Torture continues under Duterte

"The use of torture remains routine for State security forces. Political prisoners, for example, have been subjected to such cruel, inhuman and degrading acts, done by the police or the military for purposes of humiliating them and breaking their spirit. Instruments of the State who have the primary mandate to uphold, protect, and promote human rights are those who readily commit these violations. Moreover, the perpetrators have successfully evaded prosecution. This day is a reminder of how far the Philippines is from being a torture-free country where perpetrators are punished and people’s rights are truly respected and upheld," said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay, on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

Palabay cited the recent cases of peace consultant Ferdinand Castillo and peasant organizer Rommel Tucay, political prisoners arrested and tortured under the Duterte administration. Castillo was illegally arrested by elements of the police, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), an the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) on February 12, 2017. He was shoved inside a vehicle, his eyes blindfolded, his mouth covered and he was tater strangled. He was kept blindfolded for around 4 hours. Castillo was subsequently interrogated, with his captors explicitly saying he has no rights and is in no position to demand for a legal counsel or any of the rights that should be accorded to detained persons. During interrogation, his life and that of his family was also threatened.

Rommel Tucay was arrested by elements of the 73rd Infantry Brigade-Philippine Army and the 56th IBPA on March 22, 2017. During his arrest, Tucay was tied and was repeatedly beaten and kicked. He was later blindfolded using a towel and a masking tape before he was helplessly dragged towards a vehicle. Inside the vehicle, he was psychologically tortured, with his captors threatening him that they are already at a river where his body will be disposed. He was brought to the Provincial Public Safety Company (PPSC) compound in Cabanatuan City where he underwent further interrogation. Tucay was later charged with trumped-up cases of Illegal Possession of Firearms and Explosives.

Palabay added that "these incidents persist despite laws that prohibit torture, and these acts are arbitrarily committed by the military and the police. Acts of torture can only exist where there is a climate of impunity, and it will remain as a form of repression so long as repressive State policies such as the US-driven counterinsurgency program remains in place."

The Philippines is a signatory to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Furthermore, on 2009, the Anti-Torture Act (RA 9745) was enacted. As of this writing, here has only been one recorded conviction under the Anti-Torture Act of 2009. "The need for these safeguards is indicative of the abhorrent practices that State security forces engage in. Such measures attempt to prevent the proliferation of inhuman and degrading treatment, yet there has been a constant gap between the law and its implementation," added Palabay.

As of May 31, 2017, Karapatan has documented 52 incidents of torture under the Duterte administration. In the six years of the Aquino regime, there have been 248 cases of torture reported to Karapatan.

"Apart from Karapatan’s documentation, there exists other accounts such as the infamous ‘wheel of torture’ discovered as a form of punishment done by policemen in Laguna last January 2014. These are indicative that acts of torture are not isolated, but are tolerated within the police and the military as an acceptable form of punishment or counter-insurgency. This, then, suggests that human rights workshops and laws that safeguard rights will remain lacking in so far as the police and military institutions’ framework, approach and orientation remain unchanged," said Palabay.

"It is thus apt that we observe this day with continuing condemnation against acts of torture, as well as with reiteration to our commitment to seek justice for the victims and hold the perpetrators to account," Palabay concluded.

 

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