Similar to other cases raised with the Ombudsman the office has also ceased its intervention in the complaint of torture by the three victims, collectively known as the ‘Talisay 3’, invoking the excuse that it is the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to investigate complaints of torture. While the Ombudsman argued that it is the primary responsibility of the CHR to investigate, the latter did not conduct an investigation since the complaint was filed one and a half years ago.
DETAILS OF TERMINATED CASES:
On 1 February, 2010, we issued the appeal (AHRC-UAC-005-2010) about the illegal arrest, torture and filing of questionable charges on three community organizers, namely Charity Diño, 29; Billy Batrina, 29; and Sonny Rogelio, 26; in the municipality of Talisay, Batangas on 23 November, 2009.
In our letter to Ms. Leila de Lima, the former chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), we urged her “to ensure that the victim’s allegations of torture and the filing of questionable charges against them are thoroughly investigated” and that “their allegations of torture against the military must be investigated”.
When we wrote a separate letter to Emilio Gonzalez, Deputy Ombudsman for the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Military and Other Law Enforcement Office (MOLEO), we expected the Ombudsman to comply with their legal obligation under section 13 of the Ombudsman Act of 1989. This requires them to investigate the aspect of “civil and criminal liability (of state agents) in every case where the evidence warrants in order to promote efficient service by the Government to the people” of a complaint.
Thus, our appeal letter to the Ombudsman should not have been taken so narrowly that we were requesting them to investigate solely on the complaints of torture. The Ombudsman should have performed their mandate and legal obligation in determining whether the perpetrators have had “criminal and administrative liability” in the performance of their duties.
The AHRC is aware that under section 9 (a) of the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 (R.A. 9745), torture victims should have the right to “have a prompt and impartial investigation by the CHR and by agencies of government”; however, no investigation on the complaint of torture has been conducted. The complaint was submitted by way of an appeal letter to the CHR in February 2010.
In addition, the AHRC wrote a letter on 29 June, 2011 to Ms. Loretta Ann Rosales, the present chairperson of the CHR, “to inquire about the status of your investigation, if there was any, to the complaint of torture that we have submitted”. This was sent after the Ombudsman concluded to “close and terminate” its investigation into their case.
However, the AHRC has not received any response or comments from the CHR as of yet.
JUSTIFYING THE CLOSURE
In his Final Report dated 31 August, 2010, Danilo Rimonte, graft prevention & control officer of MOLEO, decided to “close and terminate” arguing that:
“… since RA 9745 otherwise known as the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 was invoked by the AHRC, the instant RAS must necessarily be referred to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) where Section 9 of the said law mandates the latter and other executive agencies, to conduct a prompt and impartial investigation on cases of torture.”
Rimonte, therefore, recommended that:
“…the instant Request for Assistance (RAS cases) be considered CLOSED and TERMINATED in so far as this office is concerned and that the same be referred to the CHR for appropriate action.”
COMMENTS: ‘No investigation, no remedy’
Rimonte, however, did not provide information nor any proof that the CHR had indeed conducted an investigation into the complaint of torture by the three victims before he decided to terminate the case. The failure of the CHR to investigate promptly, as required by the Anti-Torture Act of 2009, is itself an administrative offense.
The Ombudsman should also investigate the CHR’s failure to investigate promptly.
The Ombudsman, in proceeding with the “closure and termination” of its investigation, has effectively restrained itself from making accountable the security forces, who were the subject of the complaint; and the CHR, for their neglect and failure in conducting a “prompt and impartial investigation” as required by law.
The failure of the CHR to investigate had also effectively deprived the victims of any form of remedy.
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (firstname.lastname@example.org)