Rights advocates stage protest a year after US forces’ interpreter’s death

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/2 Feb) – Human rights activists commemorated the death of an interpreter for United States soldiers by staging a rally in front of the Army’s 103rd Infantry Battalion headquarters in Campo Ranao in neighboring Marawi City today.

They also held an interfaith prayer at the gymnasium of the main campus of the Mindanao State University.

Gregan Cardeno, from Ipil in Zamboanga Sibugay, was hired by the Skylink Security Agency in 2010 to serve as interpreter for US soldiers based at the 103IB headquarters. He died inside one of the rooms assigned to American troops, the latter claiming he died of suicide.

Relatives were not convinced, according to Clarivel C. Santos, Cardeno’s sister.

In a mobile phone interview, Santos said they are reminding the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to hasten the investigation of Gregan’s case because until now the petition for writ of amparo and habeas corpus, pending at the Court of Appeals, remained undecided.

“The family expressed frustration to the CHR and DOJ because of the turtle-paced process in bringing justice to Gregan and his family,” said Faye Reyes, of the Justice for Gregan Cardeno Movement.

She said 200 persons from Kawagid, InPeace Mindanao of Davao and Zamboanga, Patriotiko Mindanao, religious groups, including members of the Catholic Sisters Association, joined in the commemoration.

Cardeno, then 33 years old, died within the premises of the 103IB when it was headed by Brigadier Gen. Rey Ardo. His Lanao tour of duty ended recently when he was appointed by President Aquino to head the government’s Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), otherwise known as the ceasefire committee.

The American soldiers were embedded in Philippine Army brigades under the US-RP Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

Capt. Mike Kaye, who headed the team of US soldiers under the Joint Special Operations Task Force of the Philippines (JSOTFP) when Cardeno died, has also ended his services in Lanao del Sur and could not be reached for comment.

Before his death, Cardeno called his wife in Ipil to inform her that his work was “inconsistent with the contract he signed.”

The fact-finding team organized by human rights groups in 2010 reported that evidences at the site where Cardeno died were not saved and the contacts and messages in his cellphone were deleted.

At the time of the fact-finding mission, Col. Felix Castro of the 103IB denied knowledge of Cardeno’s presence in their camp until the report of his dead body.

Aside from his wife, Cardeno left behind three children. (Violeta M. Gloria / MindaNews)