Baguio City

Families of missing Cordillera rights advocates file habeas corpus petition vs AFP, PNP

Sherwin de Vera

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Families of missing Cordillera rights advocates file habeas corpus petition vs AFP, PNP

LEGAL REMEDY. Indigenous peoples and human rights groups join the families of Cordillera indigenous peoples’ rights advocates Dexter Capuyan and Gene Roz Jamil De Jesus at the Court of Appeals as they submit a petition for a writ of habeas corpus.


The petitioners name AFP chief of staff General Andres Centino, PNP chief General Benjamin Acorda Jr., and CIDG chief Brigadier General Romeo Caramat Jr. as respondents

BAGUIO, Philippines – The families of missing Cordillera indigenous peoples’ rights advocates Dexter Capuyan and Gene Roz Jamil De Jesus went to court on Tuesday, July 5, to ask it to compel authorities to present their missing family members and provide a legal basis for their continued detention, if any.

They filed a habeas corpus petition – a legal recourse available to citizens who believe that someone is wrongfully detained or held in custody by the government or its agents – before the Court of Appeals (CA) against the military and police.

The petitioners, including Capuyan’s mother and daughter, and De Jesus’ sister have named Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Andres Centino, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief General Benjamin Acorda Jr., and Criminal Investigation and Detention Group (CIDG) chief Brigadier General Romeo Caramat Jr. as respondents.

Human rights groups have alleged that armed men snatched Capuyan and De Jesus while they were riding a tricycle on Diamond West, Zircon Street, Golden City Subdivision in Taytay, Rizal, between 8 pm and 9 pm on April 28.

A witness reported seeing the two being forced into separate vehicles by men who claimed to be CIDG operatives.

The petitioners accused the military and police of resorting to a “continuing cover-up and refusal to exercise the requisite diligence,” even as they expressed optimism that the appellate court would grant their petition so the missing IP rights advocates would be found.

Capuyan, a member of the Bontoc-Ibaloi-Kankanaey indigenous group and a former student leader at the University of the Philippines-Baguio, has been accused by the government of being a high-ranking leader of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the Ilocos and Cordillera regions. He is facing cases in different provinces and has a bounty of P2.85 million for his capture, including a P1-million reward from the provincial government of Apayao.

De Jesus, an alumnus of UP-Baguio and the information and networking officer of the Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples, graduated cum laude with a communications degree. He previously served as the chairperson of the Alliance of Concerned Students and the UP-Baguio Council of Leaders.


In their petition, the families asserted that, based on available information, the two missing IP rights advocates were likely in government custody.

They cited a statement from an officer of the PNP’s Internal Monitoring and Enforcement Group, confirming that Capuyan and De Jesus have cases against them in the Ifugao and other areas in the Cordillera and Northern Luzon based on the Crime Incident Reporting and Analysis System.

The families also cited social media posts from military and police accounts, echoing the same accusations against Capuyan and vilifying him. 

They presented a May 23 Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) broadcast, where former National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) spokesperson Lorraine Badoy and anchor Jeffery Celiz outlined Capuyan’s alleged links to the NPA, including an alleged encounter with government forces where he was supposedly wounded.

They also presented a photo of Capuyan, uploaded by a social media page called “Pinoy Exposed” on the same day of the SMNI broadcast, showing him “thin, frail, and distraught.”

The family said they were convinced that the photo was the most recent and could only have come from whoever was detaining Capuyan and De Jesus.

Pinoy Exposed published the photo twice, each time with different captions. The first caption alleged that Capuyan was wanted in Ilocos Sur with a bounty on his head. The second claimed that he was not missing but evading charges of murder and frustrated murder. 

‘Government inaction’

In a joint statement, indigenous peoples and human rights groups Kartribu, Tanggol Bai, Cordillera Human Rights Alliance, which have been assisting the families of Capuyan and De Jesus, said they “refuse to accept that our government is as powerless and clueless as it claims to be.”

They added, “The opposite is true: the government is the only entity that has the motive, means, and opportunity to enforce the disappearance of Dexter and Bazoo.”

The groups said the government has shown that it was unwilling to act to find the two IP rights advocates.

“We are cognizant of the significance of the writ of habeas corpus: the conditions for its suspension were clarified in the phrasing of the 1987 Constitution as a response to the grave abuses committed by the administration of Ferdinand Marcos Sr. Today, under the reign of his son, we place – with equal measures of hope and caution – our trust in the constitutional protections that favor the sanctity of human rights,” read part of the statement.

Families, friends, and human rights groups had gone to 14 military and police facilities since May 3 in search of the two. Only three of these offices signed the inquiry form and certified that they did not have them in their custody as provided under the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012. –

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