EDITORIAL - Wheel of Torture
(The Philippine Star) - January 30, 2014 - 12:00am

It’s as if martial law has not ended. Activists and critical journalists are harassed, murdered or made to disappear. State security forces riddle a convoy with bullets, killing 13, and call it law enforcement. Cops serve an arrest warrant before dawn, order the suspect out of his home, and moments later he is dead after allegedly trying to shoot his way out.

The impunity is manifested in both action and attitude. The mayor of Davao City threatened to kill a man accused of rice smuggling, and when reminded by the head of the Commission on Human Rights about ethical behavior for public officials, told her to shut up.

These are all happening under the watch of the only son of two democracy icons. Now the daang matuwid administration faces yet another human rights scandal. In Biñan, Laguna, several cops who must have been bored with regular law enforcement have devised a fun way to extract information from suspects. Spin a brightly colored wheel and, depending on where it stops, a suspect can get a 20-second beating, be suspended upside down like a bat for half a minute, and other miseries.

The only positive news here is that Philippine National Police higher-ups weren’t amused. Ten members of the Biñan police led by Chief Inspector Arnold Formento have been relieved of their duties and may be dismissed from the service, according to PNP officials.

In their defense, the 10 are likely to explain that the “Wheel of Torture” is used only for crime suspects, including drug dealers and illegal gambling operators. But “suspect” is the operative word, and here lies the problem. As the Atimonan massacre on Jan. 6 last year showed, cops tend to take a cavalier attitude toward collateral damage in anti-crime operations, disregarding the possibility that the innocent may be among those tortured or killed.

People frustrated with slow justice and ineffectual law enforcement have been willing to look the other way as long as those tortured or killed are lawless troublemakers. Giving anyone the impression that they have a license to kill, however, can quickly lead to abuses. And allowing the abuses to go unpunished – which is what the nation has seen since the end of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986 – breeds impunity, and a culture that creates a Wheel of Torture.

 

AS THE ATIMONAN CHIEF INSPECTOR ARNOLD FORMENTO DAVAO CITY HUMAN RIGHTS IN BI JAN LAW PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE WHEEL OF TORTURE
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