DESAPARECIDOS:

"Where will victims go if the remedy is being denied to us?”

 

July 24, 2008

 

 

   
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Photos courtesy of KARAPATAN

Press Release:
July 24, 2008

Reference:
Mary Guy Portajada, Spokesperson (09058234907/434-2837/435-4146)

“Where will victims go if the remedy is being denied to us?”

This is the big question posed by members of Families of Desaparecidos for Justice (DESAPARECIDOS), organization of relatives of victims of enforced disappearances to the different courts, and particularly the Court of Appeals over the dismissed petitions of writ of amparo filed in their sala.

In the past few days, the Court of Appeals (CA) has made rulings dismissing the Writs of Amparo filed by Edith Burgos for her missing son Jonas; by Lorena Santos for her missing father, Leo Velasco and abducted and detained mother, Elizabeth Principe; and, by survivor-witness Francisco Saez.

Mary Ghuy Portajada, spokesperson of Desaparecidos says, “ This decision of the CA tends to cover up the military’s responsibility over the abductions of Jonas Burgos, Leo Velasco and other victims of enforced disappearances.” Portajada further says, “dismissing the Amparo cases also means the courts are not sensitive to the victims plight and defeats the intent of the writ to be an effective remedy to prevent these odious human rights violations. Now, where will the victims go for justice?”

Edith Burgos and Lorena Santos, together with other relatives of victims of enforced disappearances whose amparo petitions are still pending at the CA went to the Court of Appeals this morning expressing disappointment and indignation over the CA’s series of dismissals of amparo petitions.

“This is one government institution that we, the victims, thought could help us in finding our loved ones and finding justice,” said Lorena Santos. “However, the CA is now showing its true color of being just another government body that is insensitive to the plight of the victims. We hope that the Supreme Court will think twice before passing to the CA cases of writs of amparo petitions filed by relatives of victims and survivors of enforced disappearances or extrajudicial killings.”

Dismissal of cases looks like the rule among many of the CA judges when it comes to amparo petition for relatives or victim-survivors of enforced disappearance or extrajudicial killings.

“We strongly urge the judges handling all cases of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, and not only petitions for the writ of amparo, to be more victim-centered and hear our plight,” Santos said. “ We implore you to listen to the victims’ cry for justice and maintain empathy and due diligence in hearing cases of human rights violations.” ###

 

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Press Release – July 22, 2008
Reference: Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Secretary General (Mobile No. 09178176274)

Karapatan says CA decision “anti-victim,” won’t help find Jonas

The human rights group Karapatan scored the Court of Appeals for its ‘cowardly decision’ on the petition for the writ of habeas corpus and writ of amparo petitions of Mrs. Edith Burgos, mother of missing activist Jonas Burgos.

“CA justices are trying to be on the safe side at the expense of the life of Jonas, their dismissal of the case won’t help find him,” said Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Karapatan Secretary General.

Karapatan is incredulous of the CA’s belief that the military had nothing to do with Jonas’ abduction when so much evidence have been provided by the petitioners and state security forces incriminated itself by claiming Jonas to be a rebel, thus revealing their motive.

Hilao-Enriquez criticized the CA for its “anti-victim” decision. “At first glance, the CA seems not to have a clear stand. Their criticism on the lack of investigation by the police and military smacks of tokenism which they thought would appease the Burgos family,” Enriquez said, adding that “It’s plain and simple cover-up of the crime and the magistrates refused to see through it.”

The human rights group said that since last year, many of the members of the CA had not successfully tried cases of human rights violations and had been remiss in giving remedy to victims seeking redress.

It will be recalled that the CA had made a similar cowardly decision on the habeas corpus petition for UP students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan when it said “the military is not telling the truth” but on the same breath said there is no proof that the military have the missing women in their custody.

“If our judges continue to act and decide this way, all remedies resorted to by the Supreme Court will be made inutile and unavailing to the victims and their families. Worse, this will breed more impunity,” Hilao-Enriquez concluded.###
 

     

 

Student Christian Movement of the Philippines
NCCP Compound, 879 EDSA Quezon City
Mobile Number: 09289526973 E-mail: scmp.infomedia@gmail.com
News Release

JULY 22, 2008

"A step backward for justice"

Christian students dismayed over dismissal of petition for writ of "landmark cases"

"This is a step backward for justice for victimes of human rights violations."

This was the statement made by the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines after the Court of Appeals dismissed the petition for the writ of amparo and habeas corpus of so-called "landmark cases" of victims of human rights violations.

Among the recently dismissed cases were the petition for the writ of habeas corpus for Jonas Burgos, and the petition for the writ of amparo for NDF member Elizabeth Principe and daughters of slain peasant leader Eddie Gumanoy.

Newspapers also reported this morning the dismissal of the writ of amparo petition for Francisco Saez, witness of the Gumanoy and Eden Marcellana killing in 2003.

 

According to SCMP chairperson Biyaya Quizon, they least expected this at a time when the families and victims only have the courts of justice to rely on.

"These are landmark cases which we hoped will show that the judiciary does have an active stand on the dire situation of human rights in the country," Quizon said.

The group also expressed fears that the same may happen to the petition for the writ of amparo of missing University of the Philippines students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan.

"It is true that the writ of amparo and writ of habeas corpus does not promise to render absolute justice for the victims, and yet by the recent developments, we ask: where then shall they ask for justice?" Quizon said.

The group then addressed their appeal to the judiciary, "We appeal to the courts not to stop at a point where justice remains elusive for all the victims," she added.

The Court of Appeals has cited the lack of evidence linking the military as behind the abductions and disappearances. ###

Reference: Ma. Cristina Guevarra, secretary general and public information officer 09186106275

Biyaya Quizon, chairperson 09289526973
 

           

 

Free Berlin Movement
Pastor Berlin Guerrero Case Update

We appeal for your support for the release of Pastor Berlin Guerrero from the Cavite Provincial Jail. Pastor Berlin has been detained for more than one year on a trumped-up charge of murder. On June 10, 2008, the Supreme Court remanded our motion for Pastor Berlin’s immediate release to the Court of Appeals on the grounds that the Supreme Court is not the “trier of facts.”

As the evidence against Pastor Berlin is fabricated, it naturally appears very weak as well. Our lawyers have contended the case should be quashed (or thrown out without even going to trial) as there is not probable cause/sufficient evidence for the case to be filed in the first place. We are waiting again for the action of the court. We greatly appreciate your letters that have been noted by the Supreme Court. We are hopeful that letters directed to the Court of Appeals for urgent action will bear good news soon.

Here is a brief timeline/update of the highlights of the legal process:
May 27, 2007 Pastor Berlin, his wife and children were on a tricycle departing from the UCCP Malaban local church in Binan, Laguna. The tricycle was cut off by an unmarked van. Men with guns surrounded the family. As they pulled Pastor Berlin into the van, the family yelled for them to show a warrant. The bag of Mylene (Berlin’s wife) was also grabbed as it contained a camera with a picture of an alleged ‘intelligence agent’ who had attended the church for a few weeks.

Pastor Berlin was interrogated and tortured at an unknown location. The questions hurled at him centered on accusations that Berlin was an officer of the Communist Party of the Philippines in Cavite Province. They also forced him to give the password to his email account and interrogated him on all people with whom he worked within the UCCP, ecumenical circles, and the people’s movement. They tortured him psychologically and physically. Several times Pastor Berlin passed out from suffocation. He thought he would be killed.

May 28, 2007. After around 18 hours disappeared, Pastor Berlin was brought to Philippine National Police Camp Pantaleon Garcia in Imus, Cavite. Only after his captors had turned him over to the police was he instructed to remove his blindfold and was eventually allowed to call his family to say that he was alive. When Atty. Emilio Capulong and a UCCP team arrived on the scene in the early evening, the PNP gave fax copies of two warrants of arrest. One warrant executed in 1992 was for a charge of murder. The second executed in 1988 was for a charge of inciting to sedition; the second warrant had been served to Pastor Berlin in 1992 and he was released after posting bail. No file has been located on the charge of inciting to sedition.

May 29, 2007. The Commission on Human Rights and the Health Action for Human Rights conducted medical evaluations of Pastor Berlin. They documented his contusions, abrasions, and lacerations. Both reports concluded the Pastor Berlin has been subjected to ill-treatment and torture.

May 31, 2007. UCCP General Secretary Bishop Eliezer M. Pascua held a dialogue with PNP Chief General Oscar Calderon, where General Calderon confirmed that he had ascertained the unit of the Naval Intelligence Security Forces that took Berlin into custody. He agreed to ask the commanding officer to identify the suspects of the torture of Pastor Berlin.

June 14, 2007. Protestant Lawyers’ League of the Philippines made an Urgent Motion for the Release of the Accused with a Complimentary Prayer to Quash the Warrant of Arrest and to Dismiss the Information at the Regional Trial Court, Branch 19, Bacoor, Cavite on the charge of murder.

August 2, 2007. Presiding Judge Matias M. Garcia II denied the motion (basically contending that a lack of probable cause is not basis for to Quash the Information).

August 24, 2007 Senator Jovito R. Salonga of Kilosbayan joined as counsel for Pastor Berlin and filed at the Supreme Court a Petition for Certiorari, Prohibition, and Mandamus under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court for grave abuse of discretion of Judge Matias M. Garcia. This petition sought to nullify the denial of the motion on August 2, 2007, to prohibit from proceeding any further with the case at the Regional Trial Court, to order the dismissal of the Information for murder against Pastor Berlin Guerrero, and his immediate release from detention.

September 4, 2007. The Supreme Court ordered a COMMENT from Judge Matias M. Garcia II and the Solicitor General within 10 days of their receipt of the Supreme Court order.

October 3, 2007 Judge Matias M. Garcia II filed his COMMENT basically repeating that lack of probable cause is not a basis for Quashal of the Information.

September 28, 2007. Solicitor General filed motion for a thirty (30) day extension to file COMMENT.

October 30, 2007. Solicitor General filed motion of another thirty (30) day extensions to file COMMENT.

November 29, 2007 Solicitor General filed motion for a third extension to file COMMENT.
 

December 10, 2007. Solicitor General files COMMENT (more than three months after the Supreme Court Order for COMMENT). ►►►

 


January 15, 2008. Supreme Court requires the attorneys of Pastor Berlin to file REPLY to the COMMENT of the Solicitor General.

March 17, 2008 REPLY filed by attorneys of Pastor Berlin re-stating that there is lack of probable cause in the case of murder. They also filed an Urgent Motion for Resolution of the Petition.

June 10, 2008 Supreme Court REMANDS case to Court of Appeals on the basis that the Supreme Court is not the “trier of facts.” For more information, refer to new article,

 

 http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/nation/view/20080708-147236/SC-tells-appeals-court-to-hear-pastors-plea


Current We await notification from the Court of Appeals on where the case of Pastor Berlin Guerrero has been assigned. We pray that the case will not be allowed to be delayed for months and months; we anticipate that a hearing will be called by the Court of Appeals to determine the merit and facts of the case.
 

Call to Action-Letter Writing Campaign
 

It has already been more than one year that Pastor Berlin V. Guerrero has been in prison, we enjoin you to add your voice to the many who are praying for his release. We are appealing for you (individually) and/or your church/group/community to write letters to two places—the Court of Appeals where a motion for Pastor Berlin’s release has been REMANDED and to the Solicitor General who is opposing Pastor Berlin’s release. We also ask that you send a copy of your appeal letters to the family of Pastor Berlin Guerrero both to boost their moral and so that we are able to update you any future actions of news on the case of Pastor Berlin. We have highlighted in the sample letter form the number of weeks Pastor of Berlin is detained. Our target is to organize our local churches, ecumenical and international partners and solidarity links to send at least one letter per week as a sustained reminder of the broad support for Pastor Berlin and his family. Thank you very much for your support and participation.

Please mail the following letter to the Court of Appeals Justices at: Court of Appeals of the Philippines, Maria Y Orosa Street, Ermita 1000, Manila. For monitoring purposes and as an encouragement to the family, please Xerox your letter and send it to: Pastor Berlin V. Guerrero Family c/o UCCP North-East Southern Tagalog Conference, UP Los Baños, Los Baños, Laguna.

Hon. Conrado M. Vasquez, Jr.
Presiding Judge
Court of Appeals
Maria Y Orosa Street
Ermita, 1000 Manila


To the Honorable Justices of the Court of Appeals of the Philippines:

On May 27, 2007 Pastor Berlin V. Guerrero was abducted in front of his wife and children as they traveled home from the local church where he was a pastor in Malaban, Biñan, Laguna. After heavy torture and interrogation completely unrelated to the charge against him, Pastor Berlin has now spent one year and (insert #) weeks in prison on a trumped-up charge of murder.

We appeal for a speedy resolution of the case of Pastor Berlin Guerrero. We know that Pastor Berlin continues his pastoral ministry within the Cavite Provincial Jail, and we are certain that he is detained for political rather than criminal reasons. We urge you to prioritize this case as testament to the pursuit of justice and democracy in the Philippines.

Pastor Berlin V. Guerrero is one amongst many Filipinos who have been abducted, tortured, disappeared and killed under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Administration. We enjoin your efforts to bring justice to the many victims of Human Rights Violations. Our prayers are with you as you are challenged to address these injustices. We join this appeal for a speedy resolution of the case of Pastor Berlin as we also join in the efforts to bring peace based on justice to the Filipino people.

Sincerely yours,
(Your name)


And the following Letter to the Solicitor General:

Hon. Agnes VST Devanadera
Solicitor General, Republic of the Philippines
134 Amorsolo St. Legaspi Village, Makati City

Dear Hon. Agnes VST Devanadera:

We appeal for your support for the speedy resolution of the case of Pastor Berlin V. Guerrero, now pending with the Court of Appeals. We are certain that Pastor Berlin has had nothing to do with the murder of which he has been accused. As a servant of the people of the Philippines, we appeal to your better wisdom toward justice for you to allow the release Pastor Berlin Guerrero who has already been detained for more than one year and (insert #) weeks. The release of Pastor Berlin will be step toward peace and democracy in the Philippines.

Sincerely yours,
(Your name)

 

 

 
 

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