PHILIPPINES: Serious concerns on targeted surveillance by armed men on Mr. Danilo Reyes, AHRC deputy director

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) expresses its grave concern that its deputy director, Mr. Danilo Reyes, had been overtly followed by two unidentified men, one of whom carrying a short firearm, at around 8:30 to 9am on April 30, 2014 along E. Rodriguez Avenue, Quezon City, Metro Manila.
Mr. Reyes travelled to Manila to attend the National Consultation Workshop and Writeshop for the National Preventive Mechanism, on April 29 to 30, at the La Breza Hotel in Quezon City. Mr. Reyes was attending on behalf of the AHRC upon the invitation of Ms. Loretta Ann Rosales, chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) of the Philippines. The workshop tackled proposed mechanisms on prevention of torture in the Philippines.
The AHRC has been reporting on the Philippines particularly on issues concerning the practice and the prevention of torture. Below is Mr. Reyes’s verbatim statement given to the Cubao Police Station 7, immediately after the incident happened.
I am Danilo Reyes, Filipino, 35 years old, and a resident of Hong Kong. I am the Deputy Director of the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), a regional human rights organisation based in Hong Kong. I am here to personally report the overt surveillance on my person by two unidentified men. Details are below:
At 8:30am today, I was waiting for a jeepney ride in front of my hotel, Stone House, going towards Cubao. As I was standing by the road, a man (wearing bull cap, in blue shirt and white short pants) kept on texting and occasionally looking, staring and observing me as I was standing. Then, I saw a man (riding on a motorcycle, wearing a helmet and black clothes with a short firearm on his waist at right) passing in front of me.
Soon after I boarded the jeep, the man by the road standing next to me, did not take the jeep though he appears to be waiting for jeep as well. As I boarded, I looked at him and he stared at me as the jeep left.
While the jeep was travelling along E. Rodriguez going to Cubao, the motorcycle with an armed man I saw passing earlier in front of me, has overtaken the jeep I was riding. At this point, I was alerted by what I have just seen. (see more details at point two below)
Soon after reaching E. Rodriguez cor. EDSA, I quickly and with careful observation of my surrounding alighted from the jeep. I immediately went inside Mercury Drug Store on pretext of buying bottled water but it was for security purposes. Then, I later moved to Jollibee next to Mercury, and there inside observed from the second floor inside towards the crowd outside. I had to check whether the two men or the motorcycle I saw earlier were there.
After half an hour, I proceeded to a police outpost. Here, policemen Cordero and Ferrer advised me to proceed to Station 7, where I reported the incident. I strongly think that the incident is targeted on me, and I was being followed for reasons connected with my work. I came to Manila upon the invitation of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), April 29-30, on Consultation on torture.
After the incident, Mr. Reyes submitted electronic copies of his statement and the police report via an email to a staff attached to the office of the chairperson of the CHR. The AHRC asked the CHR to conduct an inquiry on the matter.
The AHRC strongly suspects, after careful analysis of the circumstances that has happened before this incident, that it is an act targeted on Mr. Reyes for purposes of either causing him harm or to intimidate his person.
Firstly, the incident happened a day after Mr. Reyes attended and was introduced in person in public among the participants in the consultation. While the AHRC expected that various government agencies and non government organisations will be present; it was surprising that officers from National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) were also present and invited in the consultation.
While the AHRC understands the role of government security agencies and its officials on the prevention of torture, however, it could not understand why officials from NICA, a government agency whose mandate is on intelligence gathering, and neither is responsible for investigation of complaints of torture or has legal authority to keep, supervise and maintain detention facilities, would have to be present.
The AHRC is deeply concerned that the presence of NICA during the workshop, and that the participants like the AHRC was not adequately informed about, has undermined the security and safety of those documenting, exposing and assisting torture victims, like Mr. Reyes and the AHRC. It has unnecessarily jeopardized the safety of Mr. Reyes, the AHRC and many others who are seeking assistance from it, those associated with it and in pursuing demands for accountability from security forces perpetrating torture.
Secondly, the incident could have been only targeted on Mr. Reyes’s person due to the following reasons: First, the armed man on the motorcycle emerged only after Mr. Reyes was keenly observed by the man standing close to him. Second, if indeed the armed man on a motorcycle happened to have just passed by, he would have gone ahead of the jeepney where Mr. Reyes was riding on; but, suspiciously the armed man on the motorcycle later appeared tailing the jeepney Mr. Reyes was riding in; thirdly, the passenger jeepney where Mr. Reyes was traversing in the middle of a wide four-lane road; however, in overtaking the jeepney the armed man drove side by side with the jeepney right beside where Mr. Reyes was sitting inside the jeep. Mr. Reyes was alerted and moved his back away from the motorcycle then he noticed that the motorcycle sped off ahead of the jeepney where he was in.
Thirdly, in consultation with the local groups, Mr. Reyes later inquired, and learned that it is not a common scenario where armed men on a motorcycle carry and display firearms openly. He immediately reported to the Cubao Police Station 7 to have the incident reported and investigated.
Mr. Reyes has also asked the policeman recording his statement whether non-uniformed individuals are allowed to carry firearms openly, which the officer replied: “No, only the police in uniform.” However, the armed man that Mr. Reyes had seen was not wearing a police uniform at all;
Fourthly, keeping in mind that Mr. Reyes had no witnesses to affirm the details of his accounts of the incident because he was travelling alone at that time; and, realizing the need to have his concerns investigated, he sought assistance from policemen at a local police outpost, who advised him to proceed to the Cubao Police Station 7, and he also promptly informed a staff of the CHR about the incident.
However, to Mr. Reyes knowledge, as of this writing, neither the police nor the CHR has investigated adequately, promptly and effectively his complaints. Apart from the extract of police report given to Mr. Reyes upon his request, there were no immediate security arrangements made to ensure his safety.
Fifthly, the AHRC therefore urges the CHR and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to take seriously Mr. Reyes’ complaints. The AHRC is deeply concerned that despite Mr. Reyes’ efforts in reporting the incident to the police, and his request for police assistance and to have his complaint investigated, the government agencies to which he made his report has done nothing to ensure his safety and protection.
What happened to Mr. Reyes is part of a wider systematic, routine and renewed targeted attacks on human rights and political activists in the country. In recent months, the AHRC has documented cases of threats, intimidations, disappearance and extrajudicial killings. We are concerned that the lack of progress to these cases wherein the perpetrators are held to account emboldens them to continue committing these criminal activities with impunity.
Last year, in December 5, 2013, Rasti Delizo, a political activist, was threatened by the police that he and would be killed if they do not behave in the protest. On December 7, Arthur “Jun” Sapanghari, Jr., a radio broadcaster, was threatened for exposing corruption and human trafficking in Valencia City.
This year, on January 30, labour leader Vicente Barrios, who was threatened in 2005 and 2006, has been shot at, while he and his colleagues, some 100 plantation workers were holding a protest in Compostela Valley. On January 16, Rosemarie Rojas had her house in Baler, Aurora surrounded allegedly by soldiers. On January 7, Elioforo Abrahan and his family were shot at while they were sleeping at home in Malungon, Sarangani. On January 12, a local activist and three others were wounded when they were shot for harvesting the crops they planted on a disputed land in Porac, Pampanga.
On March 18, Ed Cubelo, a union leader, was also subjected to an overt surveillance. On March 24, Rudy Corpuz, a peasant leader in Hacienda Luisita, was hurt in a confrontation with the security forces of land owner. On March 3, five farmers were also arrested for unknown reasons in Tarlac City. On March 12, four poor urban leaders were arrested while they were negotiating on site for a postponement of a demolition of informal settlers in Muntinlupa City.
The AHRC also reported extrajudicial killings of activists. On January 3, Marcelo Monterona, an anti-mining activist, was shot dead in Compostela Valley. On February 5, Julieto Lauron, a peasant leader in Bukidnon was shot dead by two armed men. On February 15, Sixto Bagasala Jr., an urban poor leader, was shot dead in a crowded place in Malabon, Metro Manila. In January and February, three activists were also killed in separate incidents, namely Ronaldo Rayteran, Rasty Rayteran and Henry Orbina, and four others arrested in Bicol.
On March 2, three indigenous miners, namely Freddie “Fermin” Ligiw, Eddie Ligiw and Licuben Ligiw were found dead in a shallow grave after they disappeared for days. On March 25, William Bugatti, an indigenous human rights defender, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Bolog, Kiangan. And, Romulo Dela Cruz, a peasant leader, disappeared after attending a wedding ceremony on February 28.
Finally, the AHRC urges the CHR to follow up with the police regarding the progress of its investigation concerning Mr. Reyes complaint. We are concerned that despite the detailed information provided to the police, they did not act promptly and take proportionate action in ensuring the life, safety and security of Mr. Reyes when he needed it most.