The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) writes to inform you that a man, whom a prosecutor had falsely charged for committing acts of terror, has been continuously held in detention for six months to face a trial on an offense that has not been substantially proven. CASE DETAILS, COMMENTS, SUGGESTED ACTION and SAMPLE LETTER to be sent to the authorities of
ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME
Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-220-2008
3 October 2008
ISSUES: Torture; torture victims; right to liberty and security; equality before the law; administration of justice
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) writes to inform you that a man, whom a prosecutor had falsely charged for committing acts of terror, has been continuously held in detention for six months to face a trial on an offense that has not been substantially proven.
CASE DETAILS: (According to information from the Task Force Detainees of the
On 21 March 2008 at 8am, Edgar de la Cruz Candule, a 23-year-old man who belongs to an indigenous tribe Aeta, was at the house of his friend, Patricio Domino, taking breakfast in Barangay (village) Carael, Botolan, Zambales, when the policemen arrived.
About 20 policemen, all of whom are attached to the Botolan Municipal Police of the Philippine National Police (PNP), were carrying long firearms and wearing full battle uniforms when they entered Patricio's house, where they declared a raid shortly after. Edgar's friends, who were frightened by the police arrival, had to run in different directions leaving him behind.
Edgar, who is a resident in a resettlement area of Aetas in Baguilat of the same municipality, was caught by surprise. He was not able to move as he was in a state of shock when the police came. While some of the policemen pursued his friends who were running away, the other policemen were also searching the whole house and premises.
About three to five policemen collared him and handcuffed him while two others were punching him on the chest one after the other. He was forced to admit he is a member of the New People's Army (NPA), an illegal armed group.
Edgar was teary-eyed as he recounts his ordeal while in police custody when he was interviewed in the days following his arrest. After his arrest, Edgar was first taken to Municipal Police of Botolan before he was transferred to the Camp Conrado S. Yap in Iba, Zambales where he was held for three days.
While Edgar was in the police camp, the persons taking him in custody, who did not introduce their names and identity, had him subjected to questioning without the presence of his legal counsel. He was placed in a room where he was punched twice on the chest. They electrocuted his abdomen and forced him to admit that he owns a caliber .45 pistol, a magazine assembly for a caliber .45 and several live ammunitions they had seized from the house from where he was taken.
Those questioning him also threatened to kill Edgar should he deny his membership with the New People's Amy (NPA), despite also claiming that Edgar and his group had already been under surveillance for a long period of time, over their supposed terrorist activities in the area.
It was only on March 24 that Edgar was transferred to Provincial Jail in Iba, Zambales. It is learned later that he had already been charged for illegal possession of firearms, for supposedly possessing the firearms which the policemen had recovered from the house; the same firearms that the persons questioning him had forced him to admit he had owned before the prosecutor's office
However, on 1 April prosecutor Esteban Mulon Jr., had the charge against him amended from illegal possession of firearms into violation of Section 3 (b) Article 134 for Rebellion or Insurrection and Section 6 for Accessory of the Human Security Act of 2007(Republic Act 9372). The original charge has likewise been absorbed into the amended information.
In amending the charge against Edgar, the prosecutor handling the case, Esteban A. Mulon, Jr. resolves that;
"On 21 March 2008, said accused [Edgar Candule] conspiring with persons whose identities are unknown, did then and there, willfully and openly professing himself as a member of the New People's Army (NPA) and advocating the overthrow of the legitimate government by force of arms using unlicensed firearms and ammunitions and by inciting others to commit acts of rebellion thereby sowing and creating a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace in order to coerce the government to give in to their demands"
Edgar has been arraigned sometime in June of this year. The charges on him are presently being heard before Judge Consuelo Amog-Bocar of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 71 in Iba, Zambales.
Edgar's case illustrates how obscure the interpretation of and the application of the Human Security Act of 2007 are. Criminal liability for an act of terrorism should only exist once it is substantially proven, under Section 3 of the law: "thereby sowing and creating a condition of widespread extraordinary fear and panic among the populace, in order to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand".
However, in Edgar's case there exists neither widespread panic nor fear, having been sown, nor was there an unlawful demand that he and his group made during the incident, where they supposedly committed the crime. When the police came into the house where he and his friends were staying they were caught by surprise and it even resulted in Edgar standing still, he was in such a state of shock during the incident.
Also, the supposed recovery of firearms from the house where the victim was at the time staying, is highly questionable. There were no information on whether or not the policemen had presented to the occupants proper court documents to allow them to conduct searches inside the house; they did not properly introduce themselves to the occupants of the house; and failed to inform the victim of his rights during arrest and while in custody of the police.
In 28 November 2007, Martin Scheinin, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, expressed concern in his report, A/HRC/6/17/Add.1 p20 to 28, to several provisions of the RA 9372. Scheinin viewed the law as "not in accordance with the international human rights standards".
Special Rapporteur Scheinin wrote that Section 3, to which Edgar is being charged: "the criminal liability (should have been) limited to clear and precise provisions in the law, so as to respect the principle of certainty of the law and ensure that it is not subject to which would broaden the scope of the proscribed conduct". However, in Edgar's case, the prosecutor resolved to consider his supposed admission of being a member of a rebel group and to have constituted an act of terror already.
Also, the amended information to which prosecutor Mulon has written (as underlined above) itself was a verbatim text to the provision of section 3 of the RA 9372 which the victim has supposedly violated. It has not been able to substantially proven though, as it is written in the amended information, that the victim committed the offense of terrorism.
Please write letters to the authorities urging for their immediate intervention in the victim's case. Should it be established that the victim should have not been held accountable to an offense charged on him, it must be dropped and he must be released without further delay. The victim's allegation of torture while in police custody should also be thoroughly investigated.
Please also be informed that the AHRC is writing separate letters to the Special Rapporteur on the Question of Torture, the independence of judges and lawyers, working group on arbitrary detention and the independent expert on minority issues.
Name of victim: Edgar Candule, 23 years old; he belongs to an indigenous tribe Aeta. He is presently detained at the Provincial Jail in Iba, Zambales
Alleged perpetrators: About 20 policemen attached to the Botolan Municipal Police Station (BMPS) of the Philippine National Police (PNP))
Place of incident: In Sitio (sub-section of the village) Alamac, Barangay (village) Carael, Botolan, Zambales
Date of his arrest: At 8am on 21 March 2008
I am writing to raise my deep concern that a man, Edgar Candule, has been continuously held in detention over charges for supposedly committing acts of terrorism, even though the charges on him have not been substantially proven to constitute the said criminal offense.
When Edgar was arrested on March 21 of this year, he was with his friends taking breakfast at the place mentioned above. While his friends were able to escape from being taken into police custody, Edgar, who was in caught by surprise and shocked upon the police arrival, was arrested as he was not able to escape.
The policemen, about 20 of them and attached to the unit mentioned above, took him towards Camp Conrado S. Yap in Iba, where he was held for three days. While in police custody, he was subjected to questioning in absence of his legal counsel, placed in a secluded room where he was beaten on the chest and had his abdomen electrocuted to force him into admitting that he owns the firearms the police had recovered from the house where he was taken from.
Though he denied possessing the firearm and ammunitions--a caliber .45 pistol, a magazine assembly for caliber .45 and live ammunitions--the police had seized from the house from where he was arrested, the police nevertheless charged him for illegal possession of firearms before the prosecutor's office a day after his arrest. The police, too, forced him into admitting he is a member of an illegal armed group.
I have learned though that on April 1, the charges filed on him had been amended into violations of Section 3 (b) Article 134 for Rebellion or Insurrection and Section 6 for Accessory under the Human Security Act of 2007 (Republic Act 9372). The original charged has been absorbed into the amended information.
I am deeply concerned though over questions of legality into the amendments of the charges against the victim. As I express disappointment that the charges filed on the victim appears to have been a result of torture and from the questionable recovery of supposed firearms that he had allegedly possessed; thereby charging him with illegal possession of firearms, the manner in which the basis that the prosecutor amended the charge is highly questionable.
When the prosecutor, Esteban A. Mulon, Jr., amended the charged filed against Edgar, nothing in his amended resolution which provides substantial justification that the elements that would constitute acts of terrorism have been established. It is frightening that this prosecutor has been able to increase the charges filed on the accused even without a substantial, convincing urgent and thorough review of the case as it should have been done.
To amend and file charges for acts of terrorism--which carries a rigorous penalty of 40 years of imprisonment without parole--is a matter of serious concern as it involves security and liberty of persons. Thus, it should have required a thorough scrutiny by the prosecutor and the judge hearing the case to ensure its fairness. However, to our knowledge based on the information provided to us, there is nothing to that extent has been done on this matter.
Also, the victim's allegations of torture while in police have also not been adequately and effectively investigated. He had been subjected to questioning in absence of his legal counsel and tortured to force him into admitting the offences he denied to have committed; and in fact, the charges laid on him appeared to have been a result of torture perpetrated on him. I therefore urge you to ensure this is adequately looked into and that the victims himself is afforded with adequate medical treatment.
As you are maybe aware, Martin Scheinin, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, has already expressed concerned to some of the provisions of the RA 9372 in his November 2007 report. He cited particularly section 3 of the law regarding what constitutes terrorism and matters of criminal liability as broad. He likewise viewed it as "not in accordance with the international human rights standards".
Though the law requires that the elements of "sowing and creating a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace in order to coerce the government to give in to their demands" should have been established before any acts could fall under terrorism: Edgar's case illustrates it is otherwise.
I therefore urge for your immediate intervention to have Edgar's case thoroughly reviewed during the trial; that they must be dropped and he be released from detention should it be proven that there is no sufficient ground to held him for trial.
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:
1. Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
Republic of the Philippines
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel
Fax: +63 2 736 1010
Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80
2. Ms. Leila De Lima
Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., Commonwealth Avenue
U.P. Complex, Diliman
Fax: +63 2 929 0102
Tel: +63 2 928 5655 / 926 6188
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
3. Deputy Director General Jesus A. Verzosa
Chief, Philippine National Police (PNP)
Camp General Rafael Crame
Fax: +63 2724 8763
Tel: +63 2 726 4361/4366/8763
5. Lt. Gen.Alexander Yano
Chief of Staff
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)
AFP-GHQ Offices, Camp Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo
Fax: +63 2 911 6436
Tel: +63 2 911 6001 to 50
6. Mr. Christopher Lock
Office of the Court Administrator
Supreme Court of the Philippines
New Supreme Court Building Annex
Padre Faura St., Ermita
Tel: +63 2 525 5741 / 521 5133
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (firstname.lastname@example.org)