Monday, August 16, 2010

Bishop takes up cudgels for victims

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:26:00 08/15/2010

Filed Under: Police, Police blotter issue

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Philippines – Pampanga Archbishop Paciano Aniceto has come to the aid of five suspected communist rebels who earlier accused the police of maltreating them.

Apart from denouncing the supposed torture, Aniceto, the head of the Archdiocese of San Fernando, also appealed for humane treatment of the detainees.

“Such acts of torture are not only morally reprehensible but a clear violation of their dignity and human rights,” Aniceto told Chief Supt. Alan Purisima, the new Central Luzon police director, in a letter he sent last week.

“I personally appeal to you, dear general, that the detainees be treated humanely in accord with their human dignity and constitutional rights,” Aniceto said.

He was referring to the case of Jose Gomez, Daniel Joseph Navarro, Lenin Salas, Jerry Simbulan and Rodwin Tala. Aniceto made the appeal at the request of relatives of the detainees.

The police’s Provincial Public Safety Command (PPSC) and three Army units arrested the five men on Aug. 3 in this Pampanga capital.

Superintendent Madzgani Mukaram, PPSC commander, presented them to the provincial prosecutor on Aug. 4 for cases of murder and illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Their relatives obtained a writ of amparo after the police denied them access to the five men for about 18 hours.

The police had turned over the five men to the provincial jail as they await trial or preliminary investigation. The suspects denied being leaders and members of the Rebolusyonaryong Hukbong Bayan, the armed wing of the Marxist-Leninist Party of the Philippines.

In the letter, Aniceto also told Purisima that the families of the five men were being harassed. “Let the innocent families be spared from further psychological and mental anguish,” he said.

In a phone interview on Sunday, Purisima said the police treat suspects or people accused of crime humanely.

While he ordered a fact-finding investigation, Purisima believed that Aniceto might have been misinformed about the situation.

“Those men are criminals. They have arrest warrants. They’re using the system to free themselves from charges. The police found firearms in their possession,” Purisima said.

Told that a police’s medico-legal report cited bruises, wounds, swelling and cuts on the bodies and faces of the five men, Purisima said they might have “exerted efforts to resist arrest.”

“I have not yet seen that [medico-legal report],” he said.

Mukaram denied that he or his men tortured any of the five men. He said they were among the nine rebels who fled a July 30 encounter in Mexico town and they could have incurred wounds from that hour-long clash.

On Saturday, the nongovernment Medical Action Group (MAG) met with the five men for the second time to complete a forensic documentation on the supposed torture.

The MAG said its case will be the first to test the Anti-Torture Act, which was signed into law last year.

The alleged acts of torture are documented in the fact sheets of the human rights group Defend-Central Luzon and the Commission on Human Rights.
Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon

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