The Court of Appeals (CA) 13th division has ordered an official of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and three ranking Philippine National Police (PNP) officers to surface missing indigenous peoples (IP) rights activists Dexter Capuyan and Gene Roz Jamil “Bazoo” De Jesus.
In an eight-page resolution dated July 10, the three-justice appellate court panel found sufficient basis to issue a writ of habeas corpus, ordering AFP Chief of Staff Andres Centino, PNP Chief Benjamin Acorda Jr., Rizal PNP head Dominic Baccay, and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group Chief Romeo Caramat to “produce and bring the bodies and persons” of Dexter and Bazoo.
The court has given the four police and military officials until 10 a.m. tomorrow to surface the two activists “if found to be in their custody.” A hearing on the case will also happen tomorrow at the CA.
The petition was filed on July 5 by Bazoo’s sister, Idda Alexa Therese De Jesus-Tiongco, alleging that state forces are in possession of the two activists who were last seen on April 28.
Bazoo was a former student leader at UP Baguio (UPB), where he graduated in 2016. Capuyan, meanwhile, was also a graduate of UPB and served as the editor of Outcrop, UPB’s official student publication. The UP administration expressed concern over the two’s disappearance in a brief statement on June 3.
A writ of habeas corpus is a legal remedy to question the validity of an individual’s imprisonment. Rights advocates routinely use the writ to order state forces to surface disappeared activists.
Courts rarely grant habeas corpus petitions. In the case of missing peasant advocate Steve Abua, the CA’s 12th division in 2021 declined to issue the writ, ruling that a person’s mere disappearance is not a sufficient basis for a successful petition.
Bazoo and Dexter’s case, however, proved to be different.
During the search for the two, various AFP-backed social media accounts publicized alleged arrest warrants for Dexter in trial courts in Ilocos Sur and Mountain Province. The existence of the supposed warrant, the court said, gives the AFP and PNP “every reason to abduct Dexter, including anyone who is accompanying him.”
“As various military and police-backed Facebook pages announced that Dexter has a pending warrant, such has exposed him and anybody with him, including Bazoo, in danger from those who have a stake in his capture,” the CA noted.
IP rights group Task Force for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights (TFIP) immediately welcomed the decision.
“While we welcome the CA’s resolution and efforts to summon the police and military, their presentation before the court alone will never justify their relentless human rights violations against the people, including the case of Bazoo and Dexter,” TFIP campaign and advocacy officer Tyrone Beyer said.
At least 23 individuals have been victims of abductions or disappearances under the Marcos administration’s first 11 months, according to data collected by ecumenical youth group Student Christian Movement of the Philippines. This number surpasses the 21 disappearances during the first year of the Duterte administration.
“We also challenge Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to shed light on the worsening state of human rights in the country as his second State of the Nation Address approaches,” Beyer said. “We urge the government and its forces to halt their continuing attacks on civil and political rights of Filipinos mandated by the Philippine Constitution, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other global mandates.” ●
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