Pampanga, Philippines. Tel. No. +45 2 9614830. Tel-Fax. No. +45 2 9614475. Email: attyjnr@yahoo.com

· General Eduardo Versoza, PNP Chief, Office of the Chief, PNP, National Headquarters Philippine National Police, Camp Crame, Edsa, Quezon City, Philippines. Tel: +632 9116213. Fax: +632 7248763

· Gerardo G. Dia, Police Superintendent, Asst. Chief, Human Rights Affairs Office, Human Rights Affairs Office, Office of the Chief, PNP, National Headquarters Philippine National Police, Camp Crame, Edsa, Quezon City, Philippines 1111. Tel. Nos. +632 723 0401 to 20 local 3668. Mobile: +63 916 442 4536. Email: Gerardo_dia@yahoo.com.ph

· Mr. Jesus D. Dureza, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), 7th Floor Agustin Building I, Emerald Avenue, Pasig City 1605, Philippines. Voice:+63 2 636 0701 to 066. Fax:+63 (2) 635 9579. Email: osec@opapp.gov.ph

· Permanent Mission of the Philippines to the United Nations in Geneva, 47 Avenue Blanc, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 716 19 32, Email: mission.philippines@ties.itu.int

· Embassy of the Philippines in Brussels, 297 Avenue Moliere, 1050 Brussels, Belgium, Tel: +32 2 340 33 77 / 2 340 33 78, Fax: +32 2 345 64 25.

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of the Philippines in your respective country.

***

Geneva-Paris, July 2, 2009

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need. The Observatory was the winner of the 1998 Human Rights Prize of the French Republic.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org

Tel and fax OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

Tel and fax FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

[1] This brings to the fore again the disregard of the Arroyo administration of Philip Alston’s recommendation in 2007 after his visit that “The Government should immediately direct all military officers to cease making public statements linking political or other civil society groups to those engaged in armed insurgencies. If such characterizations are ever to be made it must be by civilian authorities, on the basis of transparent criteria, and in conformity with the human rights provisions of the Constitution and relevant treaties”. See UN Human Rights Council, Preliminary note on the visit of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Philip Alston, to the Philippines (12-21 February 2007), UN Document A/HRC/4/20/Add.3, March 22, 2007.

Read more
appelobs