A human rights group over the weekend declared that they are set to file charges for war crimes against soldiers involved in the alleged indiscriminate firing two years ago that killed a coal maker and wounded his son in Doña Remedios Trinidad, Bulacan.
Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) chairperson Max de Mesa said that the soldiers of the 56th Infantry Battalion (IB) involved in the incident of July 19, 2011 should face charges for war crimes or violations of International Humanitarian Laws (IHL), as provided in Republic Act 9851 or the “Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law and Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity.”
PAHRA, which is monitoring the case, said that the victims were allegedly denied due process. They claimed that the military also filed “trumped-up” charges against the son.
“PAHRA will determinedly seek justice and reparation for the senseless killing of Nicanor Mariano as well as the violations perpetrated against the rights of Norman Mariano as a person and as Filipino citizen,” de Mesa said.
“Arrested without warrant, detained, interrogated, and intimidated without counsel as victimized by the military’s disregard of its own rules of engagement and filing of trumped-up charges,” he added.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Region 3 Division investigated the incident and furnished two reports dated August 8, 2011 and a progress report on August 16, 2011. CHR-National Capital Region said that their regional division is continuing their investigation of the case but declined to provide further information.
Incident was an encounter
Then Armed Forces of the Philippines Commander Maj. Gen. Irineo Espino earlier asserted that the incident was a legitimate encounter with communist rebels. He said that on July 19, 2011, the 56th IB encountered New People’s Army (NPA) rebels operating in the tri-boundary of Bulacan, Rizal and Quezon Province.
Espino said that the rebels were engaged in collecting revolutionary taxes from mining companies, cement factories, and wealthy businessmen in Doña Remedios Trinidad.
The military official said that troopers returned fire after the rebels shot at them. The exchange was said to have lasted thirty minutes. The rebels then fled and left a rifle, an improvised shotgun, live ammunition, medical paraphernalia and subversive documents.
“The successful operation yielded to one enemy killed later identified as Nicanor Mariano, Alyas Oyet, member of Squad Segunda of SPP Bulacan, and the capture of another communist-terrorist, Norman Mariano, who was wounded during the encounter,” Espino said.
Nicanor Mariano “Alyas Oyet” was turned-over to Vice Mayor Jaybee Manalo of Doña Remedios Trinidad while Norman Mariano was brought to V. Luna General Hospital and then transferred to Fort Bonifacio General Hospital for medical treatment.
Based on the investigation report of CHR-Region 3 dated August 8 2011, the fact-finding team composed of special investigators Elmer Maniego and Joel Boanjares Ocampo surmised that the death of Nicanor and the wounding of Norman were caused by the indiscriminate firing of the soldiers.
The investigation report compiled the sworn affidavits of the survivors, namely: Norman, Florita Verceles, Teofilo Esquivel Sr. The affidavits stated that coal maker Nicanor, along with his son Norman and mother-in-law Verceles, were sleeping in their nipa hut when they soldiers fired at them around 5 a.m.
Nicanor was killed while Norman sustained multiple gunshot wounds. The firing only stopped when Verceles shouted that they were civilians. The soldiers then called for them to come out. Vercelez came out first while Norman, unable to walk, crawled out later.
The autopsy report filed by the CHR on July 23, 2011 classified the death of Nicanor as homicide due to hemmorhagic shock secondary to a gunshot wound to the chest.
Meanwhile, Norman, in a sworn affidavit, said that two soldiers from the 56th IB allegedly forced him to admit that he was a member of the NPA.
He was released on July 22, 2011 from V. Luna Hospital and was transferred to the Fort Bonifacio General Hospital where he was again allegedly forced to admit that he is a communist rebel. He told them that was only an ordinary coal maker.
Denied due process
Norman was subsequently charged for illegal possession of firearms, attempted murder, and violation of Human Security Act.
PAHRA, however, was alarmed when they found that Norman’s family only received the subpoenas on February 2013 two years after the charges were filed.
A warrant of arrest was then filed against Norman for attempted homicide on March 11, 2013. Posting a P12,000-bail, Norman was provisionally released.
PAHRA said that they are determined to file a case for violations of IHL by the soldiers. They said that the case would have been stronger if they had the ballistics report on the bullets found on the victims’ bodies as well as the resolution and recommendation by CHR-Region 3.