Eleven recent cases of torture in the Philippines

Abbreviations & terminology
Asian Human Rights Commission
Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines
Department of Justice
Infantry Battalion
Intelligence Officer
Moro Islamic
Liberation Front
National Bureau of Investigation
New People’s Army
Philippine Army
Philippine National Police
Police Officer
Senior Inspector
Sub-section of a barangay
Senior Police Officer

Story 1: “There are no human rights for us”

1. Lenin Canda Salas, 29, of Barangay San Antonio, Mexico, Pampanga
2. Rodwin Mando Tala, 26, of Barangay Sto. Domingo, Mexico, Pampanga
3. Jose Llones Gomez, 44, of Barangay. Lourdez, Lubao, Pampanga
4. Daniel Kalayaan Navarro, 26, of Barangay. San Jose Mtulid, Mexico, Pampanga
5. Jerry Pamandanan Simbulan, 32, of Barangay San Miguel, San Simon, Pampanga
All of them are presently detained at the Pampanga Provincial Jail.
Alleged perpetrators: Supt. Madzgani Mukaram, commander of the Provincial Public Safety Company; and the San Fernando City Police, in Camp Diosdado de Leon, Barangay San Felipe, of the same town
Date of incident: 3 August 2010 at 9:30am
Place of incident: Villa Barcelona Subdivision, Barangay Sindalan, San Fernando City, Pampanga Province

AHRC-UAC-133-2010; AHRC-UAU-039-2010

On 3 August 2010 at 9:30pm Lenin Salas, Jerry Simbulan, Daniel Joseph Navarro and Rodwin Tala were arrested by elements of San Fernando City Police and the Provincial Public Safety Office under Supt. Madzgani Mukaram in Villa Barcelona Subdivision, Barangay Sindalan over their alleged involvement with the Marxist Leninist Party of the Philippines, an illegal armed group.

On August 5 one of the victims, Lenin Salas, was interviewed while in detention. He said while he and companions were at the house of a friend, Donald, in the same subdivision, a security guard approached them. They were asked who they were looking for. He told him the name of the persons. The security called Lenin’s companions to come closer.

While Lenin was speaking to the security guard, he saw a policewoman talking on her mobile phone. She was exiting from one of the houses close to where they were. After a few minutes, another three policemen whom he knew later as SPO4 Hernando Sarmiento, PO3 Arnold Barrion and PO1 Edward Bengbeng arrived onboard a police car. All of them are attached to the Sindalan Police Station.

Three of Lenin’s companions, who were inside their car, were asked to alight. The policemen arresting them had also called for police reinforcements from the Provincial Public Safety Office (formerly Regional Mobile Group) under the command of Supt. Madzgani Mukaram. When the group of Supt. Madzgani Mukaram arrived, Lenin and his four companions, Jerry Simbulan, Daniel Joseph Navarro, Rodwin Tala and Jose Llones Gomez were already lying face down on the ground. Supt. Mukaram started assaulting and kicking Lenin when he came close to him. He also assaulted Lenin’s companions.

Lenin and his companions were taken to separate vehicles. Inside the police car, he was continuously assaulted and beaten with a stick. All of them were taken to the Provincial Police Office. Inside the police headquarters, all of them were blindfolded and tortured. Lenin was assaulted and beaten with a gun, burnt on his body and his neck with lit cigarettes, had his face wrapped with cellophane and was kicked in his genitals. While blindfolded, the policemen purposely squeezed and clicked a revolver beside his ear for him to hear. They were not given enough food for a day.

Lenin dared Supt. Mukaram saying: “Fine, kill us all, you already got hold of our families but is this what you are still doing to us?” This was after Supt. Mukaram threatened to harm Lenin’s family if he refused to cooperate. Supt. Mukaram carried on threatening them that more of their companions would disappear and that he had already ordered his men to work on it.

When Lenin demanded from Supt. Mukaram to respect their rights, he was told: “There are no human rights for us. We will kill each of your contacts in the media and other groups and we will just bury them”. Supt. Mukaram told Lenin that he had had enough of his sister, Donna Salas Lopez, but he did not elaborate. Supt. Mukaram said to kill her would be easy; and Lenin could not visit even her wake because they would make sure that he could not get out of the jail.

On August 4 at 2pm they were taken to the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office in San Fernando, Pampanga Province where they were charged for illegal possession of firearms, ammunitions and explosives.

Lenin Salas showing injuries to his face obtained during the assault (KDP)

Story 2: Found dead after a mysterious escape

Victim: Sumar Abdulwahab, 47 years old, a resident of Sitio Manil, Barangay Daliao, Maasim, Sarangani province (deceased)
Arresting officers: Officers from the NBI stationed in General Santos City
Date of arrest: 3 June 2010 at 2:30pm
Place of his arrest: Sitio Manil, Barangay Daliao, Maasim town, Sarangani Province

Sumar Abdulwahab was a Maguindanaon (an ethnic tribe). On 3 June 2010 at 2:30pm, officers from the NBI, a special investigating body under supervision of the DoJ, arrested him in Sitio Manil. The NBI claimed they had arrest orders for Sumar on one count of murder, multiple frustrated murder, and multiple attempted murder. The victim was sitting at a post of the Barangay Defense Force when the NBI officers arrived onboard four separate vehicles. They immediately cuffed his hands behind his back after showing him the arrest orders. The person manning the post was then told to take his motorcycle to the office of the village chief.

On June 4 Sumar’s sister, Johaniya, and a council member of their village, went to the office of the NBI in General Santos City. The NBI, however, told them that they could only see Sumar the next day. They were told to bring the personal effects of the victim for him to use when they returned.

On June 5 when Johaniya and others returned at 3pm, the NBI personnel refused them entry. They were told that Sumar had escaped the night before at 11 to 11:30pm by breaking the glass window of his detention cell. After that they had not received any information regarding the victim’s whereabouts.

But on June 8, five days after Sumar disappeared, his family heard over the radio of the recovery of a dead body by scavengers in Malalag, Davao del Sur (a place which is a considerable distance from their town). After hearing the report, they immediately went to the place. It is common in the Philippines for families of missing persons to check every reported recovery of bodies to see if it is their loved one. When they arrived at a local funeral parlour, they were able to confirm that it was Sumar.

They recognized it was Sumar by the clothes and a picture of his child still in his pocket. The decomposing body had been placed inside an oil drum filled with construction cement; his hands were tied behind his back and the body showed visible signs of torture. The corpse was found near a cliff after a foul smell had drawn the attention of the scavengers, who then informed the police. The post mortem report indicated that he suffered a 5.2 centimeter wound behind his ear, a skull fracture, a contusion in his right check, and that his teeth had been extracted.

Story 3: Tortured then shot dead

1. Eric Miraflores, 27
2. Raymond Miraflores, 23
3. Rosmel Miraflores, 16, all residents of Sitio Hobol, Masinloc, Zambales
Alleged perpetrators: Members of the Zambales Provincial Mobile Group-Philippine National Police (PMG-PNP)
Date of incident: 2 June 2010, between 12 and 2pm
Place of incident: Sitio Hobol, Masinloc, Zambales

On 2 June 2010, three brothers, Eric Miraflores, 27; Raymond, 23; and Rosmel, 16; were on their way to their farm in Sitio Hobol onboard their three-wheeled motorcycle. Their father, Roosevelt, had asked the three to help him on the farm that day.

While the three siblings went to their farm on the motorcycle, their father followed with a motorised hand cart. Roosevelt last saw his three sons alive overtaking him on the road on their way to their farm. When he arrived at the farm at 8am, his sons were not there but nevertheless he carried on doing his own chores presuming they had already started doing their respective chores.
Shortly after, Roosevelt was stunned to hear extended gunfire from a place close to where he was farming. At that point, he was concerned about the safety of his three sons and wanted to check on them; however, he was too scared that something could happen to him. He decided to take shelter at the guard house of a mining firm nearby. After the gunfire stopped he went home.
After an hour, Roosevelt and his wife, Mila, saw the dead bodies of their three sons, Eric, Raymond, and Rosmel, on a hearse. When the corpses were presented, they were already wearing camouflage uniforms, clothes which the three were not wearing when they were last seen alive, apparently to create the impression that they were members of an illegal armed group.

The couple broke down in tears after seeing their corpses. The faces of their sons could barely be recognized. They were badly bruised and had suffered numerous gunshot wounds. The autopsy report revealed that Eric suffered two gunshot wounds, the fatal shot was in his lung; Raymond suffered four gunshot wounds, the fatal shot to his kidney.

Their youngest sibling, 16-year-old Rosmel, showed visible signs of torture. He had suffered five gunshot wounds and the fatal one was in his artery. According to the June 15 investigation report of the CHR Region 3, when his body was re-autopsied on June 9, Dr. Eduardo Vargas, medico-legal officer “cut a portion of Rosmel’s penis and brought it for examination. The penis had a cut on top, a sign that Rosmel was tortured”.

The Miraflores couple were later told that their three sons were killed by policemen attached to the Zambales PMG-PNP. Inspector Rolando Delizo of the PMG-PNP said that the three victims were killed in an “encounter” during a police operation. The Miraflores couple argued that their sons could not be members of an illegal armed group. Their mother Mila said none of the three were affiliated to any organizations. None of their sons had ever owned a gun and or knew how to use one.

Story 4: Threatened for exposing torture

Victim: Misuari Kamid, a utility man of Barangay Lun Padidu, Malapatan, Sarangani Province, presently detained at the General Santos City Reformatory Center
Alleged perpetrators:
1. IO1 Rodrick Gualisa, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA)
2. SO2 Frederick Ocana, PDEA
3. IO1 Vincent Quilinderino, PDEA
4. IO3 Arce Adam, PDEA
5. IO1 Eleazar Arapoc, PDEA
6. SI2 Raymund Parama, PDEA
7. Luisito Epino, PDEA informant
8. Richard Autor, PDEA informant
Date of incident: 30 April 2010
Place of incident: Silway, Barangay Dadiangas West, General Santos City

On 30 April 2010 at 4:40pm Misuari was waiting for a motorcycle in Silway, Barangay Dadiangas West, General Santos City. He was with two others who were together with him attending a feast earlier that day at ‘Baraks’, a police reservation settlement.

Misuari separated from his companions, who were buying grilled fish, to hire a passenger motorcycle they could ride on their way home. While waiting, he bought cigarettes from a store close to where he was standing. A man whom he later knew as Richard Autor, an informant of the PDEA, approached and started asking him questions.

Richard started asking Misuari whether he was familiar with or knew persons they were looking for, living in the same area. Misuari told him that he did not know them and that he lived in Barangay Lun Padidu, but Richard’s companion, IO3 Arce Adam, arrived by car, alighted from the vehicle, drew his firearm and pointed it at Misuari. His hands were cuffed behind his back and he was forced to get inside their vehicle. When Misuari refused, IO3 Adam hit his nape with the pistol grip. They took Misuari to the regional headquarters of the PDEA.

According to Misuari, “When we reached the PDEA compound they brought me to a cottage and I heard Richard Autor call the PDEA agents. When they came, they took turns in hitting and boxing me. They boxed my face, left and right side of my chest, left and right thighs.”

Misuari identified those who assaulted him as IO1 Rodrick Gualisa, SO2 Frederick Ocana, IO1 Vincent Quilinderino, IO3 Arce Adam, IO3 Eleazar Arapoc, SI2 Raymund Parama and two of their informants, Luisito Epino and Richard Autor. IO3 Adam told him: “Aminin mo na pusher ka! (Admit that you are a pusher)” in between repeated blows. They ignored his plea to stop assaulting him.

Misuari was taken to a parking lot where he saw the officers place two plastic sachets containing illegal drugs, dried marijuana leaves, or cannabis, and a 500 peso bill on the ground. They forced him to kneel beside the evidence, forcibly dragging him close to it so that photographs could be taken. When he struggled, SI2 Parama struck his feet with the handle of an Armalite rifle, dropping his knees due to the excruciating pain.

Misuari was detained inside the detention cell of the PDEA. He could not sleep that evening due to excruciating pain. On 1 May 2010 at 9am Misuari was taken to the office of the PDEA where some journalists were waiting for him. When he was presented, Misuari saw the evidence they had planted on him on a table.

On May 18 he was examined by Ma. Antoinetta Odi, MD, a medico legal officer, confirming the injuries he suffered. But the examination was not thorough. She described only the injuries he suffered, but did not produce a medical report containing a detailed examination, medical assessment and opinion, as required by the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 (section 12).

After Misuari’s torture was exposed, he began receiving threats to his life while inside prison. Persons whose identities he does not know began visiting or passing messages to other prisoners that if he does not stop his complaint of torture, they will harm him and his family.

On 25 January 2011 the AHRC wrote an urgent letter to Loretta Ann Rosales, chairperson of the CHR in the Philippines, concerning the threats that Misuari is receiving but at time of writing we are not aware of any action taken to protect him.

Story 5: “Have you finished digging the hole so that we can bury this one?”

Victim: Anuar Hasim, 30, a tricycle (rickshaw) driver presently detained in Manila after transfer from the Provincial Jail in Alabel, Sarangani
Alleged perpetrators:
1. Colonel Dodoy of PNP Provincial Headquarters in Alabel, Sarangani and three subordinates
2. Jamael Amykulot of Police Regional Office (PRO XII), PNP
3. Policemen attached to the General Santos City Police Office (GSCPO), General Santos City
Date of incident: From 4 to 11 April 2010
Place of incident: Police Precinct No. 6, Barangay Bula, GSCPO HQ
AHRC-UAC-065-2010; AHRC-UAU-031-2010; AHRC-UAU-043-2010

On 4 April 2010 Anuar Hasim was riding his motorcycle near Champaca Street in General Santos City when two persons wearing plain clothes riding on another motorcycle stopped him. One of them grabbed his left arm and sternly warned him, “Come with us. Do not attempt to run otherwise you will be killed.” When Anuar asked the two men what he had done wrong and why he was being arrested they told him, “Just come with us.” The two persons cuffed his hands. One of them also took over driving his motorcycle. He was taken to a place near the city hall building, where two other persons later arrived.

Anuar Hasim (TFDP)

In police custody, he was slapped hard several times while being questioned. He was interrogated about an incident that he did not know had happened in Maasim, Sarangani Province. He was forced to admit that he is a commander of the MILF rebel group. When he refused to answer they slapped him.

By 7pm that day, he was taken to the GSCPO Police Station No. 6 in Barangay Bula. Here, they severely tortured him. He was first brought to a shed at the back of the police station. Later, four policemen arrived, one of whom introduced himself as Colonel Dodoy, the leader of the group. He is attached to the Provincial Headquarters in Alabel, Sarangani. He subjected the victim to lengthy interrogation. Col. Dodoy and three policemen with him repeatedly punched Anuar hard in his stomach. Col. Dodoy demanded an explanation from him about a letter they claimed was taken from him during his arrest. They repeatedly pulled his hair while others were holding his shoulders to restrain him. They repeatedly punched his abdomen and slapped his face. While blindfolded, he was told to walk while he heard one of them shouting: “Nahuman na ba ang buslot kay ilubong na ni? (Have you finished digging the hole so that we can bury this one?)”, to which another person responded: “Oo human na (yes, it is already done).” He was punched hard in his stomach on several occasions.

Five persons wearing plain clothes questioned and tortured Anuar. He was kicked on his chest and his left thumb was burnt with lit cigarettes. He was also suffocated by wrapping his head with cellophane. Every time he refused to admit to anything, they repeat the procedure. He was blindfolded, strangled, forced to squat and cuffed in a manner that he could not cover himself from the blows. The torturing last until 3am of April 5.

When his mother visited him at the police station at 10am on April 5, SPO4 Dennis Yuson grabbed him as she was hugging him. At 1pm, the police took Anuar to the GSCPO where he was interrogated and tortured again. By 8pm, he was taken back to the Bula Police Station.

On April 6 Anuar was taken back to the GSCPO again. Col. Dodoy asked whether he knew the names of persons he showed to him on his laptop. Every time he replied in the negative his shirt would be removed to blindfold him. On one occasion, he heard them say, “Why don’t we just kill this person and dump him at sea.” On April 6, Anuar’s wife and his relatives visited him at the Bula Police Station. His wife took photographs of the visible torture marks on his chest. He was held there until April 11. He could still feel the pain and the torture marks were visible when he was interviewed at the Alabel Provincial Jail on April 14.

On July 27 an investigator from the CHR Region 12 was dispatched to visit and investigate the complaint at the Provincial Jail in Alabel. But prior to the CHR’s investigation, on June 8, SPO2 Argie Miraflores of Regional Intelligence and Detective Management (RIDM XII) and SPO1 Israel Lantingan of the Municipal Police Station in Alabel had already made the victim sign an affidavit of desistance, a sworn statement declaring that he will no longer testify in court about his complaint of torture.

Before he signed the document, two other policemen, one of whom was identified as a certain Jamael Amykulot attached to the Police Regional Office (PRO XII) of the PNP visited and interviewed the victim in jail. They were the ones who drafted the affidavit-complaint (for the complaint of torture) that Anuar had signed. These policemen were supposedly tasked to investigate his complaint of torture; however, when this complaint was later presented to him to be filed at the prosecutor’s office the victim’s reluctance due to trauma and fear of the police presence was interpreted by the policemen as him withdrawing the complaint.

The police also were unable to explain to the victim why he had to leave the jail premises and accompany the police in absence of the court order, and that his lawyer was not present during the signing of the documents relating to his complaint. Also, the victim’s family had not been properly informed of the actions the police had taken.

Story 6: Police torture caught on video

Victim: Darius Evangelista, 31, of 1083 Area A, Gate 5, Parola Compound, Tondo, Manila
Alleged perpetrators:
1. SI Joselito Binayug
2. SPO1 Rodolfo Ong
3. SPO3 Joaquin De Guzman
4. SPO1 Dante Bautista
5. PO1 Nonito Binayug
6. PO1 Rex Binayug
7. SPO1 Burt Tupas
8. Supt. Rogelio Rosales (commanding officer)
9. Supt. Ernesto Tendero (commanding officer)
Date of arrest: 5 March 2010 at 12pm
Place of arrest: Pier 2, Tondo, Manila
Place where detained: Police Station 11, Manila Police District

On 5 March 2010 at 12pm Darius Evangelista was arrested for alleged robbery in Tondo by policemen attached to Police Stations 2 & 11 of the Manila Police District. Three detainees who personally knew Darius saw him taken upstairs to a room inside Police Station 11 where he was tortured and questioned. One of them described Darius’ physical condition as “badly injured, with visible blunt trauma to his face; and his eyes swelled” (unofficial translation). They heard thuds and screams of excruciating pain from the room where Darius was held.

At 4pm Darius’s wife, Margie, went on looking for him at Police Stations 2 & 11. At Police Station 2, a police officer on duty told her that no person of Darius’s description was detained there. At Police Station 11, a policeman on duty again denied her husband was in their custody. One of the detainees, however, told her that they saw Darius taken upstairs. She managed to go upstairs without being noticed by the policemen to check the rooms, but when a police officer saw her she was asked to leave. One of the rooms was occupied by the station commander, Supt. Rogelio Rosales.

By 12:30am of March 6, a police officer instructed a detainee who was responsible for keeping order inside the cell to put the other detainees to sleep. Shortly after, the detainee saw Darius and several policemen emerging from the room of Supt. Rosales. Darius could not walk properly. He was being assisted by the policemen, visibly weak, badly injured and with adhesive tape wrapped around his mouth. It was the last time he was seen alive.

From March 5 to 8, Margie had keep going back to Police Station 11, repeatedly checking their records, but she did not find the name of her husband written there. On March 7, she reported the disappearance of her husband to the Manila Police District, General Assignment Section. In the “Missing Person Alarm Report” completed and signed by PO2 Gilbert Isole, a police officer assigned to handle the case, no record was made about the details of the victim being seen in the custody of the police.

On March 20, Margie was informed by a person that he saw a video of her husband being tortured in police custody. Margie did not see the video herself. Three days later, she read from a tabloid newspaper that a human head was found by scavengers in Vitas, Maynila. The policemen had already taken the head to a local funeral home by the time she arrived to inquire about it from villagers. One of the villagers showed her a photograph that he took of the human head when it was found. She noticed similarities to the head of Darius. At the funeral home, Margie examined the human skull that was found. The dental features of the skull were similar to those of Darius.

The police required Darius’s family to produce dental records within 90 days as proof that the skull was indeed his. The skull was submitted for forensic examination to determine its identity; however, no forensic examination result has so far been produced on the identity of the skull.

On April 6, Darius’s father, Asprin, and three witnesses submitted sworn statements regarding the arrest, torture and disappearance of Darius to the CHR, National Capital Region. The CHR, however, failed to complete the investigation required by the Anti-Torture Act after the case was reported to them.

Only after August 17 when the torture video was broadcast by national television station ABS-CBN did the investigation of the case made some progress. The video was reportedly given to a reporter by a person who did not want to be identified. In the video, the victim has his penis pulled by a string tied around it as he is lying on the floor naked. He is beaten every time he folds his body as he tries to reach his genitals in pain. The torture is shown to be taking place in front of several policemen who are also attached to the same police station. The policeman shown torturing the victim, SI Joselito Binayug, is the chief of the police station, and his subordinates were watching him as he was torturing the victim and telling him “Dito bawal ang snatcher (snatchers are prohibited here).”  (photo on left: Screen grab from TV news broadcast of video footage showing Darius Evangelista lying naked on the floor of Police Station11, Manila Police District)

When Police Director Leocadio Santiago, of the National Capital Region Police Office made comments on the torture video, he said, “I’ve gone through physical interrogation before. I’ve conducted it but not to the extent that it would be sadistic, there are boundaries and parameters.” His comments demonstrate that the notion of an absolute prohibition of torture does exist not in the minds of police in the Philippines, nor in those of the military men.

Notwithstanding, after the video was aired the police were under pressure to create a team to investigate the case, which they called Task Force Asuncion. They again interviewed three witnesses, who gave further details about what they witnessed, which were not mentioned in their statements made to the CHR. (photo: SI Joselito Binayug listens to questions during a Senate committee hearing in Manila on 26 August 2010 investigating the video torture case (AFP PHOTO/Noel CELIS))

On August 23 the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group filed charges for violation of the Anti-Torture Act with the DoJ against the accused policemen. Section 9(a) of the Act requires that the DoJ must resolve whether the policemen have a case to answer within 60 days; and if there is an appeal, it must still be “within the same time period prescribed”. But at time of writing they have not resolved the case.

Educating torture ‘experts’ is pointless
(A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission, AHRC-STM-180-2010, 23 August 2010)
The widely publicised video of police torture has drawn mixed reactions and opinions from the public, including lawmakers, lawyers and human rights groups, who have all joined in the chorus condemning such a barbaric and cruel act. Most of them share the opinion that ‘lack of education of the law enforcers’ is to blame for it happening, but the Asian Human Rights Commission strongly argues that this is not the case.

While educating law enforcers about the content of the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 is necessary, the lack of education of this law cannot be used as an excuse to justify the said incident. If there is anyone who are ‘experts and well-educated’ on the use of torture, it is the law-enforcement officers themselves. Torture is not something so new that one has to be told that it is abhorrent and prohibited.

The enactment of the Anti-Torture Act in December 2009 did not mean that the term ‘torture’ just came into existence and was an alien concept to the law enforcers. The term torture itself has been widely used and understood to refer to violence and cruelty perpetrated against a person. Before the right not to be tortured was included in the 1987 Constitution, the police and the military had already been practicing it, particularly during the Martial Law period, against political dissenters. Therefore, it would be too naïve to argue that the lack of education amongst law enforcers is to blame as to why it continues to persist. For any police officer who thinks with reason, torture is absolutely a condemnable act undeserving of those who wear the uniform of the Philippine National Police.

Some of the authors of the Anti-Torture Act were victims of torture themselves during the Martial Law regime. It is their experience, and that of countless others, that made the enactment of this law possible. It was also after the Marcos regime that the concept of the right against torture was first introduced in the Philippine Constitution. The torture victims, most of them in disbelief as to how cruel people of their own nationality could become, felt the depth of what torture really is. It meant being a witness to their own suffering long before this was written into law. Those who ‘survived’ have to suffer and live with the trauma of having been tortured for the rest of their lives.

Torture is not a result of ignorance and lack of education by the law enforcers. It is the absence of an effective mechanism that would hold them accountable. It is also this absence that breeds and develops a culture of violence amongst the law enforcers. When a law enforcer or torturer cannot be held accountable for torture or any other form of violence he would commit, this becomes an accepted norm which we know to have been thriving in the police force for decades. This is what happened in the Philippines. The policeman who tortured the suspected thief in the video did not become a torturer overnight, but had learnt and developed his expertise of using torture and the accompanying mindset to an extent that has become acceptable to him because it is a commonplace practice.

Filipino policemen also do not become police officers overnight. The Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM), two agencies who are responsible in training and recruiting applicants into the police force, require highly competitive academic qualifications, accomplishments and intensive training before it awards a policeman the rank of a police captain, the rank that the policeman in the video held. They also undergo civil service examinations, regular background checks and continuing education on law enforcement.

Also, the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA), one of the highly competitive police training academies, even conducts background checks of their recruits, interviewing their family and persons who know the applicant, before admitting them for training, to ensure that immoral persons or those with psychological problems would not be allowed in the academy. This is in addition to passing a lengthy qualifying examination.

Apart from training in the police academy, the PNP and NAPOLCOM also absorb applicants with a bachelor’s degree in criminology and those who had already earned units from any social sciences course but were unable to graduate. This is also after passing a civil service examination. Thus, those who are absorbed into the police force are either university graduates or have studied for years in a university. They are educated people and need not be told that torture is prohibited. They have completed at least the rudimentary teaching on logic, ethics, philosophy and morals in the universities. They are certainly not uneducated.

When the policeman tortured the victim in the video, he did it consciously. It was not indiscriminate or an isolated case, as earlier mentioned by the police establishment. It reflects the tip of the iceberg as to the state of policing in the country. The emergence of further complaints on torture as reported in the media, after the video had been exposed, only demonstrates the ugly reality of the country’s policing, the surface of which has yet to be scratched. It is a matter that most of the people know and have live with. Any further complaints must therefore be seriously acted upon under the law.

Story 7: Tortured to admit he is somebody else

Victim: Abdulbayan Guiamblang, 53, married farmer, presently detained at the Cotabato Provincial Jail, Amas, Kidapawan City
Alleged perpetrators: Elements of the 38th IB, PA
Date of incident: 26 February 2010 at 4:30pm
Place of incident: Military detachment in Barangay Makagiling, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao Province

On 26 February 2010 Abdulbayan Guiamblang was passing from his farm through the detachment of the 38th IB, PA in Barangay Solon, Sultan Mastura, Maguindanao Province. He usually passes through this detachment to tend his farm adjacent to his village. But this time a soldier guarding the detachment stopped him. Without explaining to him why he was being held, the soldier took him to a nearby community centre (Purok house) in the village. Soldiers cuffed his hands behind his back, wrapped his legs with adhesive tape and blindfolded him using the same tape. He was loaded into a military truck that drove him for about 20 minutes to an unknown place. Here, he was interrogated and severely tortured.

In custody, those questioning him told him that they had been looking for him for some time; he was told that he had pending arrest orders but they did not show them to him. They insisted he is Ameril Umbra Kato, a commander of the MILF rebel group. He allegedly admitted that he is an MILF member but he is not Ameril. However, he was forced to admit that he is the person.

During questioning, he was hit several times on the head with a bottle of water. His interrogation lasted from the time of his arrest until 12 midnight. He could not sleep at night. His handcuffs were attached to the lower portion of the door making it difficult for him to move freely.

On February 27 Guiamblang was taken to another room for further interrogation. They shoved his face on the table. He was asked how many houses he had burned. When he explained that he had not burned any houses, they called him a liar. Three times he was hit on the head and nape with a bottle of water. He was questioned and tortured for an hour. On February 28 Guiamblang was again taken to the same interrogation room. His left ribcage was punched hard twice. He was again subjected to interrogation for an hour.

On March 1 and 2 he was questioned and tortured using the same method. Each time he was taken to the interrogation room they wrapped more adhesive tape on as a blindfold. Guiamblang asked his custodians to contact his wife by informing the chairperson of his village about his arrest. His request was denied. On March 3, Guiamblang asked for a medical check-up but no real medical check-up took place. The person examining him only checked his blood pressure. In custody, he did not have enough food to eat.

On March 4 they allow him to bathe. He was given a shirt to wear before he was taken to court in Midsayap, North Cotabato where they filed charges against him. It was only at that time that his blindfold was removed for the first time in six days. At the court, Guiamblang was made to sign a document the contents of which he did not know and nor were properly explained to him. That day, he was remanded to the Cotabato Provincial Jail.

Story 8: Arrest and torture of the Morong 43

Names of the 43 victims:
Ray-Om Among, Jane Balleta, John Mark Barrientos, Elenor Carandang, Eulogio “Elu”Castillo, Samson Castillo, Mercy Castro, Dr. Merry Mia Clamor, Ramon Dela Cruz, Romeo Dela Cruz, Leah Cristine “Ria” De Luna, Edwin Dematera, Angela Doloricon, Lilibeth Donasco, Julius Duano, Mark Escartin, Ronilo Espera, Jacqueline Gonzales, Janice Javier, Sylvia Labrador, Gary Liberal, Reynaldo Macabenta, Emelia Marquez, Emily Marquez, Pearl Irene Martinez, Ace Millena, Dr. Alexis Montes, Glenda Murillo, Lydia “Del” Obera, Delia Ocasia, Carina “Judilyn” Oliveros, Jovy “Marvin” Ortiz, Miann Oseo, Linda Otanez, Valentino Paulino, Danny Pinero, Jenelyn Pizarro, Ma. Teresa Quinawayan, Franco Romeroso, Lorelyn Saligumba, Marla Elena Serato, Chenilyn Tawagon and Yolanda Yaun
Alleged perpetrators:
Southern Luzon Command, PA, under Lt. Gen. Roland Detabali; Brig. Gen. Jorge Segovia, chief, 2nd Infantry Division, PA; Col. Aurelio Baladlad, Commander, 16th IB; Supt. Marion Balonglong, Rizal Provincial Police
Date of incident: 6 February 2010 at 6am
Place of incident: At a farm house in Morong, Rizal
AHRC-UAU-003-2010; AHRC-UAU-032-2010; AHRC-STM-255-2010; AHRC-STM-259-2010

On 6 February 2010, 43 health workers collectively known as the ‘Morong 43’ were illegally arrested while they were holding a training workshop on health skills in Morong, Rizal, detained and subsequently charged in court.

The training was organised by the Community Medicine Development Foundation and Council for Health and Development to provide community organisers and volunteer health personnel with skills they could use in their communities. Among those arrested were physicians Dr. Alexis Montes of the foundation; Dr. Merry Mia of the council; Gary Liberal, a nurse; Teresa Quinawayan, a midwife; and staff members.

The military and police who arrested them have been accused of planting firearms and explosives on them. Those arresting them—approximately 300 military and policemen attached to the PA and PNP—have claimed in various media interviews that the 43 victims were members of the NPA and that the training they were conducting was for the making of explosives.

There were irregularities in the manner of arrest, the securing of evidence and the filing of criminal cases against the victims. When the policemen and military came to serve the search warrant, they forced their way into where the training was being held. At gunpoint, the military forced the caretaker to open the gates and they also kicked open the main door to get into the building. None of the persons involved in the training had any arrest warrants pending against them, so this use of force was unjustifiable.

The police and the military handcuffed the 43 victims, conducted a body search, questioned them, took their photographs and recorded a video while they were being questioned. The male victims were blindfolded and all of their personal belongings were also taken by the military. The military and police conducted the search of the compound without supervision, allegedly enabling them to plant evidence.

The victims were then taken to the headquarters of the 202nd Infantry Brigade, PA Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal. Here they were charged under the inquest proceeding, which was a violation of the rules on inquest. The DoJ Department Circular No. 61 (section 2) requires public prosecutors to conduct inquest only in police stations, not in military camps.

The victims’ legal counsel subsequently filed a petition for the writ of habeas corpus with the Court of Appeal. In ruling on the petition, the appellate court upheld the legality of the filing of charges against the victims by invoking an old decision produced during Martial Law that once a charge is filed against the accused their detention can no longer be questioned because criminal charges have already been filed in court. The legality of their arrest and detention, and the validity of evidence used by the prosecution, would then be a matter for the court to decide in hearing the case.

Relatives of the Morong 43 hold photos of loved ones at a press conference in Manila on 7 February 2010 (AFP PHOTO/JayDIRECTO)

While in custody members of the 43 suffered various types of torture. Dr. Alexis Montes, 62, was electrocuted and repeatedly hit on the chest while being questioned. The military has accused him of being a member of the NPA and of the rebel’s supposed special unit tasked for assassinations. The extent of the pain he had suffered for several hours would have made him willing to admit to anything.

Dr. Merry Mia Clamor, 33, was blindfolded and handcuffed while subjected to questioning inside a room she could not describe. She said of her experience: “I was shocked. I could not say anything” when asked whether she had treated Gregorio Rosal a.k.a. Ka Roger, the spokesperson of the Communist Party of the Philippines. “I was doing this (training health work) with the purest intention—to train volunteers and to give them skills so they themselves can help others in their community,” she said.

Out of the 43, five of the female detainees and 10 of the male detainees were found to have suffered injuries when examined while in detention.

On 10 December 2010, President Benigno Aquino III ordered the DoJ to withdraw the charges of illegally possessing explosives against the group. The victims were released from jail after the DoJ withdrew the prosecution. Some of the victims remained in jail for other criminal charges.

Although the president’s intervention was a welcome relief for some of the victims in this case, it would have been better if the DoJ and the National Prosecution Service had acted on their own to deal with the case responsibly. They need their own mechanisms to correct and quickly cease the wrongful prosecution of cases. By failing to have their own internal control mechanisms, the DoJ and the NPS are exposing themselves to political control by the executive branch. If the executive is allowed to interfere it will have a tremendous consequence in the future, not only on the prosecution system but also other institutions under the executive branch.

It is also important that the withdrawal of the charges, regardless of who ordered the withdrawal, should not limit or prevent the victims from seeking legal remedies and redress. They must also not be prevented from prosecuting the perpetrators, the police and the military, for the violations of rights committed on them that the CHR had already confirmed to be true in its own investigation. The right of the victims to seek legal remedies cannot be subject to conditions. Their release must not hamper whatever legal actions of their own choosing they would take against the perpetrators.

 ‘Morong 43’ case exposes a prosecution system directly under political control
(A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission, AHRC-STM-255-2010, 10 December 2010)

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) welcomes with reservations President Benigno Aquino III’s order to withdraw the charges against 43 health workers, collectively known as ‘Morong 43’, as reported today. We strongly believe, based on the documents and information that we have also obtained, that they should have not been arrested, detained, and forced to endure trial on deeply legally flawed charges in the first instance.

The case of the Morong 43 is no different to numerous cases of prosecution on fabricated charges that are mostly political in nature. However, the number of people tortured and falsely charged; the background of their work in this case—volunteer doctors, nurses and grassroots community health workers—exposes the ugly reality of the prosecution of cases without regard to legality and due process, nothing else.

The victims owe nothing to President Aquino, who used his executive power to withdraw the charges of the Department of Justice, to whom he had issued his order. It is rather the President and the DoJ that owe explanations to the 43 victims, their families and the Filipino people, as to how on earth deeply flawed and procedurally defective charges can be pursued in courts. The victims’ rights were violated, not only by the police and the military, but also by the prosecution and the judiciary for having the case admitted for trial.

Why did the National Prosecution Service (NPS), under the direct control of the DoJ not perform its legal obligation? It is the responsibility of the NPS to examine the legality of charges before they can be filed in court. They have the obligation to weigh the evidence of any case to determine whether or not the crime alleged had ‘probably been committed’ as the basis of its prosecution; however, as already shown they did not do so. The DoJ’s review of the case found procedural and legal flaws in the process of filing the case. It was the prosecution service, who is supposed to prosecute violations of penal laws, who commit the violations, by allowing the prosecution of fabricated charges…

President Aquino’s order also demonstrates that the prosecution system, by giving orders to the DoJ to withdraw the charges; and of having a direct executive power on what charges can be pursued in court, is structurally under direct political control. The authority of the prosecution department on paper is based on the legality and merit of cases; but in reality performs at the behest of the executive branch. The country’s prosecution system is structurally deeply political in nature. The system does not function within the rule of law, as is being publicized, but rather of rule of lords. The prosecution service is nothing but an underdog and subservient to the executive.

This political control explains the people’s attitude that regardless of their cases, they routinely ask the President to intervene in their cases for relief and remedy—even cases that are no longer within his authority: for example, appeals to overturn court orders, orders of local chief executives independent from the President, appeals to have a crime investigated on which the police did not take action; and others. This explains that the people know full well the extent of the President’s political control and influence over most of the institutions of the government.

There is a double standard in the application of the rule of law and due process. They are likely to operate on the basis of how influential persons, groups or foreign governments are; how heavy the pressure is applied; how popular the demand would have to be met regardless of their reasons. The system does not operate on legality and due process that is understood in its real sense, but rather appears to be so. The system does not operate of its own course, but rather on the basis of political consideration, gain and influence. The continued existence of this type of system of justice pushes the weak and the vulnerable even further into the corner without protection.

Story 9: Disappeared after being tortured by armed militia

Victim: Ambrosio Derejeno, 41
Alleged perpetrators: Ilo and Lontoy Surio, members of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU), a paramilitary unit; commanding officers Lt. Col. Paloma of the 63rd IB in Tinambacan, Calbayog and Lt. Col. Narciso of the 20th IB in Catubig, Northern Samar
Date of incident: 12 January 2010 after 1pm
Place of incident: Barangay Sumuroy, Lope de Vega, Northern Samar

Ambrosio Derejeno disappeared after he was last seen being tortured while in the custody of Ilo and Lontoy Surio, both members of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU). CAFGU is a paramilitary unit under the control and supervision of the Philippine Army.

At 1pm on 12 January 2010 Ambrosio was with his 19-year-old son Edwin, working on their farm in Barangay Sumoroy. They were stripping abaca. When it was time for them to take a break for lunch, Ambrosio asked Edwin to fetch water from a creek not far from the makeshift hut.

In his testimony, Edwin said that as he was returning, he saw several armed men surrounding the hut where his father was. They were wearing camouflage fatigues. Edwin positively identified two of the men as Ilo and Lontoy Surio. He saw them tying the hands of his father with a rope behind his back. He knew the two because they are also locals. The two were former members of an armed group, Dose Pares, which has been absorbed in the military service as CAFGU. They were accompanied by several armed men crouching and pointing their weapons at his father. That was the last time he saw his father alive.

The membership of Ilo and Lontoy Surio in CAFGU has been confirmed by Lt. Col. Paloma of the 63rd IB in Tinambacan, Calbayog and Lt. Col. Narciso of the 20th IB in Catubig, Northern Samar, PA.

On January 13 Edwin requested his two cousins, Boyet and Edgar, to accompany him back to their farm hoping that his father might have returned. Since he disappeared, they have not received any information about his whereabouts. But a message sent to them by a concerned neighbour (the identity of whom cannot be revealed) claimed his father had been tortured and killed and his body was buried in Barangay Victory, Silvino Lobos.

On March 25 Edwin filed a complaint at CHR Region 8 in Tacloban City, Leyte. In completing their investigation on July 1, the CHR only recommended the filing of charges for arbitrary detention against Ilo and Lontoy Surio at the Provincial Prosecutors Office in Catarman, Northern Samar. The CHR ruled that unless the victim’s body is found, they could not prosecute for murder or torture.

Story 10: Tortured for not having identity documents

1. Lolit Agbayani
2. Rolan Corpuz, 20
3. Jun Jun Acleto, 17
4. Ricky Torres, 21
5. Edwin Buryo, 30
Alleged perpetrators: Soldiers attached to the 48th IB, 7th Infantry Division, PA, based in Fort Ramon Magsaysay, Palayan City, Nueva Ecija
Date of incident: 1 December 2009
Place of incident: Barangay Dikapinisan, Dingalan, Aurora province

On 1 December 2009 Rolan Corpuz and his four companions, all Dumagats, an indigenous tribe, were illegally arrested by soldiers attached to the 48th IB, PA, in Barangay Dikapinisan, Dingalan town, Aurora Province of Luzon. The victims had been searching for rare birds’ nests when the soldiers arrested them.

They were at the house of a villager who invited them to stay overnight when they were arrested. An unknown villager reported to Carlito Amaba, village chief of Dikapinisan of the same municipality, about the presence of the five at the house. This report had supposedly prompted Amaba to call the soldiers to take the five for questioning. The soldiers posted at the detachment in the same village acted on his request.

The victims were surprised when 10 fully armed soldiers stopped and searched them without explaining why. The soldiers conducted body searches and demanded a Community Tax Certificate, a document that government agencies require as proof of a Filipino’s local residency. The soldiers arrested them after they failed to produce this certificate and identification documents.

Upon reaching the camp the soldiers began torturing them. One after the other they were subjected to interrogation. The soldiers demanded that they cooperate and affirm that they have knowledge about the activities of the NPA rebel group in the area.

One of the victims, Rolan, was told that they would give him 10,000 Philippine Pesos (USD 215) as a reward once he revealed the location of the rebels’ firearms and ammunitions. When he told the soldiers that he had no knowledge about the NPA and that he and companions were only searching for birds’ nests, they choked and kicked him. Two other soldiers also repeatedly kicked him.

Another victim, Ricky, was also repeatedly kicked in different parts of his body in front of Rolan, and soldiers also punched another victim, Jun Jun, in his stomach. A sergeant named Moreno allegedly beat him with a steel pipe. The soldiers also threatened that if they did not reveal any information about the rebels they would kill them. The soldiers ordered Ricky to dig a pit and warned that if he refused to cooperate he would be buried in it. Out of fear Rolan falsely confessed that they were members of the NPA.

On December 2 the other victims were taken by the soldiers towards the mountains called “Balagbag” in Barangay Alasanay, supposedly in search of the firearms that Rolan had buried. To make sure that the victims would not escape, the soldiers tied them together by their waists and hands with rope. For two days, they were in the soldiers’ custody in the forest. On December 3, Lolit and Rolan were able to escape. Rolan managed to descend from a cliff near a river bank and board a small passenger vessel. He went straight to Fr. Pete Montallana, OFM, a missionary priest in Barangay Ibona, where he sought refuge and asked for help.

On December 5, the other three victims, Jun Jun, Ricky and Edwin, were released from the soldiers’ custody. When they were released, no information was given on what charges they had been held. Despite having been identified, the soldiers have continuously denied either taking them into custody or having tortured them. Some of the victims have sought refuge at one of the churches in Metro Manila.

The victims filed a complaint against the soldiers with the regional office of the CHR Region 3 in San Fernando, Pampanga. On 2 February 2010 the CHR investigators interviewed the victims at the CHR Central Office and recorded their testimony. The victims had clearly pointed out that the incident took place in the village of Dikapinisan, San Luis, Aurora; however, a month later, Fr. Montellana called the CHR’s office telling them to change the location of the incident to Barangay Dikapinikian, Dingalan, Aurora.

The CHR report was authored by special investigators Valente Rigor, Luzviminda Venasquez and Joel Boanjares Ocampo. They were tasked to investigate the victims’ complaint against the soldiers and village officials who were accused of violating the laws on Rights of Persons Arrested, Detained or under Custodial Investigation (RA 7438), rule 113 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure and the Anti-Torture Act of 2009.

The CHR investigators resolved their report of 6 April 2010 solely on the change of location of the place of the incident, even though the change was made by Fr. Montellana, not by the victims who filed the complaint. The investigators also did not mention whether the change was with the full knowledge of the victims. Instead they wrote only that “a month after (changes to place of incident) the sworn statements of the victims were signed is, to say the least totally astonishing, because it totally changed the landscape of the case”.

Consequently, the CHR report exonerated the soldiers, despite the fact that none of the witnesses and soldiers that the CHR investigators had interviewed could not explain why the victims had to be deprived of liberty and taken for questioning. None of the victims were in the act of committing, had not committed or were about to commit a crime that could justify having them arrested without warrant or being taken into custody.

One of the soldiers, 2nd Lt Dennis Moreno, platoon leader of Reconnaissance Platoon, did not deny the fact that they took the victims into custody at the detachment but denied torturing them. Col. Escarcha and Lt. Jerson Igloria also did not deny having three of the victims—Jun Jun Acleto, Ricky Torres and Edwin Buryo—in custody for a “few days”.

The soldiers also did not challenge the fact that Rolan Cruz and Lolit Agbayani were in their custody on December 2, the day that, according to the investigation report, “the soldiers brought them to the place where they (the victims) said their firearms were hidden”; and on December 3, when Lolit jumped into a ravine, “Cruz was instructed to go down the ravine and look for Lolit”.

The CHR should also have taken note that when Dr. Ben Molina, a medical expert, examined torture victims Rolan Cruz and Jun Jun Acleto after the incident, the torture marks and bruises on their bodies were still visible, particularly on their arms. Rolan had difficulty breathing due to his injuries.

The role of the CHR in investigating complaints is to test the probability as to whether or not a crime has been committed. It is by application of simple logic and reason; however, the investigators’ judgement in this case lacks any sense of logic, merit and legality. The investigation had rather become a means to make a defence for the soldiers and barangay officials rather than to establish the probability that a crime had been committed.

Story 11: Electrocuted and sexually humiliated

1. Billy Batrina, 29
2. Sonny Rogelio, 26
3. Charity Diño, 29
All three are community organisers for Samahan ng Magbubukid ng Batangas (SAMBAT), a local peasant group, and are presently detained in Batangas Provincial Jail in Lipa City, Batangas
Alleged perpetrators: Security forces attached to the 730th Combat group, Philippine Air Force and the 301st Intelligence Group, all based in Palico, Nasugbu, Batangas
Date of incident: 23 November 2009 at 8am
Place of incident: Marquez St., Zone 3, Talisay, Batangas

On 23 November 2009 at 8am, Charity Diño, Billy Batrina and Sonny Rogelio were in Talisay, Batangas to invite people in the community to participate in the Urban Poor Week as part of their activities for the Samahan ng Magbubukid ng Batangas (SAMBAT), a local peasant group.

tWhile they were walking, three vans bearing armed persons in plain clothes suddenly blocked their way. The armed men alighted and forced them into the vans. One of the vans had been seen roaming the village a day before. They were taken to the 730th Combat Group of the Philippine Air Force Camp in Palico, Batangas. (photo on right: Charity Diño awaiting trial in Batangas Provincial Jail(DEFEND ST))

In the military camp, they were tortured, subjected to prolonged questioning and held for 17 days. They were handcuffed and blindfolded with adhesive tape. Two of them, Billy and Sonny, had their heads hit against the wall; while the other victim, Charity, had her fingers squeezed hard with bullets inserted in between them. Charity was blindfolded and when she went to the toilet someone had to remove her underwear for her. Billy and Sonny were electrocuted by wiring laced around their toes and fingers. Several military men interrogated them one after the other.

Under torture they were forced to admit that they are members of the NPA rebel group. Several names were also mentioned and they were asked if they knew them. The soldiers allegedly planted evidence on them.

On November 24 they were taken to the Office of the Prosecutor in Batangas for inquest proceedings. On November 26 charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives and illegal possession of drugs was filed against them. After they were charged, they remained inside the military camp where they were held for 17 days. They were transferred to Batangas Provincial Jail in Lipa City.

Military camps are not regular detention facilities; however, courts allow continued detention of accused, should soldiers request it, if they are ‘high risk’ prisoners. The court depends solely on the soldiers’ security assessment; thus, when soldiers request detention, they are very likely get approval. The practice, however, places detainees at risk of torture.

At time of writing, the charge of illegal possession of firearms and explosives against the victims is pending at the Regional Trial Court, Branch 6, in Tanauan, Batangas. The illegal possession of drugs case filed against Charity Diño at the Municipal Trial Court in Talisay, Batangas is also pending.

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