DND, AFP assure House: Probe on 2 missing activists underway | Inquirer News

DND, AFP assure House: Probe on 2 missing activists underway

/ 12:47 PM September 15, 2022
Relatives of community workers Elizabeth "Loi" Magbanua and Alipio "Ador" Juat are asking the Supreme Court to protect and help locate the two missing individuals

(FILE) Gabriela and Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) members accompany relatives of community workers Elizabeth “Loi” Magbanua and Alipio “Ador” Juat on Wednesday, August 10, 2022, in asking the Supreme Court via writ of amparo to protect and help locate the two individuals who are missing for weeks now. Photo from JUCRA Pool

MANILA, Philippines — Both the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have assured the House of Representatives that an investigation into the disappearance of two activists is underway. However, a Makabayan bloc solon is questioning the probe’s pace.

During the deliberations on the DND’s proposed 2023 budget on Thursday, Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas, who was the first to interpellate, asked Defense officer-in-charge and Senior Undersecretary Jose Faustino Jr. about the fate of Elizabeth Magbanua and Alipio Juat — especially after the Court of Appeals (CA) has required the AFP to look into their disappearances.

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In response, Faustino said that they had instructed the AFP to probe the disappearance of the two activists with respect to the writ of amparo released by the CA.

“The Defense Department and its bureaus are duty-bound to abide by the nation’s laws and respect human rights.  We believe in our judicial processes and that they must be allowed to run their course.  As such, we shall comply with the order of the [CA] to ascertain the truth behind the disappearance of the missing activists,” Faustino said.

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“The department is committed to its mandate of protecting our people, thus, the DND issued a directive to the Armed Forces of the Philippines to comply with the [CA] issuance of a privilege of the writ of amparo.  The AFP shall thus direct its units and coordinate with appropriate law enforcement authorities in compliance with the order of the court,” he added.

READ: CA orders military to search for two missing activists 

But Brosas questioned the supposed lack of action from the AFP, saying that an initial document should have been released already.  Faustino noted, however that they had only received the CA order last September 12 and immediately ordered the AFP to investigate the matter.

“For the information of the body, we just received the CA resolution last 12 September.  And we issued, the Department of National Defense issued a directive to the AFP to comply with the CA issuance of the privilege of the writ of amparo; thus, we issued that 13th of September […] we required the AFP to come up with immediate action,” Faustino replied.

AFP deputy chief of staff Vice Admiral Rommel Anthony SD Reyes, who was also present during the hearing, assured Brosas that they also want to know what happened to Magbanua and Juat.

“As mentioned by the Senior Undersecretary, a directive has been given to the Armed Forces even before the CA directive.  The Armed Forces have been continuously conducting its own inquiry and at the same time coordination with the other government agencies like the PNP on the whereabouts of these individuals,” Reyes said.

“Rest assured to this august body that your Armed Forces is doing its best to locate the whereabouts of these personalities.  We are also interested in where they are, and their welfare,” he added.

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Reyes also reasoned that since the AFP is a big organization, steps must be taken to boost the investigation timeframe.

“We have already mentioned this and given directives to our units on this matter, Madam Chair.  As to the exact time, sad to say because we are also following a process — the Armed Forces is a big organization and we are also coordinating with the other agencies,” he explained.

“But rest assured we are onto this and as soon as we have ample information from our units, we will inform the department accordingly,” he added.

Brosas however claimed that some military camps should have already been opened because every single day is important to the families of the missing activists.

“Because the directive of the CA is a speedy probe because every day is very important for the families of the missing persons.  And you’re saying that you received the resolution on September 12, how many days have passed without you doing anything?” Brosas asked in Filipino.

“Who are doing the probe, who comprises the investigation team, what are they doing and have they even opened some camps to find where they are exactly?” she added.

Last September 9, the CA ordered the military to look for Magbanua and Juat, after their families filed a writ of amparo to surface the two activists.  The AFP was also ordered to provide a report after six months, while the CA issued protective orders for the families of the two missing activists.

Magbanua and Juat were last seen on May 3 in a meeting with fellow community organizers in Valenzuela City.  Juat was reportedly taken to Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, as his daughter said that her father told them that he could still not leave the military camp where the AFP headquarters is located.

READ: SC’s help sought to find missing labor activist, martial law survivor 

READ: Military held liable for disappeared activists 

/MUF
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TAGS: Activists, AFP, DND
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