Rights group hits AFP bounty hunting

By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
www.nordis.net

BAGUIO CITY — The arrest of Eduardo Almores Esteban is part of the bounty hunting activities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) said in an emailed letter here.

CHRA called for the immediate release of Eduardo Esteban and accused the AFP of taking on a bounty hunting spree to collect reward money from the government’s reward system. “The case of Eduardo Esteban is part of the bounty hunting-spree of the AFP supported by the reward system of Benigno “Noynoy”Aquino III through the Development Acceleration Program (DAP),” the CHRA letter read.

The group enumerated the cases of Rolly Penesa, the security guard who was tortured, detained and accused of being a certain Benjamin Mendoza with a P5.6M price money for his capture; Olegario Sevas, arrested in place of Filemon Mendrez with P5.25M bounty; and environmentalist Romeo Rivera Jr., arrested as Felix Armodia, among others.

Esteban, a senior citizen and a cancer survivor, has now been languishing in Abra Provincial Jail for 11 months after authorities identified him as Esteban Manuel and arrested him on August 5, 2014 in his residence at Jaro, Iloilo.

Esteban Manuel has standing charges of 4 counts of murder, 5 counts of frustrated murder, robbery, arson, and rebellion associated with 7 incidents related to armed encounters between the New People’s Army and Armed Forces of the Philippines in the Ilocos and Cordillera regions. One of the murder charges was dismissed last June.

After his arrest, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) reported to the local media in Iloilo that Eduardo Esteban is a ranking official of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA). Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, Chief of the AFP Public Affairs Office claimed Mr. Eduardo Esteban to be the same as “Esteban Manuel,” the former secretary of the Ilocos-Cordillera Regional Committee of the CPP.

“Eduardo Esteban is not Esteban Manuel. He never set foot in Ilocos and Cordillera until his arrest. He served the revolutionary movement but due to health conditions, he decided to retire ten (10) years ago. Before his arrest, he was managing a variety store and a bakery. He has a family of three (3) children and two (2) grandchildren. Family members of Eduardo Esteban complained that his arrest was effected improperly. A hand-grenade and handgun with ammunition were “planted” as evidence against him,” the CHRA letter further stated.

A few days after his arrest, the Communist Party of the Philippines released a statement acknowledging that Eduardo Esteban “was once part of the revolutionary machinery of the CPP … but personal circumstances made him choose to retire around ten years ago.” The CPP statement further clarified that Esteban was “never part … nor a leading cadre of the Ilocos Cordillera Region of the CPP.”

CHRA sought the help of human rights defenders and concerned individuals to send letters of appeal to the Department of Justice (DOJ) calling for the immediate release of Esteban. The group also suggested several other -PLS ENUMERATE SOME,- activities that could help in the campaign for Esteban’s release that include issuing statements, resolutions and position papers in support to the campaign; organize jail visits to Bucay Municipal Jail; and organize discussions for or about his case, among others. # nordis.net

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