DAVAO CITY: The Army’s 10th Infantry Division said the soldier and four members of the Special Cafgu Active Auxiliaries (SCAAs) of the 72nd Infantry Battalion are “placed under arrest” for alleged torture of an elderly Tagakulo tribal man in Barangay Demoloc, Malita, Davao Occidental on February 19.
On Thursday, March 10 the 10th ID identified the soldier as Corporal Sandy Batolbatol but withheld the names of the members of the SCAA.
The 10th ID said the suspected men have been relieved from their detachment in Barangay Demoloc and are now “placed under arrest by the Commander of 72nd Infantry Battalion at their headquarters at Camp Gen Manuel T Yan Sr, Barangay Tuboran, Mawab, Compostela Valley Province.”
“They shall be restricted to barracks to insure their appearance while the investigation is on-going,” said the Army in its statement today, March 11.The Army said the names of the four SCAAs are still withheld “until the investigations has clearly established their involvement in said incident.”
“Due process of law shall be strictly observed in the investigation and when evidence warrants they will be prosecuted with the full force of military justice, including trial by Courts-Martial. The soldier and the CAAs are subject to military laws,”it added.
The torture complaints went public when Fr. Joey Ganio Evangelista, MJ, posted in the Facebook account Tagakolu Ako an article on Wednesday, March 9 about an Army “sergeant” identified as Batolbatol of the 72nd IB who was seen torturing a Tagakolu farmer on February 19.
The article was posted with a video and as of 5:15 pm today, March 11 the post was shared 87 times and was seen by 3,213 internet users.
In his article Evangelista said Tagakolu farmer Orlando Engo of Sitio Matamis, Barangay Demoloc, Malita, Davao Occidental was subjected to torture by Sgt. Batolbatol together with SCAA militiamen under his command last 19 February.
The alleged torture reportedly took place at the Army detachment in Demoloc “just a few meters away from the barangay hall and a stone’s throw from the home of the Barangay Chair.”
“Orlando, or Kaido as he is commonly known, has sought the help of the Malita Tagakaulo Mission and the Mission is taking the necessary steps to get justice for Kaido,” Evangelista said.
Engo, 52 was reportedly accused of sending his fourteen-year-old grandson, Ian, to steal from a store in Sitio Matamis.
Evangelista said Engo was brought to the Army detachment where he was beaten by Batolbatol and the militiamen to force him in owning up to the accusation.
“Out of desperation Kaido did so believing that the beating would cease. To his horror, they were just warming up. The beatings continued without let up. The militiamen taunted him saying, “You finally admit that you are the mastermind of all the thefts in Matamis”,” Evangelista wrote.
The militiamen also allegedly placed ice under the victim’s armpits and trousers.
Engo’s torture was reportedly seen by the residents, including women and children who were “afraid to speak out.”
Evangelista described the severity of the beating as Engo “had to crawl some part of the way to his house a few kilometers away from the barangay hall across the river and up the hill passing through a foot path far from the road; he could barely walk straight after what he had gone through.”
“Kaido is able to move about but is still unable to work and is under the care of relatives. He was severely traumatized by the torture he was subjected to and by the humiliation that came with it,” said Evangelista.
A medical examination done on the evening of the same day showed the victim had a 5-cm laceration on his head, “contusion hematoma anterior chest, swelling hematoma at left wrist, and hematoma at buttocks area.”
The victim also filed a police report at the Malita police.
Soldier tried to settle case
Evangelista said they are assisting the victim now and are hoping that the suspects will be brought to trial.
“Kaido’s case is only one of the numerous torture incidents in Demoloc and in the other mountain barangays of Malita. He, however, is the first person to stand up to the Philippine Army and the Special CAFGU Armed Auxiliary in Demoloc,” he said.
During the hearing held at the barangay on Tuesday, March 8, Sgt. Batolbatol reportedly offered the victim with P50,000 (1,064 US Dollars) and his old motorcycle hoping to settle the case.
Evangelista said the barangay officials at the hearing “were pressuring Kaido to accept” the offer but he refused “saying he wanted this settled in court.”
He said there is also “pressure” mounting in the community to force the victim in accepting the money from the soldier “in exchange for his silence”.
“We ask for your prayers that this Army sergeant and the militiamen under his command be brought to trial.
Kaido’s complaint still has to hurdle sessions at the Barangay, which seems bent at keeping the case from leaving Demoloc for reasons that are still unclear,” said Evangelista.