Karapatan Challenges Cayetano to File Diplomatic Protest vs US Gov’t on Torture of Moro Rights Activist

“Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano harps on national sovereignty whenever international actors criticize the Philippine government on its human rights record. If Cayetano meant an ounce of truth in his pronoucements that the country should fully exercise its rights as a sovereign nation, he should uphold the rights of a Filipino citizen who suffered physical and psychological torture, among other violations, under the US government. We challenge him to file a diplomatic protest against the Trump administration for the cruel and inhuman acts of the US Department of Homeland Security and US Customs and Border Protection against Moro human rights activist Jerome Succor Aba,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.

From April 17 to 19, 2018, for 28 hours, Aba suffered various forms of psychological and physical torture in the hands of the said US agents, when he arrived at the San Francisco International Airport in the US for a speaking tour organized by the United Methodist Church, the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas and the US chapter of the International Coalition on Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP).

Aba was forced to strip naked, with an electric fan blowing at him, while he was being interrogated by US officials. Throughout the interrogation, Aba was kept handcuffed. Homeland Security officials also denied him food and water, and even disrespected his religion by deliberately serving him pork. Also during interrogation, the slightest movement from Aba, even for just stretching his arms or moving his head, would earn him the ire of interrogators.

To add to his harrowing experience, Aba relayed that a gun and a grenade was intentionally placed in a room, in two different occasions while he was under custody. He relayed that it was either an excuse to bodily harm him or further their accusations. He was also threatened every time he went to the comfort room, with officials urging him to come out fast or he will be shot.

Karapatan said that Aba was treated as an “enemy combatant”, with the kind of physical and psychological torture that was used on him. The interrogation proceeded with officials accusing him of being a “terrorist”, “communist”, “terrorist communist”, or “communist terrorist”. The rights group noted that other civil and political rights that were violated include denial of access to a lawyer and human rights organizations which were just outside the airport, waiting to assist him. His belongings were also illegally searched.

Furthermore, he was only read the Miranda rights after the long hours of interrogation ended. Aba’s privacy and freedom of movement was also grossly neglected after US officials showed him voluminous information on his family, educational background, and activities. He was also not allowed to call anyone except when he was about to be deported. Aba’s electronic gadgets were searched and information in it were illegally obtained by his interrogators.

US agents also told Aba that he has no rights and that he is not covered by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

“These are despicable acts against a fellow Filipino who should be accorded internationally recognized civil and political rights, even in foreign soil. Cayetano and Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque seem to stick to their nationalist principles and sentiments whenever Duterte gets pushed against the wall. If it doesn’t raise its voice against the US on these dastardly acts, the Philippine government will once again reaffirm that it is but a stooge of its imperialist master. The filing of a diplomatic protest against the US government will be an indicator if Cayetano and the PH gov’t are indeed capable of exercising the country’s sovereignty, or if it is just rhetoric used to conveniently dismiss critics,” concluded Palabay.

Reference: Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, 0917-3162831
Karapatan Public Information Desk, 0918-9790580 — with Jerome Aladdin Succor Aba.