Torture in the Philippines & the unfulfilled promise of the 1987 Constitution
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has learnt that two complaints of torture in Basilan province, Mindanao, which we asked the police to investigate were dismissed because they claimed the victims could not provide medical proof of their torture. The absence of medical proof, however, was because the doctors ignored the victims’ complaints and did not adequately record a medical report.
In our previous appeal (AHRC-UAC-174-2011) we mentioned that torture victims Jedil Esmael Mestiri, presently detained at the provincial jail in Isabela City, Basilan; and Rahman Totoh, presently detained at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) also of the same city have complained of being tortured by the military and police.
Mestiri claimed soldiers attached to the 32nd Infantry Battalion (IB), Philippine Army (PA) tortured him inside their camp where he was taken for questioning. On the other hand, Rahman claimed the policemen attached to the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Basilan Police Provincial Office (BPPO) who took custody of him tortured him after his arrest and set his moustache on fire. For details of torture, read our previous appeal.
In Mestiri’s case, before the soldiers remanded him to prison the soldiers did take him to the General hospital in Isabela City where he was examined by a doctor; however, the doctor did not pay attention to his complaints of chest pains and injuries. The victim also saw the doctor speaking to the soldiers before he examined him. The doctor did not bother informing him what was is it they were discussing.
In Rahman’s case, although Dr. Jesus Daniel Naon M.D., the physician who examined him attached to the General Hospital of Basilan, did indicated the injuries that he had; however, other than mentioning the centimeters of his injuries and their location, there were no adequate medical explanations, as required by Anti-torture Act of 2009, that would have explained the cause of those injuries.
In our letter to the Philippine National Police (PNP), we did mention how the doctors had performed their examination on two torture victims. But in his letter to AHRC dated January 6, 2012, Police Director Nicanor Bartolome, chief of the PNP, rejected both Mestiri and Rahman’s allegations of torture against the perpetrators.
In Mestiri’s case P/Director Bartolome claimed that: “before Mestiri was brought to the Provincial Jail of Isabela, he was subjected to medical check-up at the Basilan General Hospital where no signs of physical abuse or maltreatment was found”. He further defended his men invoking their general as: “(the) Basilan PPO maintained that Mestiri was treated fairly at the time of his confinement and that he was not subjected to any kind of torture”.
In justifying the injuries that Rahman had, he said: “Totoh attempted to escape that forced the arresting officers to chase and subdue him. After which, Totoh was committed at the Isabela City Jail where he complaint of chest pain”. He further trivialized his medical certificate and in defending his men made a conjecture invoking that: “his injuries were mostly found in the chest which could have been inflicted when the arresting officers placed him in prone position to handcuff him when he resisted arrest.”
P/Director Bartolome further argued that:” police procedure that requires a suspect to lie on the ground facing down is a standard technique applied in performing arrest. Hence, it was concluded that the arresting officers performed their duties with regularity”.
The AHRC completely rejects P/Director Bartolome’s explanation as to the result of their investigation regarding the victims’ allegations of torture. To require torture victims to produced medical proof where, in fact, the doctors who examined them ignored their complaints and deliberately failed in recording a medical report as required by the Anti-Torture Law, is completely unacceptable.
Here, it is obvious that the doctors had failed in their duties and legal obligations to conduct examination on the victims. Thus, it should be the doctors involved and not the victims who should provide an explanation why there was no medical proof. The doctors’ neglect and incompetence in examining the victims and in conducting forensic examination are themselves breached to medical practice and are criminal offenses.
Urgent Appeals Desk
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) (email@example.com)