Evidence enough for military torture trial, says Army head
ZAMBOANGA CITY—Philippine Army commander Lt. Gen. Arturo Ortiz said the investigation of soldiers accused of torturing a suspected member of the bandit group Abu Sayyaf in Basilan produced evidence that could pave the way for court martial proceedings.
The investigation was continuing “but it appears there is sufficient evidence, so they will be court-martialed and they will be meted with sanctions, possibly dishonorable discharge,” Ortiz said during a visit here Monday.
Earlier, Western Mindanao spokesperson Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang said the court martial proceedings would not affect the case that the family of Abdul Khan Ajid might be planning to file against Army Capt. Sherwin Guidangen, Staff Sgt. Elmer Magdaraog, Sgt. Edgardo Santos and Sgt. George Awing in a civilian court.
Ajid has accused the four soldiers of beating him and burning parts of his body while forcing him to admit membership in the Abu Sayyaf.
The soldiers arrested Ajid on July 23 on suspicion he was Kanneh Malikilivo, a confirmed member of the Abu Sayyaf.
Ajid insisted that he was a baker and not an Abu Sayyaf member and that his arrest was a case of mistaken identity.
Ortiz said the torture case saddened him even if it “was an isolated incident because we have been advocating and propagating respect for human rights.”
Ortiz said Basilan Army commander Col. Alexander Macario was also being investigated for possible liability over the torture of Ajid.
“We have this chain of command accountability. We want to determine at what level the buck should stop,” he said.
Macario has said he only learned about the torture when he saw the victim in court, when Ajid’s family filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus.
Macario, Ortiz said, was in this city when the reported torture took place.
Maj. Gen. Noel Coballes, commander of the 1st Infantry Division, said the four soldiers were under technical arrest and their fate rests on the result of the court martial proceeding.
“Their imprisonment would depend on the outcome of a case to be filed against them in a civil court. The court martial proceeding only tackles the administrative aspect of the charges but they will be discharged from service,” Coballes said.
While saying he was not condoning the torture, Coballes said he firmly believed that Ajid, whom he continues to refer to as Malikilivo, was indeed an Abu Sayyaf member.
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