Press Release
April 5, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) sought a Senate inquiry into the reported arrest and detention of 11 young hitchhikers in Benguet and the alleged violation of their constitutional rights by members of the Philippine National Police.

The hitchhikers, including a woman, were arrested by members of the PNP regional and provincial mobile groups on suspicion that they took part in a raid of a military camp in Cabiten, Mankayan, Benguet on Feb. 10, 2006.

They were hitching a ride in a dump truck along Halshema Highway on Feb. 14, 2006 on their way to Sagada, Mountain Province when they were stopped and apprehended by the police operatives and brought to the PNPs 1604th camp where they were allegedly subjected to various forms of torture.

Upon learning about the incident, Pimentel requested PNP authorities to look into the reported arrest and torture of the young backpackers who came from different parts of the country, including Mindanao.

I take up the cudgels for all of them and ask that the rule of law, the human rights of the kids and the Constitution be upheld in the matter, he said.

If they violated the law, then, they should be charged properly and the case should be disposed speedily. Otherwise, they languish in jail in violation of the Rule of Law and the Constitution.

The 11 hitchhikers were identified as:

1. Rundren Berloize G. Lao, 18, Davao City.

2. Anderson Tabocanon Alonzo, 18, Malagos, Baguio St., Purok 2, Calinan Davao City.

3. Aldoz Christian Madroza, 18, Number 2 Sampaloc St., Siniloan, Laguna.

4. Ray Lester Esguerra Mendoza, 16, Block 157 Lot 32 San Francisco St., Barangay Rizal, Makati City.

5. Ron Baquiran Pandino, 20, Barangay Mayatba, Siniloan, Laguna.

6. Jethro Villagracia, 21, Malagos, Baguio St., Purok 2 Calinan, Davao City.

7. Darwin Padilla Alagar, 21, Barangay Tipuso, Urdaneta City, Pangasinan.

8. Neil Russel Sarmiento Balajadia, 25, No. 026 Tawiran St., Santolan, Pasig City.

9. Arvie Molmog Nuez, 21, Barangay Silangang Mayao, Lucena City.

10. Jefferson de la Cruz Dela Rosa, 20, No. 211 A. de Leon St., Santolan, Pasig City.

11. Francess Ann Galdonez Bernal, 15, Calumpang, Marikina City.

A report by Manja Bayang of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance based in Baguio City said the police officers confiscated all the belongings of the backpackers, including their cellphones, preventing them from contacting their families.

They were allegedly subjected to physical, emotional and mental torture and due to the unbearable sufferings, they were forced to admit the charges against them even if they were supposedly innocent.

The hitchhikers were later brought to the Benguet provincial jail where they were further detained and subsequently charged with robbery and homicide.

Various groups have urged PNP Director General Arturo Lomibao to immediately investigate the incident in the light of allegations that their right to due process was violated.

Pimentel stressed that regardless of whether the detained hitchhikers were guilty or not, their constitutionally-guaranteed right to due process and protection against torture must be respected.

He also cited section 1 of Article III of the 1987 Constitution which states: No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.

The senator also invoked section 12 (2), Article III of the Constitution which provides: No torture, force, violence, threat, intimidation or any other means which vitiate the free will shall be used against him. Secret detention places, solitary, incommunicado or other similar forms of detention are prohibited.

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