MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines is facing a dilemma after the Supreme Court ordered them to release two missing University of the Philippines students and a farmer who have been missing since 2006 after being allegedly abducted by military men.
AFP spokesman Commodore Miguel Jose Rodriguez said that the military conducted its own investigation on the case of the missing activists but that no evidence indicating that the victims had been abducted by army personnel were found.
“Wala sa custody ng armed forces ang mga ’yan (They are not in the custody of the armed forces),” Rodriguez told reporters on Tuesday.
“Because they are not in our custody… nothing in the records, nothing in the investigations, we are in a bind; I guess you understand, we are in a bind. There is a presumption of regularity in everything that we do,” he added.
However, when asked if he could categorically say that the accused members of the military are innocent of the alleged crime, Rodriguez said: “That is a judgmental thing, let’s reserve that for the court.”
The high court on Monday ordered the AFP to produce UP students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño and Bulacan farmer Manuel Merino, who were abducted by armed men, believed to be members of the military, from Merino’s house in Hagonoy, Bulacan province, in 2006.
In a separate interview, Army spokesman Colonel Antonio Parlade said that though they are determined to cooperate with the high court’s ruling, he maintained that that the three missing persons are not under the military’s custody, contrary to the decision of the SC.
“Of course, kung nasa amin ’yan (if they are with us) we have no recourse but to oblige with the order of the court; ang problema eh hindi namin alam kung nasa’n ito (the problem is we don’t know where they are),” Parlade said.
“Sinong irerelease namin diba? The army has been cooperative all the time, always kung ano yung mga utos ng court kaya lang ano ngayon ang pwede naming, sino ngayon ang pwede naming i-release na wala nga sa poder ng Philippine Army itong sinasabi nilang kinidnap ng Philippine Army (Who will we release, right? The army has been cooperative all the time, always, with whatever the court orders but now, what can we do, who will we release when these alleged kidnap victims are not under our custody),” he added.
Parlade further said that the case has been ongoing for several years and that most of the accused are already retired.
He added that they will go as far summoning retired Major General Jovito Palparan and ask him what happened. Palparan was the chief of the 7th Infantry Division, which was based in Bulacan province when the three victims went missing.
For his part, Rodriguez said that the AFP will continue to cooperate with the SC regarding this case.
“It is to the best interest of the armed forces to cooperate with the judicial process kasi hanggat nandyan yan and hindi nakikita, there will always be imputations that AFP ang may kagagawan n’yan (until this case remains unsolved and the victims are not found, there will always be imputations that the AFP is behind it),” Rodriguez said.
The other accused are Lieutenant Colonel Felipe Anotado, Lt. Col. Rogelio Boac, Lt. Francis Mirabelle Samson, Arnel Enriquez and Donald Caigas. Apart from Samson, who is currently assigned to the Security Escort Battalion, all other accused are no longer in active military service.