Justice for the PICOP 6 victims of enforced disappearance sign now

Dear Honorable President Aquino,

Greetings of peace!

I am writing to express my concern regarding the safety of Sgt. Esequias Duyogan, a key witness to the ten-year enforced disappearance case of six contractual workers from the Paper Industries Corporation of the Philippines (PICOP).

I learned that Sgt. Duyogan witnessed how the PICOP 6 workers - Joseph Belar, Jovencio Lagare, Romualdo Orcullo, Diosdado Oliver, Artemio Ayala and Arnold Dangkiasan, were tied with a rope and approached the camp while being manhandled by armed privates. He identified 12 military personnel to have led the six workers inside the army camp and saw how they bashed the heads of the victims with iron pipes, dug graves and buried the bodies at the back of the PX building. They dug up the bodies three days later, loaded them on a Chevrolet service vehicle, and burned them at the Rampid at Km. 57 in Barangay Nueva Gracia, Trento.

With his testimony, Executive Judge Dante Luz N. Viacrucis convicted Corporal Rodrigo Billones as an accessory for the crime of kidnapping and serious illegal detention of the six PIOP workers.

A joint criminal complaint for multiple murder, grave coercion, kidnapping and serious illegal detention, and torture were also filed against Col. Eustaquio Cabando, 2nd Lt. Enrico Calumag, PFC Miguel Bachecha, Sgt. Fernando Cagadas, Sgt. Angel Perilla, Sgt. Cesar Polito, PFC Jocelo Pitos, MSgt. Ventorito Saballa, PFC Bienvenido Veto, Sgt. Renante Castaneda, PFC Jesus Patrimonio and PFC Ronda for the PICOP 6 workers. The case is still under preliminary investigation, to which the clarificatory hearings were postponed several times in the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor in Patin-ay, Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur.

With his participation in the conviction of Corporal Billones and the subsequent filing of criminal charges to 12 other military personnel, Sgt. Duyogan Sgt. Duyogans personal safety is seriously at very high risk.

I was informed that he was dishonourably discharged from service due to his supposedly absence without leave (AWOL). Unidentified men also subjected him and his family to constant surveillance.

In August 11, 2010, he was able to avoid what Sgt. Duyogan perceived as an attempted ambush against him. According to Sgt. Duyogan, he was riding a motorcycle on his way to his farm in Sitio Suti, Brgy. Burboanan, Bislig City when he saw two of the accused, Tsg Angel Perilla and Cpl Jocelo Pitos with several members of a tribal group hiding behind lauaan trees along the road between Sitio Suti and Sitio Mabog. Upon seeing the threat, Sgt. Duyogan alighted from the motorcycle and returned to Sitio Mabog through an alternate route.

He is also currently suffering from legal harassments. I have learned that in a 900-page counter-affidavit of the accused military personnel, a bigamy case was attached as an annex. Although the case was based on factual evidence, Duyogans legal counsel learned that the bigamy case materialized because of several interventions i.e. frequent house visits and persuasion made by military representatives to the legal wife. Further interviews with the legal wife revealed that she was not the one who initiated the filing of the bigamy case. Duyogans legal counsel believes that the bigamy is being used to destroy his credibility as a witness.

In December 17, 2010, Sgt. Duyogan and the PICOP 6 family members attended the summons for a clarificatory hearing for the multiple murder case in the prosecutors office. The prosecutor failed to show up in the said hearing. Fiscal Vicente Abugho just notified the complainants that the hearing was postponed on the same day.

I have learned that immediately after the postponed hearing, members of the Philippine National Police Regional Mobile Group (RMG) from Santiago, Agusan del Norte led by a certain Unzalan suddenly confronted Sgt. Duyogan with a warrant of arrest. He was transported and detained in Ormoc City for allegedly violating Republic Act 9262. He was not aware of the existence of the said case and has not received any subpoena. He is now released after posting bail and is being secured by concerned organizations.

However, his wife and their two children in Agusan were not spared from threats. Human rights organization, Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) received calls from Sgt. Duyogans wife that unidentified men climbed up the roof of their house the previous night. The following morning, men with bonnets were seen closely monitoring their house.

In this context, I am calling on the Department of Justice (DOJ), Hon. Leila de Lima to ensure the safety of Sgt. Duyogan and his family.The DOJ must also expedite the resolution on the murder case which had been going on for more than two years now and a speedy trial as soon as the charges are formally filed.

There were also reports that the convicted Corporal Billones is currently living in a house within the prison compound but separate from the prison facility. With his situation as a convicted criminal, Corporal Billones should not be given luxuries and privileges provided for a free man. He must be immediately committed to the National Bilibid Prison or the nearest regular penitentiary in Agusan.

I would like to appeal that:

1. The Commission on Human Rights (CHR), through Chairperson Loretta Ann P. Rosales, support and closely monitor the case, as well as assist in the welfare of the families of the PICOP 6 workers and of the witness, Sgt. Duyogan

2. The Armed Forces of the Philippines Human Rights Affairs Office conduct an investigation and monitoring of the case against the accused military officials including the allegations of threats to Sgt. Duyogan and his family as well as FIND Agusan coordinator Rose Deano.

3. The Office of the President certify as urgent and subsequently pass bills criminalizing the act of enforced disappearance. The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance should also be signed by the honourable President Aquino and ratified by the Philippine Senate.

Thank you! I trust that you will favourably act on this matter.

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Lolita HuntBy:
Technology and the InternetIn:
Petition target:
Pres. Benigno Aquino III, Philippines


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