Torture complaint vs NorthCot cops dismissed

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/16 October) – No sufficient evidence.

The City Prosecutor’s Office in Kidapawan City has dismissed due to insufficient evidence the complaint filed against three police officers of North Cotabato who were accused of torturing suspects in the bombing of a bus that left nine people killed in October last year.

In a ten-page resolution dated September 26, 2011 and released recently, City Prosecutor Al Calica and Assistant Prosectuor Melvin Lamata said they found no sufficient evidence to charge Supt. Alexander C. Tagum, operations chief of the North Cotabato police; Insp. Joan R. Resurrecion and PO2 Manuel de Guzman Marquez, Jr. with violation of Republic Act 9745 or the anti-torture law.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) regional office on April 7, 2011 filed the complaint against the police officers for their alleged torture of suspects Allamin Balotintic Samal alias Shang, 43 and Ibrahim Makasulay ALimanan alias Torex, 37.

In its complaint, the CHR Region 12 said it was convinced that Tagum, head of Investigation Task Group Rural Transit, and his men violated Republic Act No. 9745 or the Anti-Torture Act.

Alimanan and Samal were taken to the North Cotabato Provincial Police Office where relatives were barred from seeing them. They were found after three days at the Philippine National Police headquarters in Kidapawan City, allegedly beaten up, with broken ribs and traces of burns and bruises.

“Even if they have committed a crime, they have rights. They are considered innocent unless proven guilty,” CHR-12 Regional Director Christina Haw Tay said.

The resolution dismissing the complaint said “there is much reason to believe (the policemen’s) claim of innocence.”

A bomb exploded inside a Rural Transit Bus in Matalam, North Cotabato on October 21, 2010, killing nine persons and injuring several others. Two of the injured later died.

A minor confessed that “Shang” and “Torex” of Rosary Heights in Cotabato City asked him to plant the bomb which exploded inside the Rural Transit Bus. The minor said he stayed with them while he was working as a tricycle driver for a month.

Based on the information, a team headed by Tagum was dispatched upon the order of Cotabato Provincial Director Cornelio A. Salinas to track down “Shang” and “Torex.”

On October 23, 2010, a police team guided by the minor, arrested Allamin Balotintic Samal alias Shang and Ibrahim Makasulay ALimanan alias Torex in their residence in Cotabato City and brought them to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in Cotabato City and later turned over to the Cotabato City police for the filing of  charges for the bombing.

Three days later, the two suspects were turned over to the Kidapawan City Police Station.

In a  medical examination conducted on them on the same date in the presence of lawyer Zainudin Malang of the Mindanao Human Rights Action Center, Inc. at the Kidapawan City Hospital, Dr. Moises Renan Sungcad certified that except for abrasions on both wrists due to the handcuffs in the case of Samal and hematoma on the  left   lower quadrant  secondary  to brunt  trauma in the case of Alimanan, both were found to be “grossly physically fit.”

“It could be that owing to the fact that the arresting officers were in civilian attire, complaining witnesses have offered some resistance at the initial stage of the arrest. It could be also that in order to subdue them, the arresting officers employed some degree of force upon complaining witnesses which was reasonably necessary in order to effectively enforce arrest. This could be the reason why upon examination, a hematoma was noted on the left lower quadrant of Ebrahim Macasulay Alimanan,” the resolution stated.

On that same day. an inquest investigation was conducted by the Provincial Prosecution Office of Cotabato, and thereafter a case for multiple murder with multiple frustrated murder was filed.

Another medical examination was conducted on Alimanan and Samal at the Cotabato Provincial Hospital by Dr. Glenn Segocio. In that examination, Segocio said both were found to have “grossly normal physical examination findings.”

“Under the prevailing circumstances there was no more necessity for Tagum or any police officer for that matter, to put pressure upon complaining witnesses, much less torture them, for the purpose of extracting any admission that indeed they were ‘Shang’ and ‘Torex,’ the resolution said.

Tagum had asserted that with the arrest and cooperation of the minor, the police had basis for their warrantless arrest and the filing of subsequent charges.

The suspects presented two medical examination reports issued by Dr. Sherjan P. Kalim of MINHRAC dated  November 22, 2011 claiming the two suffered several injuries in the different parts of their bodies.

But the resolution noted that the two doctors who examined the suspects on October 26 and 29 would have seen evidence of the torture.

Under the Anti-Torture Act of 2009, a victim of torture has the right to an impartial investigation  by the CHR and other offices such as the justice department and the police. An investigation should be complete within 60 working days from the time the complaint for torture is filed.

The CHR regional office filed the complaint for torture before the prosecutors’ office.

It was the first case of torture filed by the CHR in the region after the Anti-Torture law was passed in 2009.

The two suspects are facing the murder charges in a court in Kabacan town. (Ferdinandh Cabrera/MindaNews)