9 Army soldiers face charges for militant’s death
By Shiena M. Barrameda
May 23, 2011
PILI, Camarines Sur—Nine Army soldiers, including two officers, are facing murder charges for the death of a member of Bayan Muna party-list in Bicol in February.
Maj. Angelo Guzman, spokesperson of the 9th Infantry Division (ID), confirmed to reporters here Saturday that a case of murder has been filed by the police at the Camarines Sur Prosecutor’s Office on Friday against Maj. Danilo Ambe, Lt. Mariel Bonilla, S/Sgt. Deogracias Sarmiento, Pfc Edgardo Tala, Pfc Zander Aler, Pfc Suege Tubig, Pfc Casiano Belangel Jr., Private Alvin De Villa, Pfc Jessie Villareal and several John Does for the death of Rodel Estrellado on Feb. 25.
The case was filed after a special police investigation concluded that contrary to the claim of the Army unit led by Ambe, Estrellado did not die in an encounter between soldiers and communist rebels, but was abducted and killed.
Karapatan Bicol spokesperson Vince Casilihan said on Sunday that his group and the local members of Bayan Muna initiated the filing of the complaint against the soldiers on behalf of Estrellado who was reportedly abducted from his residence in Malilipot, Albay, and killed in a “fake” encounter in Bato, Camarines Sur.
The case was filed immediately after reports and investigations regarding the killing of Estrellado conducted by a special task force of the Philippine National Police unearthed discrepancies in the pieces of evidence presented by the Army.
Senior Supt. Edwin Diocos, regional director of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Bicol, said they have gathered enough evidence to set the wheels of justice moving.
Casilihan said the “John Does” should have been named. He said the immediate superiors and other officers mentioned in the case should also be charged. “They are more liable of the crime than these rank-and-file soldiers,” Casilihan said. “These soldiers were just following their superiors’ orders.”
Tip of the iceberg
“(The killing of) Estrellado is just the tip of the iceberg here. There are more (like) him, victims of human rights violation in Bicol perpetrated by the soldiers,” Casilihan added.
Guzman said the military welcomed the development on the Estrellado case as it would give their soldiers the chance to defend themselves properly in court.
Although he admitted that while the 9th ID inspector general, Col. Colina de Lima, had also noted discrepancies in the statements provided by the soldiers involved in the case, the Army remains firm in its claim that Estrellado died in a legitimate encounter in Bato.