“After maliciously releasing a so-called signed certification and affidavit of surrender by Alexandrea Pacalda, the Philippine Army and police were humiliated when the victim publicly recanted and revealed how she was coerced. The articles from the Philippine News Agency (PNA) and the many troll accounts by state forces were likewise put to shame by an unyielding activist. Pacalda remains in military custody for nine days now. She was threatened with trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives last Saturday, September 21, as reprisal for her speaking out that she is being held under custody without charges and that she was coerced to sign and present herself as a surrenderee,” said Karapatan legal counsel Atty. Ma. Sol Taule.
The Pacalda family, assisted by Taule, filed a habeas corpus petition at the Supreme Court on September 23, 2019, with a prayer to the court to oblige the military to release Pacalda to her family. Pacalda’s father was assisted by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to assert her release last September 19, 2019, but to no avail.
The habeas corpus petition identified five respondents – all of whom are active military ranking officers who were involved in the abduction, illegal detention and coercion of Alexandrea Pacalda. These are Brig. Gen. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr. of the 2nd Infantry Division, Col. Arnold Gasalatan of the 85th IBPA, Col. George Joel Lalaquil of the 201st Brigade, and 1st Lt. Randy Bobis, intelligence officer of the 85th IBPA.
Pacalda was abducted on September 14, 2019 and was initially brought to the camp of 85th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army. She was later taken to the PNP station in General Luna and was coerced to sign a certification that she voluntarily surrendered. Afterwards, she was brought to the 201st Brigade where she remains under military custody. The victim was also coerced to sign an Affidavit of Voluntary Surrender on September 17. On September 19, Karapatan released a video of Alexandrea where she revealed that everything she experienced was far from voluntary; that she was mentally tortured and was coerced to sign the aforementioned documents.
According to Taule, last Saturday, the military did a “serious hocus pocus” where Alexandrea was brought to a fiscal on a Saturday and was charged with trumped-up charges after six days of illegal detention: “This is clearly reprisal for the video and revelation she released.”
Taule also addressed allegations of videos and pictures circulating online. She emphasized that per consultation with Alexandrea and her family, they denied that she was the one in the pictures and videos circulating online: “We standby the statement of the victim and her family. According to our sources, she is currently affiliated with a peasant organization in Quezon. Between the AFP who are experts in manipulation, deception, and coercion, and a 23-year-old woman who was courageous enough to reveal the truth of her ordeal, we will consciously side with the latter. This is definitely not the first time that the fake news machine of state forces have used alleged pictures and videos to implicate innocents,” she added.
“It is ironic how our officers, lawyers and members are being called liars by the military through their troll accounts, when it was them who were caught coercing a 23-year-old into submission and illegally detaining an individual? This is not the first time that we have received reports of forced surrender. How many individuals were subjected to this kind of cruel and inhumane treatment just so the military can put up a facade that it is winning the armed conflict through a militarist approach?” questioned Taule.
The Karapatan counsel also added: “The military and the police wanted to make Alexandrea the poster girl for voluntary surrenderees. They wanted to recruit the Pacalda family to the organization of parents who now demonize activism. From the time of Alexandrea’s arrest up until now, the military and the police all have denied Alexandrea her voice. It was through the efforts of her family that she was able to reveal the truth. Even now as they are accusing her of being a rebel, they refuse to let Alexandrea speak. Why? Because they know the 23-year-old girl can readily confront and disprove their lies.”
“We demand Alexandrea’s immediate release to her parents. We remind the nation that the military itself is committing crimes and irregularities, then burying it by deploying their band of fake news machinery. The fact remains: Alexandrea was abducted, she was mentally tortured, she was coerced to sign documents, she was illegally detained, and now she is set to face trumped-up charges for facing the truth. This is the kind of state forces we have – willing to undertake the illegal to get what they want. They have reached an all-time low and they are put to shame by the determination of Alexandrea,” Taule concluded.