AFP, PNP deny holding 2 missing Cordillera activists
MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police each denied holding the two missing Cordillera community organizers after they were ordered by the Court of Appeals last week to present the pair in court.
The AFP and the PNP both offered help in the search for Dexter Capuyan, 56, and Gene Roz Jamil “Bazoo” de Jesus, 27, who were allegedly abducted by men who identified themselves as members of the PNP’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in Taytay, Rizal province, on April 28.
The two have not been seen or heard from since then.
On July 10, the appeals court granted a petition for the writ of habeas corpus by the families of the two men, ordering the AFP and the PNP to produce Capuyan and De Jesus at a hearing scheduled on July 14.
But the military and the police told the court they did not receive a copy of the petition. This prompted a resetting of the hearing to Aug. 3 and Aug. 10.
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 produce him or her in court and to explain the legal basis for depriving that person of liberty.
“[Capuyan and De Jesus] are not in military custody although we have yet to respond to the court’s writ of habeas corpus….We will do our best to help locate the two of them,” AFP spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar told reporters.
PNP public affairs chief Brig. Gen. Redrico Maranan, in a separate statement, denied the two men had been arrested by the CIDG, saying the police had “immediately exerted diligent efforts” to look for the activists when they were first reported missing.
“Until today, they remain listed as missing persons and subject to follow-up searches through backtracking from the time they were last seen,” he said.
The PNP’s various units also certified that the two were “neither among the list of Persons Under Police Custody nor can they be found within any PNP facilities.”
“The PNP is set to file its return of the writ on Tuesday, July 18, 2023….[W]e are confident that the subsequent hearings set on Aug. 3 and 10 will shed more light on the matter and will finally be ruled in favor of the PNP,” Maranan said.
Alleged NPA links
Aguilar said the military had received intelligence information linking Capuyan to the New People’s Army (NPA), although he admitted this had yet to be verified.
“If he has a warrant, maybe the proper way to do it is to turn him over to the court if that’s the situation,” he said.
A statement by the Commission on Human Rights in May cited the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance as saying that the two were taken by state security forces over an alleged bounty for Capuyan due to his supposed communist links.
In granting the petition, the court cited a statement by De Jesus’ sister Idda de Jesus-Tiongco saying she had “reasonable belief” that either the military or the police had custody of her brother as he had planned to meet Capuyan.
“As such, the military and police personnel have every reason to abduct Dexter, including anyone who is accompanying him,” Tiongco said.
Capuyan’s relatives said he was in Rizal at that time to seek medical attention, but it was not known why he was meeting up with De Jesus.
IP rights advocates
The CIDG vehemently rejected the allegation that it had a hand in the two men’s disappearance.
De Jesus served as an information officer for the Philippine Task Force on Indigenous Peoples Rights, while Capuyan, who belongs to the Bontoc-Ibaloy-Kankanaey indigenous group, was known for helping the cause of indigenous peoples in the Cordillera Region and had been tagged by the military as a senior member of the NPA’s Chadli Molintas Command in the Ilocos and Cordillera regions.
The two are both alumni of the University of the Philippines-Baguio.