Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. VI, No. 44      Dec. 10 - 16, 2006      Quezon City, Philippines








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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 blood.

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 hospital.


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.


Fact-finding mission


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 5.


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.


October 11


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 said.


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 the porch.


“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 poison.


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.


More victims


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, among others.


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


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.


Mission findings


Among the conclusions of the fact-finding mission are:


  • 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 counter-insurgency campaign
  • torture and threats against the Gallardo couple and their family led them to commit suicide
  • 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  



© 2006 Bulatlat  Alipato Media Center

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