HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
2 Days of Torture Force
Couple to Take Own Lives
For couple Librado and
Martina Gallardo of Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija, the torture and the threats
inflicted on them by soldiers of the 48th Infantry Battalion
were so brutal they chose to commit suicide. Even the dead couple’s son,
Jason, was beaten so bad for failing to produce the money and gun the
soldiers insist that the his late parents were hiding that he vomited
By ABNER BOLOS
Gitnang Luzon News Service
Posted by Bulatlat
For couple Librado and Martina Gallardo of
Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija, the torture and the threats were so brutal they
chose to commit suicide. They left nine children.
At about 9 a.m. October 11, they were
found sprawled in the porch of their home in Barangay Conversion barely
alive after ingesting Malathion, a powerful pesticide used to kill farm
and house pests. The couple died while they were being brought to the
“Sinabi nila sa amin na hindi na nila
kaya ang pagpapahirap sa kanila,” (They told us they could no longer
endure the torture), Jason Gallardo, a son of the couple told THE Gitnang
Luzon News Service (GLNS).
Jason said two hours before the suicide,
his parents gathered the family in the kitchen and amid tears, told them
of their decision, bade them farewell and asked them to leave the house.
Jason, 18, his two brothers Rolando and
Rico, and other relatives recounted the tragic event to a fact-finding
mission to Barangay (village) Conversion organized by the United Methodist
Church (UMC) last November 8-10.
The mission was led by the United
Methodist Church (UMC) Manila Episcopal Area Bishop Solito Tuquero and
district superintendents from the south, central and north Nueva Ecija UMC
districts. The 61-page mission report was released to media last December
News of the suicide has trickled from
various sources in the past months but could not be confirmed until the
mission was conducted. The 50-member contingent arrived at the remote
village after more than eight hours of travel from Metro Manila mostly
over rough mountain roads.
The report said around midnight of October
8, some 50 soldiers of the 48th Infantry Battalion led by Lt.
Noel Ruezal arrived in Conversion and occupied the village hall. The
following morning, Librado and his sister Macera Villajuan, 50, were taken
from their homes by soldiers and brought to the village hall.
Villajuan said they were taken to separate
rooms in the second floor of the building where they were blindfolded
while being interrogated.
Villajuan said the soldiers accused her of
supporting the New People’s Army (NPA) but she denied the accusation and
defied the soldiers by removing her blindfold. She said she heard her
brother crying in pain as he was being forced to admit that he was a
member of the NPA.
The interrogation went on until 2 p.m. It
was interrupted when the soldiers ordered Librado to attend a meeting with
residents at the village plaza in front of the hall.
In the meeting the soldiers asked the
residents to stop supporting the NPA and to surrender their firearms. The
soldiers read a list of some 40 Bayan Muna (People First) members who they
accused of being supporters or members of the NPA.
The Gallardo couple was in the list, as
well as Eduardo Navalta Jr, the local UMC pastor. Librado is a lay leader
of the congregation in the village. After the meeting, Librado was not
allowed to go home and was interrogated until 8 p.m.
Rolando, 28, the oldest of the nine
Gallardo siblings, said he was able to talk to his father on the night of
October 9. He said his father looked weak and forlorn and complained that
he was severely beaten in the chest, head and neck.
The elder Gallardo was also strangled and
a plastic bag was put over his head to suffocate him. “Napatae siya sa
salawal dahil sa sakit” (He defecated in his pants because of the
pain), Rolando said.
‘They will kill us all’
Early in the next day, October 10, Librado
and his wife were again taken by the soldiers, along with Villajuan and at
least 10 other residents who were in the military’s list.
Librado was blindfolded inside his home
before he was brought to an abandoned house in the village that the
soldiers occupied and used as a detachment. His wife was with him but she
was not allowed to go inside the house. Librado was tortured while
blindfolded the whole day and was allowed to go home at around 9 p.m.
Rolando stayed in his father’s house that
night. He said his father could hardly eat because his throat ached from
blows on his neck and severe beatings on his chest and head. He said his
father was repeatedly strangled and a plastic bag was put over his head.
The soldiers told Librado that he will be
killed the next day if he did not surrender an M-16 rifle, P40, 000
($805.31 at an exchange rate of $1=49.67) in cash and documents —matters
that his father knew nothing about, Rolando said.
“Pag wala daw siyang inilabas at hindi
umamin, pati kaming pamilya niya ay idadamay ng mga sundalo. Papatayin daw
kami lahat,” (If he would not produce (the items) and confess, the
soldiers would also go after his family. They will kill us all.) Rolando
said quoting his father.
Maricel, 18, wife of Rico, one of the
Gallardo siblings said the couple talked the whole night of October 10.
Her home is just behind the elder Gallardo’s residence at the back of the
UMC chapel in the village.
At around 7 a.m. October 11, Martina, the
wife of Librado went to the house of one of their relatives and asked that
she be given pesticide. Maricel said the couple then gathered the family
in the kitchen.
“Pakiwari ko sila ay naghahabilin at
nagpapaalam. Sinabi nila sa mga nakakatandang magkakapatid na alagaang
mabuti ang mga maliliit na kapatid,” (I felt they were saying goodbye.
They asked the older brothers to take care of the little ones), Maricel
She said the couple was in tears as they
talked to the family and later asked them to leave the house. She said the
five youngest Gallardo siblings, aged five to eleven years old, were in
the house at that time.
Rico, 26, husband of Maricel said he
passed by his parents’ house at about 9 am on October 11 on his way to the
forest to haul charcoal. He saw four soldiers talking to his parents in
“Pinipilit nila at tinaningan ng 20
minutos na pumunta na dun,”
(The soldiers were forcing my parents to go to the detachment and were
given 20 minutes to do so) Rico said. He said he left the house at
the same time as the soldiers did.
He said he had not gone far and was about
to cross the river on his way to the forest when he was called by
relatives and told that his parents have committed suicide by drinking
He said it took them two hours to look for
motorized tricycles to bring their parents to the nearest hospital in
Carranglan town which was more than one hour ride away. He said his
parents were still alive but barely conscious when they left the village
but they died on the way.
Rico said his younger siblings told him
soldiers came to their house after they left and took the suicide note of
their parents from a table in the porch.
Aside from Villajuan and the Gallardo
couple, other residents who were in the list were also summoned by the
soldiers— Eduardo Navalta Jr, the local UMC pastor, Dante Castro, Bayan
Muna party chairperson in the village, Arthuro Tarlino, Victor Castaneda,
Delfin Castaneda, Rey Doria, Emmie Manahan, Boy Pascua and Boy Ramos,
Tarlino, 47, was made to hold a hand
grenade and a plastic bag was put over his head as he was beaten and
interrogated. Victor Castaneda was subjected to electrocution and his
brother, Delfin, was also beaten and a plastic bag placed over his head.
All of the victims suffered injuries.
On November 3, Jason Gallardo was accosted
by soldiers on his way to the village hall and punched in the stomach
several times. He vomited blood because of the blows. He was being forced
to produce the M-16 rifle and money that the soldiers tried to extract
from his father.
On November 4, a group of young male
teen-agers were forced by the soldiers to beat each other using a paddle.
Some had their hair cut as punishment by the soldiers. Many of those who
were in the military list have left the village because of fear.
Barangay Conversion (pop. about 700
families) is a poor village nestled in the western slope of the Sierra
Madre mountains at the edge of the Pantabangan dam, one of the country’s
major dam projects. It is a remote village reachable from Cabanatuan City
by a five-hour drive through winding, rough mountain passes.
Residents make a living out of subsistence
farming and fishing, making charcoal and gathering forest products. The
Gallardo family, like the other victims and rest of the residents live on
a hand-to-mouth existence. The village is considered by the military as a
stronghold of the NPA.
On November 9, 2001, five young fishermen
were killed allegedly by soldiers who were looking for NPA guerillas in
Conversion. The victims’ bodies were recovered only after two days on the
shore of the dam used as a makeshift docking area for fishing boats. One
of the five young men, Leo, is a son of the Gallardo couple.
Among the conclusions of the fact-finding
- the 48th
IB is ‘hamletting’ the village in ‘total disregard of the supremacy of
civilian authority and the civil rights’ of residents
- residents are
arrested and detained without warrant and subjected to torture,
intimidation, harassment and grave threats as part of the government’s
- torture and
threats against the Gallardo couple and their family led them to commit
- the village hall
is under control of the 48th IB and barangay officials are
required to report to the army commanding officer
- even children were
interrogated by the military and teen-agers were subjected to cruel
punishment in violation of the provisions of the Convention on the
Rights of a Child
The mission team is
demanding for the immediate pull-out of the 48th Infantry
Battalion from Barangay Conversion. It is also asking for an impartial
investigation to be conducted by the Commission on Human Rights to look
into the accountability of the commanding officers of the 48th
IB and their superiors, and to determine the accountability and civil
liability of the State. Gitnang Luzon News Service/Posted by Bulatlat
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© 2006 Bulatlat
Alipato Media Center
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