AI torture report prompts Senate probe
MANILA, Philippines—Alarmed by an Amnesty International (AI) report, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III is seeking an inquiry into the policemen’s continued practice of torture despite being outlawed in 2009.
“The international organization has found, through their own research, there’s still a culture of impunity for torture incidents in the Philippines. That’s alarming,” he said in a phone interview on Friday.
Pimentel, chair of the committee on justice and human rights, acknowledged AI’s point that torture remained prevalent even though it has been made a “specific crime” five years ago.
“Where before if you hurt somebody under your custody you will be guilty of physical injuries. Now torture is a specific crime,” he said.
“Now that we’ve made it a specific crime, therefore, the Filipinos’ consciousness is that torture itself is a separate, independent evil made into a crime by policy of law. And yet, why is it still continuing?” he added.
Hazel Galang-Folli, AI’s researcher for Southeast Asia, lamented that police torturers were “acting as if they are above the law,” and urged President Aquino to reverse the situation.
AI has observed a steady increase of cases from 54 in 2010, 60 in 2011 and 75 in 2013. In the first half of this year, 28 cases have been reported.
AI studied 55 cases of torture and interviewed victims, officials of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and Philippine National Police (PNP), and rights experts and lawyers. It concluded that police torture was still rampant in the country.
In the inquiry he would call in mid-January, Pimentel would establish the number of cases filed and persons prosecuted and convicted under the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 from agencies, mainly the Department of Justice (DOJ).
“The purpose of the hearing is to bring out allegations, confirm, think of why this is happening, what is the loophole, and how to improve the situation,” he said.
To be invited as resource persons are officials from AI, DOJ, Office of the Court Administrator, CHR, PNP, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Philippine Drug Enforcement Administration (PDEA) and other law-enforcement agencies.
Reminiscent of martial law
The methods are reminiscent of those used during martial law, according to Pimentel, who read about a pamphlet on torture when he was young.
“The method just keeps repeating,” he said.
The methods include electrocution, mock executions, waterboarding, asphyxiating with plastic bags, beatings and rape—all designed to extract forced confessions and in some cases, extortion, according to AI.
In extreme cases, torture leads to the extrajudicial killing of a victim considered as suspect by the police.
Common in police stations
A case of a detainee subjected to a “wheel of torture,” that includes being punched, hung upside down and other selections, inside a secret police detention facility in Laguna caused a furor in January this year.
In Senate Resolution No. 1049 directing the justice and human rights committee to conduct the inquiry, Pimentel said that the reality of torture and ill-treatment remained common in police stations.
And no one has been convicted under the Anti-Torture Act “as its perpetrators continue to act with impunity,” he said.
Pimentel also said that the country was party to international agreements protecting a detainee’s rights, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the UN Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.