Rights groups urge Aquino to order elimination of all forms of torture
February 25, 2012
On the 26th anniversary of the 1986 EDSA People Power uprising, human rights groups on Saturday urged President Benigno Aquino III to announce a policy of “total elimination” of the vestiges of Martial Law.
The United Against Torture Coalition (UATC)-Philippines made the call, noting that despite Republic Act 9745 (or the law that criminalizes torture), reports on cases of torture being routinely practiced by authorities on arrested suspects are still piling up.
For his part, Ernesto A. Anasarias, executive director of Balay Rehabilitation Center and currently the head of UATC Secretariat, said authorties' "partial" compliance with the law has given rise to "institutional impunity" we have in the country.
“The persistence of torture casts doubts on the effectiveness of the law. Legal safeguards for arrested suspects and detainees are insufficient..., highlighted by failure to bring them promptly before a judicial authority, restricted access to lawyers and medical doctors, and failure to contact family member immediately after their arrest,” Anasarias added.
Edeliza P. Hernandez of the Medical Action Group (MAG) likewise claimed the government seems to be dragging its foot on the investigation of torture cases.
No member of the police and military organizations has been arrested yet for alleged torture cases since Aquino took office, and no superior has been put on trial for their supposed involvement in or acquiescence to the alleged acts of torture.
“We cite as an example the case of Lenin Salas and his four companions in Pampanga against Police Supt. Madzgani Mukaram for violation of the Anti-Torture Act. The victims were tortured, and this has been medically documented and verified. But last July 21, 2011, the prosecutor disregarded the evidence in favor of the accused and the case was dismissed for insufficiency of evidence,” Hernandez said.
The group, again, expressed alarm over weak implementation of “command responsibility” as stipulated in the Anti-Torture Act and the International Humanitarian Law. This, she said, emboldens perpetrators in doing acts of torture.
For his part, Max M. de Mesa of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) said “the many unresolved cases of torture belie the Aquino administration's pronouncements on the "primacy of human rights.”
De Mesa cited the experiences of Abdul Khan Balanting while in custody of the Army’s 39th Scout Ranger Company in Sumisip, Basilan and Lenin Salas and companions in the hands of security forces headed by PSupt. Mukaram.
The victims' experiences "exposed the collution between the responsible command and the rank-and-file to acquiesce or cover up the violation and/or crime. This is tantamount to superior or command conspiracy,” De Mesa added.
Earlier, Malacañang vowed to go after those who will commit human rights violations under the Aquino administration.
“Human rights violations are human rights violations regardless of who commits them and we will ensure that those who violate the other person’s human rights or right to due process will pay for it," said Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang in a statement.
Also, Carandang said the Aquino administration will not tolerate human rights violations.
But PAHRA stressed that to tear down impunity, the government must publicly announce a clear policy of “total elimination" of all acts of torture, and fully implement the laws and international human rights instruments against all human rights violations.
The UATC-Philippines is a coalition of human rights non-government organizations and civil society organizations working together in defending human rights and campaigning against the use of torture in the country. — Jerbert Briola /LBG, GMA News