Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Alleged "rebel returnees" are torture victims of the 34th IB-NDF

Alleged "rebel returnees" are torture victims of the 34th IB*

Fr. Santiago "Sanny" Salas
NDF - Eastern Visayas
Agosto 28, 2010

The National Democratic Front-Eastern Visayas said today that the two alleged "rebel returnees" in the custody of the 34th Infantry Battalion are not members of the New People's Army but ordinary civilian peasants who were abducted, tortured and are being held under duress. "The brothers Cesar and Juanito Gabac were presented as "rebel returnees" by the 8th Infantry Division to the media and the local government of Paranas, Western Samar last Aug. 16," said Fr. Santiago Salas, NDF-EV spokesperson. "But reports reaching NDF-EV indicate the Gabac brothers were abducted along with their mother Lucia last July 25 by 34th IB troops in Brgy. Anagasi, Paranas. Furthermore, the guns they allegedly "surrendered" were in fact not in their possession but found elsewhere by the military after the NPA left these in temporary storage. The brothers are believed to have been tortured and forced to guide the soldiers during their military operations."

Fr. Salas also slammed the 34th IB led by Lt. Col. William Penafiel for making up the psywar story that the Gabac brothers were NPA members who were "tired" of the armed struggle and "surrendered" and "cooperated" with the government. "The military is resorting to hoodwinking the media and the public to obscure the failure of the Oplan Bantay Laya campaign. It is also clear from the case of the Gabac brothers that it is civilians who in the main continue to suffer from the government offensive. The brothers' rights were violated several times: they were abducted, tortured, forced to guide soldiers in dangerous military operations, and falsely presented as NPA members without the chance to defend themselves or the benefit of legal counsel. Meanwhile, like in other cases of fake "rebel returnees", the military will surely pocket the Paranas local government's P20,000 "cash incentive" for the brothers who are being held against their will."

The NDF-EV demanded the immediate release of the Gabac brothers and their mother, as well as justice and redress for their ordeal. "We are concerned for the safety and well-being of the Gabac family. There is the fresh torture scandal video by the police in Manila of a detainee, who remains missing and is feared to have been summarily executed. Thus the ordeal of the Gabac brothers shows they are vulnerable to the impunity of the military and police for gross human rights violations such as illegal detention, torture and summary executions. As Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have said, President Benigno Aquino III has failed to fulfill his campaign promise of human rights protection as well as to investigate political killings. The extension of Oplan Bantay Laya till January 2011 is thus bound to leave in its trail many more human rights violations. The people must stand up for their rights, demand justice for the victims, and press for the punishment of the perpetrators under Oplan Bantay Laya, including the previous Arroyo administration."

* Url: http://theprwcblogs.blogspot.com/2010/08/alleged-rebel-returnees-are-torture.html