THE 13th Division of the Court of Appeals (CA) has ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) to surface missing Cordillera indigenous peoples rights activists Dexter Capuyan and Gene Roz Jamil De Jesus.
In a July 10 resolution, the CA found the petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed by relatives of the two University of the Philippines (UP) alumni to be “sufficient in form and substance.”
The CA resolution was authored by Associate Justice Florencio Mamauag Jr. while Associate Justices Victoria Isabel Paredes and Mary Charlene Hernandez-Azura concurred.
A writ of habeas corpus is a judicial remedy that orders anyone, including a government official or agency, who has custody of a person to produce him or her in court and to explain the legal basis for depriving that person of liberty.
Under the resolution, the court ordered the respondents “to appear before this Court and produce and bring the bodies and persons” of the two missing indigenous peoples’ rights advocates on Friday, July 14.
The resolution also ordered the respondents to show valid cause for continued detention of the two activists.
Capuyan’s mother, daughter, and De Jesus’ sister filed the petition on July 5 against Lieutenant General Andres Centino, AFP chief of staff; General Benjamin Acorda, PNP chief; PNP-Rizal Provincial Director Colonel Dominic Baccay; and Brigadier General Romeo Caramat, chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.
Human rights groups alleged that armed men, who introduced themselves as CIDG personnel, snatched Capuyan and De Jesus at Golden City Subdivision in Taytay, Rizal, on the evening of April 28.
Capuyan’s relatives said he was in Rizal to seek medical attention at the time of the alleged abduction, but it was not known why he was meeting up with De Jesus.
The appellate court directed the respondents “to appear before this Court and produce and bring the bodies and persons” of the two missing indigenous peoples’ rights advocates on Friday, July 14.
The CA also told them to “show cause why the subject persons should remain in their custody.”
“When we were informed that the Court of Appeals granted the Writ of Habeas Corpus for Bazoo (De Jesus) and Dexter, my first thought was that we were halfway towards our journey. We see hope,” said De Jesus’ mother, Mercedita on Thursday, July 13. Both parents are OFW in Italy.
De Jesus is the information officer of the Philippine Task Force on Indigenous Peoples Rights.
Capuyan is a Bontoc-Ibaloy-Kankanaey who is known for helping the cause of indigenous groups in the Cordillera Region and had been tagged by the military as a senior member of the NPA’s Chadli Molintas Command in the Ilocos and Cordillera regions.
Both De Jesus and Capuyan are former students of the University of the Philippines (UP) Baguio.
De Jesus graduated cum laude with a communication degree in 2016. Capuyan was editor in chief of Outcrop, UP Baguio’s official student publication in the 1980s.
Before filing separate habeas corpus petitions in the CA on July 5, relatives of De Jesus and Capuyan had gone to several police headquarters and agencies, urging them to comply with the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012, which requires government agencies to confirm whether they have a missing person in their custody.
Marben Panlasiqui, lawyer for the petitioners, noted that the separate petitions, which were later consolidated into one, were filed at the CA because of the large area that the search for the two entailed – from the Cordillera to the Southern Tagalog region. He added that the search also covered national AFP and PNP camps and offices.
“Finding the instant petition to be sufficient in form and substance and it appearing from the allegations therein that the writ ought to issue, this Court hereby gives due course to the petition and orders the issuance of the corresponding writ,” the CA Thirteenth Division said.
Since their disappearance, the clamor by their relatives, friends and supporters to surface the two activists has gained national and international attention.
Several protests have been held in the Cordillera region, in the National Capital Region, and even in Italy, to demand that the state agents present the two men in public.
Four UP campuses and the UP system itself have also released statements in support of their safe return.