Kin decry abduction of Ilocos village chief
BAGUIO CITY (Oct. 20) ” Human rights advocates reported two more cases of alleged military abuse in the past weeks, with the killing of a reclusive deaf man in an upland Kalinga municipality and the abduction of a barangay head in Candon, Ilocos Sur a week later.
Signs of torture
Residents of Balbalan town in Kalinga decried the killing of Robert “Ambalong” Sabado, 42, single, allegedly by soldiers of “Charlie” company of the 21st Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army, in sitio Gagammalan, barangay Gawa-an Balbalan on October 6.
The residents recounted that on that day, 21st IB soldiers led by 1st Lt. Arvin Encinas passed through their community at around 3:00 PM. The soldiers told them to retrieve the body of a dead man at Gagammalan, claiming that he was a New People’s Army guerrilla killed in an encounter.
To their surprise when they found the dead man, who sustained four gunshot wounds in the head and body, they recognized him as Sabado. Residents said that the victim’s body bore obvious signs of torture.
Gawa-an officials and residents insisted that Sabado is not an NPA member, but a deaf farmer who lived alone, without neighbors, in a secluded area an hour’s walk away from the barangay center.
21st IB chief: “Go to court”
After burying the victim, concerned residents reported Sabado’s death to Balbalan local officials and municipal police. The police and officials accompanied them to the 21st IB headquarters in Tabuk for a dialogue on October 13.
In the dialogue, 21st IB officer Col. Francis Lardizabal stood by his soldiers and advised the residents to go to court.
Region 2 operatives of the National Bureau of Investigation exhumed the victim’s body and conducted an autopsy upon the request of relatives. No official autopsy result was released as of press time.
Missing barangay chief
Meanwhile, the family of Laureano Galicia, 59, barangay chairman of Tablac in Candon, Ilocos Sur, fear that he was abducted by Army soldiers on Oct. 13.
Galicia was last seen around 2:00 PM on that day, along with an unidentified person aboard a motorcycle heading north of Candon City.
Family members said Galicia did not return home after visiting his friend in a nearby resort.
His daughter Oropesa Gulan said no one knew his present whereabouts. “We could not contact his cellphone,” she said.
Human rights lawyer and Candon City Councilor Robert Tudayan said that prior to his disappearance, Galicia received an anonymous letter containing a black ribbon on October 2. His daughter confirmed this, adding that it was the third time his father received such threat.
Similar letters in same handwriting were also received by Tudayan, Salcedo Municipal Councilor Rogelio Biteng, and Franklin Dungalen, president of the Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) of Galimuyod town, on October 2, 4 and 13 respectively, at their offices.
The three said local officials are supporters of Bayan Muna and Anakpawis party-list groups, which the military accuses of being NPA “front organizations”.
Galicia’s family also said that soldiers, believed to be with the “Charlie” company of the Army’s 50th Infantry Battalion, visited him three times on suspicion that he accommodates and provides food to NPA guerillas. The family denied the soldiers’ accusations.
IHRA blames gov’t
Ilocos Human Rights Advocates (IHRA) condemned Galicia’s abduction. “The military and the Arroyo administration are the ones accountable for these abductions and harassments,” Rev. Eddie Suniga, IHRA vice-chairperson said.
“The case of Galicia is (just one) among the mushrooming of human rights violations in the region brought by the intensified and systematic campaign of the Arroyo regime to annihilate her critics and even ordinary people through the Oplan Bantay Laya,” he stressed.
The Galicia family appealed to the Candon City government and the Ilocos Sur provincial government to act on the case. Relatives are also considering filing a habeas corpus petition to oblige the government to produce him in court. # Jimmy Suwagon and Rod Tajon for NORDIS