Sunday, August 9, 2009

Palparan-Alcover Video: Obscene, Vicious and an Attempt to Erode The Non-Derogable Right Not to be Tortured

The Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) condemns the use of a video by party-lists representatives retired General Jovito Palparan, Jr. and Pastor Alcover supposedly showing Melissa Roxas, a victim of abduction and torture, that she is a rebel.
The Palparan-Alcover video is obscene and vicious.

It is obscene as the video is, according to Webster, “abhorrent to morality or virtue; designed to incite … depravity”. The footages were meant, at the minimum, to make a ruse and derail the torture complaint of Ms. Roxas. They were to deflect from the human right violations perpetrated by the abductors and to shift the focus on the issue of being a rebel. Ultimately, the implied statement of the duo is that: “if you are a rebel or an enemy of the State, you can be tortured”.

The Palparan-Alcover video is a bid to muddle the public’s understanding that the right not to be tortured is a non-derogable right, i.e. in no occasion or circumstance whatsoever can torture be inflicted on anyone anywhere. Torture, as inflicting extreme pain to break a person’s spirit, is abhorrent to our inherent human dignity. Embracing torture as part of one’s moral code is despicable. Serving as representatives of what may be an unwritten state policy that torture can be used at will and/or with presumed regularity is depravity.

It must be recalled that on December 26, 2007, under the new rule of the writ of amparo, the second division of the Court of Appeals gave a decision penned by Justice Lucas Bersamin which unequivocably stated that “General [Jovito] Palparan, [Jr.]’s participation in the abduction was also established”, “saying that he at least knew about the arrest and detention by his men of the Manalo brothers.” This knowledge, according to the Court, showed Palparan’s “indubitable command policy that unavoidably encouraged and not merely tolerated the abduction of civilians without due process of law and without probable cause.”

It is not lost to human rights defenders and to civil society to note that the person who implemented this “indubitable command policy” had been once singularly lauded by Ms. Gloria M. Arroyo, his Commander-in-Chief and Chief Executive in a State of the Nation Address (SONA).

The video is vicious. Aware of the present capability of technology to manipulate images, the courts are very wary of such videos being admissible as evidence. In this case, it is an instance of psywar production by the Palparan-Alcover tandem. It is another version of the military’s CD and powerpoint presentations of “Knowing the Enemy” which lists cause-oriented organizations and individuals as “enemies of the State”. The existence of these lists, known also as “Order of Battle”, confirmed even at different occasions by UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston and the EU Needs Assessment Team, included the names of those who have been abducted and extra-judicially killed. These lists are virtual lists for arrest, abduction, torture and death.

The House of Representatives Committee on Justice and Human Rights, concerned government bodies and the Commission on Human Rights should probe Palparan and Alcover with assiduousness and thoroughness as to the sources and the people responsible for the video production, impose appropriate sanctions for possible production of malicious and life-threatening information, and decide to ban reproduction and dissemination of the said video. Such productions are aimed to erode the non-derogable right of everyone not to be tortured.

Now is a proper time for Congress to pass the Anti-Torture Bill into law and for the Chief Executive to sign so as to show both to the nation and to the world that the Philippines will still pursue the path to moral progress.

Let us assert and fight for our common human dignity! At all times, no to torture!

Max M. de Mesa
July 29, 2009

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