Torture during interrogations still prevalent - Karapatan

“Despite the inhumanity of the use of torture, such practices remain prevalent among State security forces who have made illegal arrests and deprivation of rights of persons their expertise. Such militarist practices have been so ingrained in the ineffective framework of exacting forced confessions to impose their version of the story that safeguards and laws against torture remain largely unenforced,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay, stating that the recent statement of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on torture is relevant on the cases documented in the Philippines. 

On Friday, September 22, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said that torture during interrogations is "not just wrong but also counterproductive." The UN Rights Chief expressed his alarm that States have been using psychologists to deliberately design torture methods, including forcing detainees to stay in a position for hours, waterboarding, among others. He added that if those who should be enforcing the law are the ones breaking it, this speaks volumes about the abuse of power where State forces become "unmoored from principle and unresponsive to the law."  

Palabay said that “this has exactly what has become of State security forces who have been the primary perpetrators of rights violations in urban and rural areas - unmoored from any semblance of humanity or respect for human rights. As of August 31, 2017, Karapatan has documented 68 incidents of torture, despite the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment which the PH government is party to.” 

Karapatan’s secretary general cited the cases of political prisoners Eddie Cruz and Ferdinand Castillo. Cruz, arrested in Rizal on June 2010, was hogtied and beaten for at least 4 hours. Cruz was also held incommunicado and was only allowed to see a lawyer 2 months after his arrest. Another case of torture involved a peace consultant of the National Democratic Front (NDF), Ferdinand Castillo. Castillo was illegally arrested on February 2017, shoved inside a vehicle, his mouth covered, his eyes blindfolded for 4 hours, and was also strangled. The consultant’s family were also threatened during the course of the interrogation. 

The Karapatan leader also cited the cases of peasant organizer Rommel Tucay and Pastor Godofredo Gantangay. Tucay, a peasant organizer in Central Luzon, was abducted by combined forces of the police and military on March 2017. He was tied and was beaten and kicked, and was later blindfolded using a towel and a masking tape before being dragged towards a private vehicle. Inside, he received death threats and warnings that they are nearing a river where his body will be disposed. Meanwhile, a pastor of the Dulangan Manobo Evangelical Church, Pastor Godofredo Gantangay, was also interrogated and was ordered to stay in a "sit-in-the-air" position for 7 hours while repeatedly receiving death threats from elements of the marines. The perpetrators detained 10 other  residents in Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat after conducting military operations in the area. 

“Such abuses have gone unchecked for so long, allowing not only complicity but even incitement to the use of torture against detained persons. The prevalence of this practice is indicative of abuses by State security forces who have largely benefited from a culture of impunity. UN Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein was right, the use of torture is indeed counterproductive, but in the Philippines where a broken justice system complements rampant and unbridled abuses, torture has been the norm," ended Palabay.

Reference:  Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, 0917-3162831

Karapatan Public Information Desk, 0918-9790580