Even as the Asian Human Rights Commission condemned in a statement the continued use of torture on prisoners in the Philippines, a suspected guerrilla leader in Bicol was reported to have been tortured by his military captors.
Forty-five year old New People’s Army (NPA) leader Elmer Osila reportedly uses the names Ka Israel, Ka Rolly and Ka Ador and heads the NPA Guerrilla Front Committee 79 operating the Bicol region. At 3 p.m. of June 19, soldiers arrested him at a checkpoint in the boundary of Camalig and Guinobatan towns in Albay province, about 530 kms south of Manila.
Osila has four outstanding warrants of arrest for murder and kidnapping charges in Sorsogon, another province in the region. A former rebel positively identified him at the checkpoint and Osila did not resist arrest. Members of the Army’s 901st Brigade under the 9th Infantry Division took custody of the prisoner. He was taken to the 65th Infantry Battalion headquarters in Barangay Tula-Tula, Ligao City.
Later, he was turned over to the Philippine National Police provincial command.
But while he was under military custody, Osila said he was subjected to various forms of physical torture. He also said he was arrested on June 18, not June 19 as claimed by the military.
Investigators of the Commission on Human Rights – Bicol confirmed Osila’s complaints after they personally checked on his condition June 21.
Norilyn Garcia, CHR-Bicol chief investigator, and Rey Matosiaos, CHR investigator, said Osila bore several torture marks. Garcia was quoted in media reports saying, “He had a large green-and-violet-colored hematoma on the right portion of his back; there were also visible depressions in the spaces between the fingers of his right hand, and there were black spots on the back of his left hand, due to electrocution.”
Maj. Jose Broso, commander of the military’s 2nd Civil Relations Division denied the charges. “The Philippine Army does not practice torture,” he said.
Lt. Col. Edmundo Malabanjot is the commanding officer of the 65th IB.
International Day in support of victims of torture
Meanwhile, a Hong Kong based non-government organization monitoring human rights issues in Asia said in a statement that torture is “practiced with impunity and without fear of prosecution” in the Philippines.
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) said on June 23 that in the Philippines, “torture [is] practiced with impunity and without fear of prosecution” despite the prohibition of its use stipulated in the country’s 1987 constitution and the country’s participation to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT).
“..But the government’s failure to criminalize the practice of torture has virtually shielded the police, military and other public officials from prosecution for ordering or torturing others, thus creating an environment of impunity,” the statement said. “Although the government’s law enforcement agencies have denied the practice of torture by their ranks, reality in the country suggests otherwise.”
The statement also said that “in most cases, allegations of torture are not investigated.” And even if the victims intends to seek legal remedies, the statement added, there is no law against torture in the country yet.
It further said that “forced confessions obtained from suspects through the use of torture, instead of investigations with the aid of scientific methods of gathering evidence, remain the usual practice by law enforcers.”
AHRC called on the Philippine government to criminalize the practice of torture without delay.
AHRC issued the statement in the observance of the United Nation International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture which falls on June 26.
Similar reports have been issued by the Amnesty International, an international rights watchdog based in London. Bulatlat