By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
First Posted 19:42:00 02/11/2010
Filed Under: Prison, Health, Human Rights, Laws
MANILA, Philippines—The chairman of the committee on human rights in the House of Representatives on Thursday urged the 43 health workers detained by the military in Rizal province to test the newly-enacted law on torture by filing cases against their abductors.
Quezon province Representative Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada III said the ordeal the health workers had undergone, as described by the victims, can be classified as torture based on the provisions of Republic Act 9745 or the Anti-Torture Act of 2009.
The new law, signed on November 10, 2009, defines the crime of torture as “an act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for the purpose of obtaining a confession, among other things.”
Reports have said that in the morning of February 6, at least 300 heavily armed men belonging to the 202nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army and the Rizal Provincial Philippine National Police forced their way into the farmhouse of Dr. Melecia Velmonte in Morong, Rizal.
The health workers were attending a week-long training sponsored by Community Medicine Foundation, Inc. and Council for Health and Development (CHD).
“I believe that the 43 health workers and media practitioners were arrested without a valid warrant and the reports coming in that they were subjected to torture during the 36 hours in Camp Pinpin wherein they were held incommunicado and were not allowed to talk to their families or lawyers, is very disturbing,” Tañada said in a statement.
“Any kind of torture must stop immediately because they (the perpetrators) will be held accountable under RA 9745. I am encouraging the detained health workers to file cases of torture or violations of RA 9745 against the pertinent persons,” he said.
Citing accounts by the relatives of the healthy workers, Tañada said they were subjected to hours of interrogation despite their demands for legal counsel. They were also forced to listen to sounds of gunfire and to admit that they were members of the New People’s Army. They were not allowed to speak to each other and were slapped several times.
Tañada also urged the Commission on Human Rights and the Department of Justice to hasten the drafting and approval of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Anti-Torture Law, saying torture cases have been rising.