Torture continues in Philippines — rights group

Artemio Dumlao - The Philippine Star

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – Torture remains as a means by which government security forces in the Philippines extract information from suspects, despite the existence of a law against it, human rights group Karapatan said yesterday, the eve of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

“The use of torture remains routine for state security forces,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said, citing as an example political prisoners who 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.”

The country has Republic Act 9745 or the Anti-Torture Law enacted in 2009. It is also a signatory to the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Palabay claimed that notwithstanding time-held principles that instruments of the state supposedly “have the primary mandate to uphold, protect and promote human rights,” they are the same people who readily commit violations.

Worse, torturers have successfully evaded prosecution, according to Palabay.

“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,” she said.

Recent cases

Palabay cited the recent cases of peace consultant Ferdinand Castillo and peasant organizer Rommel Tucay, political prisoners arrested and allegedly tortured under the Duterte administration.

Castillo was arrested by police officers of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and agents of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) last Feb. 12. He was allegedly shoved inside a vehicle and blindfolded, his mouth covered and was later strangled, according to Karapatan.

“He was kept blindfolded for around four hours and was subsequently interrogated, with his captors explicitly saying he has no rights and is in no position to demand for legal counsel or any of the rights that should be accorded to detained persons,” Palabay said, adding that during the supposed interrogation, Castillo and his family’s lives were also threatened. 

Tucay, on the other hand, was arrested by elements of the Philippine Army’s 73rd Infantry Brigade and the 56th IB last March 22.

During his arrest, Tucay was allegedly tied and repeatedly beaten and kicked. He was later blindfolded using a towel and masking tape before he was dragged toward a vehicle, Palabay said, citing Karapatan’s documentations.

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