ILIGAN CITY – Seven former patients of the Department of Health-Training and Rehabilitation Center (TRC) in Cagayan de Oro on Wednesday broke their silence, a year after the death of their co-patient Bryan Cabrera.
They expressed willingness to testify in court that Cabrera’s death may have been caused by severe punishment imposed on him by rehab center personnel.
‘Junjun’, name withheld by request, said Cabrera on July 2016 was tied up with both feet not touching the ground.
He alleged that Cabrera was left in that situation from about 8a.m. until 1p.m.
“As a matter of policy, he has to labor hard in the center because it has been his 7th confinement. Cabrera couldn’t stand it anymore, he tried to escape. He got caught and was brought back to the center. That was why he was punished,” Junjun said.
Then commanding officer to patients “Kris” said he heard Cabrera screaming for help and found him violently shaking and tried to look for staff to untie Cabrera.
“I was apprehensive about untying him because we were not allowed to meddle but I could not find anyone. I had no choice, I untied him,” he said.
They said Cabrera was badly scorched but was only brought to the hospital the following day.
The TRC later announced Cabrera’s death and claimed that his family has already accepted the patient was suicidal.
In a phone interview, Cabrera’s mother said she was told by the TRC that her son was suicidal and inflicted wounds on himself.
“They did not tell me about [the punishment]. Had I known, I would have brought this matter to their superiors. It is natural to be punished, I know. What I didn’t know is that he was tied under the heat of the sun. I thought they would only make him do chores,” she said.
A patient from 2013 said corporal punishment was practiced in the facility even during his time.
TRC Chief Dr. Benson Go, however, denied allegations that they punished Cabrera.
He said Cabrera suffered from a mental problem, was violent and had to be restrained on the bed.
Cabrera allegedly hurt himself. The patient’s dehydration, as stated in the autopsy report, was a result of his abstinence from food.
“He died of heart attack, not because he was punished or left under the sun. He was inside the dorm, on his bed,” Go said.
The former patients have been discharged from the center and are now in charge of a community-based rehabilitation program in the city.
The group vowed to help Cabrera's mother seek justice. Cabrera’s family lodged a complaint at the Commission on Human Rights and also plans to file cases at the Ombudsman.