By Pet Melliza
Armed men abducted two activists the evening of April 12, 2007 at Brgy. Cabanbanan, Oton, Iloilo, 14 kilometers south of Iloilo City.
The victims, Ma. Luisa Posa-Dominado and Nilo Arado, were never seen since then. They came from from Antique where they met with Gov. Sally Zaldivar Perez to campaign for Bayan Muna and Anakpawis party list groups. However, their attackers on board a Mitsubishi Delica van with plate number GMP 438, overtook them and blocked their way. The van quickly disgorged armed men, one of them shooting at the driver’s seat hitting Jose Ely Garachico in the neck.
The armed men commandeered the pick-up with the two passengers—Posa-Dominado—inside and sped to the direction of Iloilo City. Garachico was rushed by residents to the Oton PNP Station where he was transferred to the police car that brought him to Iloilo Doctors’ Hospital in Iloilo City, 12 kilometers from Oton. He survived. Their pick-up was found the next morning burned and destroyed at Brgy. Guadalupe, Januiay, Iloilo, more than 30 kilometers northwest of Iloilo City.
Ma. Luisa Posa-Dominado was a member of the Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detension at para sa Amenstiya (SELDA) of Association of Ex-Detainees against Detention and for Amnesty. Nilo Arado was chair of the Paghugpong sang Mangunguma sa Panay kag Guimaras (United Farmers of Panay and Guimaras) and Panay-Guimaras coordinator for Anakpawis, a partylist group which listed him its sixth nominee to the House of Representatives.
The two had been receiving threats before their abduction, and their organizations subjects of vilification campaigns of the military that tagged them as “communist fronts” and “terrorists”.
Unidentified persons on board a motorcycle lobbed a Molotov cocktail at the headquarters of Bayan Muna and Anakpawis, in Villa Arevalo, Iloilo City. The property belonged to Posa-Dominado’s family. The attack damaged streamers of Bayan Muna and affiliated partylist groups, aside from the improvements on the property.
The abduction of Posa-Dominado and Arado was flashed on radio that night. The next morning, friends and relatives inquired on the whereabouts of the two at the police stations of Oton and Januiay towns, the regional PNP headquarters in Iloilo City, and the Army detachment at Miag-ao, Iloilo. They further knocked on the door of then Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez to ask for succor. Their search and plea for help yielded nothing.
Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) through its Civil-Military Officer, Capt. Lowen Gil Marquez, gloated in the media that the abduction was not the work of the military. He cited “intelligence reports” that two disappeared persons were abducted by the rebel New People’s Army (NPA) for pocketing funds of the underground movement.
The families of the two missing persons went to court to file a petition for the Writ of Habeas Corpus. Without any solid evidence on the whereabouts, their counsels, members of the locale of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) and as per advice by the court, the counsels moved for its dismissal and filed a petition for the Writ of Amparo on December 17, 2007.
The petitioners impleaded as respondents the highest officials of the land, starting from Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the secretary of national defense, the chief of the AFP and PNP, national security adviser Norberto Gonzales, Western Visayas PNP director Wilfredo Dulay, the regional head of the Military Intelligence Batallion, Capt. Lowen Gil Marquez, civil-military officer of the AFP in Western Visayas, and the chiefs of the PNP stations of Oton and Januiay towns, both in Iloilo.
Presiding Judge Narciso M. Aguilar of RTC Branch 33, granted the Writ of Amparo on the same date of filing ordering all the respondents to answer within 15 days to show that they did exercise extraordinary diligence in the performance of their duty of protecting the security of the disappeared persons and assisted the victims’ families in search for them as provided in Par. 3, Section 17, of the Rules on Writ of Amparo, that reads:
“The respondent who is a public official or employee must prove that extraordinary diligence as required by applicable laws, rules and regulations was observed in the performance of duty.”
The answers from the respondents were mere general denials on their involvement and ordinary assertions that their respective institutions did perform their duty of investigating the incident and searching for the victims. The rule on the Writ of Amparo requires of the respondents to show to the court the extraordinary diligence they exerted in protecting endangered persons or searching for the missing ones. (To be concluded)