By Germelina A. Lacorte
Davao Today

DAVAO CITY— Luisito Bustamante, the youth earlier reported missing when militiamen held him in a Task Force Davao checkpoint in barangay Malabog last month, had two stories to tell.

The first one, he told the Court in a writ of amparo hearing that freed him from his captors; the other one, he told his friends and family after the Court had declared him free.

Luisito, 22, admitted during the hearing that he was a member of the Communist New Peoples Army (NPA), and called the militiaman who held him, a pastor.

He told the Court that not even his fingertips were touched when he was in captivity, belying any possibility of torture.

But an hour after the hearing, Luisito told a different story. He showed his mother and friends the marks of cigarette burns on his neck and back, the scars on his ankles, which days before, were bound in metal chains. He also told them how, for several days after he was held for questioning on October 27, he was blindfolded, was repeatedly beaten and did not know where he was. He said that in one of those beatings, he defecated in his pants and was made to swallow his own human waste.

Tortured. Luisito Bustamante shows the burns on his neck and marks of the metal chain on his his feet which were used by his captors to bind him. ( photo by Barry Ohaylan)

I heard someone say, Wash him, he stinks,” Luisito said in Cebuano. They washed me.

After that, I heard someone said, Open your mouth!

So, I opened my mouth. They put it inside my mouth. I wanted to spit it out but they threatened to beat me again.

Swallow! one of them shouted.

Did you swallow it? one of his neighbors asked.

Luisito nodded, grimacing, as silence momentarily seized those who surrounded him.

Never mind, Dong, a neighbor, Ederlita Lorenzana, comforted him. Just think, it was your dirt and not someone else.

Exactly a week after Luisito’s mother, Bebelita, filed the petition for writ of amparo on November 7, Luisito was finally released. He was presented to the Regional Trial Court by Noli Ubat and 73rd IB Chief Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Ambal in a hearing for writ of amparo, one of the test cases on the new Supreme Court ruling that seeks to put a stop to the increasing number of extra-legal killings and enforced disappearances in the country.

Earlier, Luisito was reported missing after he was held for questioning in a Task Force Davao checkpoint in Malabog, headed by Ubat. He and his friends Avelino Lorenzana, 20, and Salazar Amad, 23, were on their way to Malabog Proper to distribute barangay election handbills.

Executive Judge Isaac Robillo, Jr. of the RTC Branch 13, said the Court was satisfied that there is no need for further protection for Luisito, after the youth, himself, admitted throughout the hearing that he was a member of the NPA; and that he went to Ubat voluntarily, because he wanted to live in peace and return to the folds of the law.

The Judge said that the purpose of the writ of amparo hearing was to determine whether his life, liberty and security was under threat.

The Judge directed the military to give protection to Luisito, without unnecessarily restricting him. The Court placed Luisito under the protective custody of the military but allowed him to move freely, giving him the choice whether to go with Ubat or with his mother.

During the hearing, to the consternation of Luisitos friends, Luisito told the Court he wanted to be kept in custody of Ubat, the militiaman who captured him, whom he kept calling a pastor. The Court asked Ubat if he was, indeed, a pastor. Ubat said he was only a member of the sect of Pastor Apollo Quiboloy’s “Kingdom of Jesus Christ, the Name above Every Name.”

About an hour later, Luisito told his friends that everyone in the military camp where he was brought called Ubat, pastor, which prompted him to follow suit.
“It appears in Court that he is not threatened,” the Judge said, explaining that the writ of amparo is “not an administrative case, not even a criminal case, nor a civil case.” “We are only here to protect a person whose life, liberty and security is threatened, he said.

“If the mother is deprived of this liberty later on, she can come back to Court again and we will deal with it,” the Judge said.

Ambal, 73rd IB chief, accepted the protection order. He said the military will ensure that no harm will come to Luisito, whether from the military or from the Communist rebels. He said that not only the 73rd IB but also the whole 10th ID of the AFP is responsible for protecting Luisito.

Lawyers from the Office of the Solicitor General assisting the respondents Ubat and Lt. Col Ambal presented a signed affidavit, containing Luisito’s admission as a member of the NPA.

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