THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) ruled out the alleged “torture” accusation of a human rights group following the revelation of two self-confessed victims that they were burned and mauled by the soldiers of a military unit in Compostela Valley.
Philippine Army’s 1001st Infantry Brigade commander Colonel Erwin Bernard Neri dismissed the allegations thrown against them, categorizing this as a mere propaganda that aims to discredit the efforts of the AFP in maintaining the peace and order as they are now in momentum against the state’s enemies.
“That is a fabricated story of Karapatan. It’s not true. Wala pong incident na ganon (There is no such incident),” he said.
On Friday, the two farmers and part-time small-scale miners filed a complaint at the Commission on Human Rights over the supposed first documented case of torture allegedly perpetrated by soldiers while martial rule is in effect in Mindanao.
The two victims were identified as Janry Mensis, 22, and 17-year-old alias Jerry. The filing of the complaint was facilitated by Karapatan, a human rights group who sought for an investigation on the incident.
Neri shrugged off the accusation and assured that they are willing to cooperate with those who will conduct the investigation.
“The unit will cooperate with any legitimate investigating body that will look into that allegation,” he said.
According to him, this developed as the military are gaining grounds with the influx of New People’s Army (NPA) surrenderers.
“It’s simply propaganda because the CPP-NPA is now losing against the government and their mass base in the hinterlands of COMVAL is significantly dwindling because of the massive surrenders of NPA regulars and mass supporters. They have to prove that allegation in a proper and legitimate court. And as I said the unit is more than willing to cooperate to clear its name,” Neri said.
According to reports, the two were abducted by the police on November 28, 2017 in Tagum City, Davao Del Norte after being accused as thieves. After they were cleared by the police, they were then turned over to the 71st Infantry Battalion (IB) where they were then beaten and tortured for eight days after being accused as members of the NPA.
They were allegedly brought to a mountainous area in Compostela Valley and were thrown into a pit dug by the soldier and tried to set them on fire while they were pretending to be dead. There were also photos of the victims showing their fresh wounds taken on December 12, 2017.
However, Neri said that the battalion of 71st IB never held custody of any of those individuals.