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Press Statement: International Day In Support of Victims of Torture

June 23, 2004 · 

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The members of the 17th IB handcuffed me and dumped me on their truck. The soldiers then kicked me savagely, until I almost fainted. A group of CAFGU’s even taunted me that they would take care of my young wife while I’m in jail, and I was unable to sleep since my hands were handcuffed on the grills of my cell.

-Antonio Cano
A Political detainee who was
arrested last Feb. 19, 2004

The testimony of this political detainee is similar to the statements of the prisoners of the Abu Gharaib prison whose shocking and brutal pictures were flashed at the headlines of all major dailies in the world and earned condemnations from various governments and non-government organizations. Unfortunately, cases like this, which is still being done with impunity are seldom given any attention by authority and the local media. Torture remains a practice that is never punished here in the Philippines.
On June 26 the world will observe the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

It has been twenty years since the Philippines ratified the Convention Against Torture (CAT) and 17 years since Martial Law era of overt and covert human rights violations. Ironically, there seemed an attitude of tolerance on the part of the government to this act being committed by State agents against suspect/s to a crime or perceive enemies of the State.

To date there are 91 victims of torture documented by the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines nationwide from January to September 2003. Many of these cases were perpetrated by the members of the Philippine Army and the Philippine National Police. No one among the perpetrators were arrested and penalized.

The most common forms of torture is the method called “astray” which is burning the skin of victims with cigarette butts; the MCWD or water cure and the VECO or electrocution. Other torture methods include Russian Roulette, rape, strangulation, sexual abuse, solitary confinement and psychological or mental torture.

The Philippine Government by signing a treaty such as the Convention Against Torture in 1984 has an obligation to enact laws that conform to the provisions of the covenant. Article III, Section 12 of the Bill of Rights contained in the 1987 Philippine Constitution also prohibits torture. Up to the present however, the State is yet to pass a law criminalizing torture. It seems that the prescriptions appear unheeded. The practice goes on with impunity.

One of the cases which remain unsolved today is the Aberca vs. Ver case. The plaintiffs were able to identify some of their torturers, including then Col. Panfilo Lacson, Maj. Rodolfo Aguinaldo, and Sgt. Balaba. With the evidence presented by the plaintiffs, the court decided in their favor. The defendants elevated the case to the Court of Appeals, however it is yet to hand down its decision that has been pending since December 1995.

Lately, two anti-torture Senate bills and one House bill was filed. Senate Bill 2484 by Sen. Francis Pangilinan and Senate Bill 2481 by Sen. Sergio Osmeña III seek to impose the life sentence on those who commit torture. House Bill 2855 of Cong. Loreta Ann Rosales plans to provide compensation for victims of torture. But somehow, the said bills are gathering dust while waiting to be tackled if ever again by both Houses.

TFDP is presently lobbying to all government officials both local and national to support the anti-torture bill and endorse the passage of Anti-Torture Law by legislation. In Visayas alone, TFDP-Visayas has gathered 31 resolutions endorsing the Anti-Torture Law from barangay, to major towns and cities, up to the provincial boards around Cebu, Negros Occidental, Panay Island, Samar and Leyte. The Cebu Provincial Board is among the first to have submitted its resolution in January.

At the opening of the 13th Congress, we are appealing to all the congressmen and senators to put the Anti-Torture Bill a priority human rights agenda. We also urge all local and national officials to continue their support until a law on torture is enacted and enforced.

Leonor Gomez
Deputy Executive Director for Services
Task Force Detainees of the Philippines ­ Visayas
3rd floor Booc-Virtudazo Bldg.
F. Martir St., Lapu-lapu City
Tel. No. 341 4207

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