DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/13 March) – The chair of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Sunday said he will order an investigation into the reported torture of a Tagakolu farmer, his 15-year old son and 14-year old grandnephew by an Army corporal and four members of the Special Cafgu Active Auxiliary (SCAA) in Barangay Demoloc, Malita, Davao Occidental last February 19.
“The CHR will have this matter investigated and will pursue it until the perpetrators are held to account,” CHR chair Jose Luis Martin ‘Chito’ Gascon told MindaNews in a text message Sunday.
Gascon said he will task the regional CHR in Davao City to send a fact-finding team to Barangay Demoloc and will also deploy an anti-torture unit from the Central Ofice in Manila this week.
Orlando “Kaido” Engo describes how he was punched several times by members of the Special CAFGU Armed Auxiliary (SCAA) and Corporal Sandy Batolbatol during an interview at Malita Tagakolu Mission, Barangay Demoloc, Malita, Davao Occidental on March 11, 2016. On February 19, Kaido was fetched by members of the SCAA from his home and was subjected to torture by the SCAA and an Army corporal for a crime he said he did not commit. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO
RA 9745 or the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 penalizes torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.
At the same time, Gascon expressed concern over the report of Fr. Joey Ganio Evangelista, priest-in-charge of the Malita Tagakolu Mission in Barangay Demoloc, that what happened on February 19 was not an isolated incident but “only the first instance of a formal complaint by a victim” and urged others with similar complaints to come forward.
“We urge others who may have also been harmed to come forward so that we may be able to ascertain the full extent of this unlawful practice. As with previous violations perpetrated by irregular militias and auxiliary forces, we continue to call for a serious and thorough review of this policy towards ultimately discontinuing the same as all security forces are obliged to observe universal human rights standards and are accountable for all violations thereof,” Gascon said.
Tagakolu farmer Orlando Balyan Engo, known in the community by his nickname “Kaido” told MindaNews in Malita last Friday that he nearly died when an Army corporal (referred to by Fr. Joey as Sergeant in his narrative posted on Facebook on March 9) and four members of the SCAA tortured him and his 15-year old son Jerome on February 19 for a crime they did not commit (see other story).
Reacting to Fr. Joey’s Facebook post, Batol-batol and the SCAA members were relieved of their post by midnight, hours after the narrative accompanied by a video on the latter part of the torture, was uploaded.[fbvideo link=”https://www.facebook.com/172192452834041/videos/939010259485586/” width=”500″ height=”400″ onlyvideo=”1″]
In a statement on March 10, the 10th Infantry Division said they were “shocked and saddened by the actions of our soldier and SCAAs perpetrated” against Kaido, his son and grandnephew.
It said the Command directed the commander of the 72nd Infantry Battalion to relieve Batolbatol and the concerned SCAA members, “take them under his custody at his headquarters, and conduct investigation to determine their culpability and the appropriate punishment.”
In another statement on March 11, Capt. Rhyan Batchar, chief of the Division Public Affairs Office of the 10th ID said Batolbatol and the four SCAA members “who are possibly involved” in the reported torture, had been placed under arrest by the commander of the 72nd IB and “shall be restricted to barracks to insure their appearance while the investigation is ongoing.”
“Due process of law shall be strictly observed in the investigation and when evidence warrants they will be prosecuted with the full force of military justice, including trial by Courts-Martial. The soldier and the CAAs are subject to military laws,” Batchar said.
He said the 10th ID’s probe “will not prejudice any investigation that maybe conducted by other agencies” and that they will “make available the soldier and the SCAAs for such investigation.”
In a press statement Sunday, Karapatan-Southern Mindanao condemned the “inhumane humiliation and physical injuries inflicted by Batolbatol” and company, and that “these acts of violence only show the gravely rotten nature of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines), and adds weight to our claims to pull out military troops from the countryside.”
“These men, like their higher-ups, are not fit to bear arms and call themselves as protectors of the people,” Hanimay Suazo of Karapatan-Southern Mindanao said.
Suazo said that while the 10th ID had poken and promised justice about the matter, “it is not enough, and the guilty should be placed behind bars.”
“Only when they have been relieved of their duties and served punishment will true justice be served,” she said.
Suazo challenged the local government of Malita and the AFP “to stand up for the rights of their constituents, and take appropriate action against the military,” Suazo said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)