Family undergoes torture, threatened to be massacred in Bukidnon

“The use of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment remains a prevailing practice among the military and the police. Last month, Karapatan received reports of a family who has undergone torture in the process of being illegally arrested. The persistence of these cases lend itself to the conclusion that there was never any change in the military’s brutish ways,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.
On March 2, 2018, Rosella Cahanggan, 41, "Lisa", 16, and couple Jason and Giselle Changgan, 22 and 19 years old respectively, were threatened, harassed, and tortured at their residence in Purok 5, Brgy. Dalwangan, Malaybalay, Bukidnon by elements of the 8th Infantry Battalion - Philippine Army (IBPA). The perpetrators forcefully entered the victims’ home at 4am, handcuffed and blindfolded Jessa, Jason, and Giselle before ruthlessly dragging them outside. They were threatened of being massacred should they resist arrest. Though the soldiers claimed they had a warrant, nothing was shown to the victims.

 According to the perpetrators, the Cahanggan family was under suspicion for being members of the New People’s Army (NPA). All were members of Pigyayungaan, a local Lumad organization active in the defense of their land and ancestral domain.

 "Lisa" narrated that they were brought to the camp of the Special Civilian Active Auxiliary (SCAA), a paramilitary unit under the 8th IBPA. The victims were blindfolded for almost 12 hours. Male soldiers guarded Lisa and Giselle, and would even escort them when they need to go the bathroom. Lisa added that after her blindfold was removed, someone punched her in the face, near her right eyebrow. A gun was also aimed at her while other soldiers threatened to “feed her a gun” if she does not admit to being an NPA member.

On April 4 and 5, 2018, soldiers went back to the Cahanggan residence to talk to Rosalia. The latter was also brought to the camp and was questioned. Rosalia was then forced to sign a document, under Lisa's name, stating that the 16-year-old has “surrendered”. The said paper was already notarized by a certain “Atty. Pabillon”.

As of this writing, Jason and Giselle are still at the SCAA camp.

The Cahanggan family are among the families who evacuated from their communities in Malaybalay, Bukidnon due to militarization and rights violations committed by both military and paramilitary elements in their communities.

“The application of such methods to demean and break individuals is a habit very much alive in the conduct of state security forces, abuses which largely go unchecked and unpunished, and therefore have subsisted despite national laws and international conventions criminalizing such practices,” explained Palabay, citing the Anti-Torture Law ratified in 2009 and the Convention against Torture, and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment as among the laws aimed at prohibiting the use of such methods.

Karapatan’s secretary general also emphasized the gender-specific violations specific to this case, as well as violations done against a minor. Lisa is currently exhibiting obvious signs of trauma, according to family members.

“This case is representative of the military’s maneuvers. From the illegal arrests, to the use of harassment, to torture, and to the forcing of individuals to “surrender”, this is consistent of a similar trend in the whole of Mindanao under martial law. The deliberate employment of such barbaric tactics is with the intention to terrorize entire families and communities. These violations are not isolated, and are used to supplement each other. In the conduct of its counterinsurgency operations, this repressive government and the forces under it are hell-bent on spreading terror at an unprecedented scale and rate, at the expense of women, children, families, and entire communities,” ended Palabay.