AFP, PNP fail to present 2 missing activists in court
Two Cordillera activists who were allegedly abducted by state agents remained missing on Friday after the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, which were ordered to present them to the Court of Appeals (CA), said they did not receive a copy of the writ of habeas corpus granted by the court to produce the pair.
The hearing on the petition for the writ filed by the families of Dexter Capuyan, 56, and Gene Roz “Bazoo” Jamil de Jesus, 27, who have been missing for more than two months, was reset by the court for Aug. 3 and Aug. 10.
According to Marben Panlasiqui, who represents the families of the activists, said that lawyers of the PNP and the AFP, told the court that they did not receive a copy of the petition and only read about the court’s order on social media.
“But for our part, we sent them a copy of the petition as early as last week, and the CA said they did, too,” Panlasiqui said. “Of course, we want the hearing to proceed so we can determine whether [De Jesus and Capuyan] are in their custody.”
“We hoped that today we would have an idea of where they are and how they are,” he said, adding that the reset of the hearing was “going to add to the anxiety” of the families who had been waiting to know whether the two men were still alive.
A writ of habeas corpus is a judicial remedy that orders anyone, including a government official or agency, who has custody of a person to present him or her in court and to explain the legal basis for depriving that person’s liberty.
The appellate court directed the National Bureau of Investigation to serve its order to AFP chief Gen. Andres Centino, PNP chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr., PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief Police Brig. Gen. Romeo Caramat and Rizal Provincial Director Police Col. Dominic Baccay “to appear in court and produce and bring the bodies” of the two men “if found to be in their custody.”
The Inquirer asked PNP public information office chief Police Brig. Gen. Redrico Maranan and PNP spokesperson Police Col. Jean Fajardo for comment, but neither of them responded as of this writing.
They also did not confirm the PNP lawyers’ statement to the court that they did not receive a copy of the CA resolution for the Friday hearing.
The Inquirer also asked whether PNP still stood by Fajardo’s statement, quoting the CIDG chief, who “categorically denied” any knowledge of the disappearance of the two activists.
De Jesus and Capuyan, both indigenous peoples’ rights activists, were last seen on April 28 in Taytay, Rizal province, when they were seized by armed men.
De Jesus’ sister, Idda de Jesus-Tiongco, said the driver of a tricycle that drove them on the day they went missing said the gunmen who abducted them identified themselves as members of the CIDG.
“Whether or not they are operatives, the CIDG hould look into that and investigate because they (the missing) have that right,” Idda said.
Capuyan’s daughter, Gabrielle Capuyan, was dismayed over the postponement of the hearing.
“I find it very disappointing and infuriating as it only prolongs the hurting of our families and we believe only state forces have the reason to abduct or hold him in custody,” she said.
Her father is known for helping the cause of different indigenous groups in the Cordillera Region. He has been tagged by the military as a high-ranking member of the New People’s Army (NPA) with pending warrants of arrest and carries a bounty of P2.8 million on his head.
“Regardless of the accusation and allegations made against my father, it is still his right to face this in court,” Gabrielle said. De Jesus was an information officer of the Philippine Task Force on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights.
Both De Jesus and Capuyan met that night, but their families are not aware of their relationship or the purpose of their meeting. Both have ties to the University of the Philippines Baguio where De Jesus graduated cum laude in 2016 and Capuyan served as editor of The Outcrop, the student paper, in the 1980s.
“The postponement of the hearing only adds to our agony that we continue to endure for more than two months since Bazoo and Dexter were abducted and disappeared,” De Jesus’ mother, Mercedita, told the Inquirer. “But we’re still hoping that justice will prevail.”
It has been 77 days since the two men disappeared.
“Instead of the hearing pushing through, we will be forced to continue wondering what happened to our loved ones. We ask that the AFP, the military and the CIDG face us and answer our questions about Dexter and Bazoo’s whereabouts,” said Capuyan’s brother, Eli.
—WITH A REPORT FROM DEXTER CABALZA