One of 4 soldiers tagged in torture of Abu Sayyaf suspect cleared
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philipines – One of the four soldiers accused of torturing an Abu Sayyaf suspect in Basilan last month had been cleared of charges by a military investigating team, a military spokesperson said Wednesday.
Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) based here said the soldier – a Sergeant Santos – was found to have even tried to prevent the torture of Abdulkhan Ajid by his three colleagues – including Army Capt. Sherwin Guidangen.
Ajid’s ordeal in the hands of the military was discovered when a court granted a petition for writ of habeas corpus filed by his family.
Based on his account, he was beaten and was deliberately burned by soldiers to force him to admit he was an Abu Sayyaf member.
Ajid was arrested on July 23 on the basis of a warrant issued for a Kanneh Malikilivo.
But he and his family maintained he was not Malikilivo and that he was a baker.
The arrest, they said, was a case of mistaken identity.
Cabangbang said Guidangen, Staff Sergeant Elmer Magdaraog and Sergeant George Awing would face court martial proceedings after enough evidence are gathered to justify the trial.
“Our JAGO (Judge Advocate General’s Office) and Col. Ukol Paglala (head of the investigating team) recommended administrative proceedings against the three,” Cabangbang said.
“This Santos is there (during the reported torture) but based on the statements of those involved, Santos didn’t participate and in fact he attempted to prevent the actions of the others,” Cabangbang said.
Col. Alexander Macario, the Task Force Basilan commander, said Guidangen and the two other accused had been brought to the Philippine Army Headquarters in Manila on August 8.
“Based on the investigation conducted by JAGO, only the three were found to be involved (in the torture). Santos was removed from the list because it turned out that he had no participation at all,” Macario said.
Nixon Alonzo, executive director of the Basilan Human Rights Network, said he was hoping that the filing of the charges against the three soldiers was “not just the usual containment and damage control of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”
Allan Pisingan of the Bantay Ceasefire in Basilan said Ajid’s lawyers were working with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) for the filing of criminal charges against the soldiers before a civilian court.
“A case conference is set to take place within the week,” he said.
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