Victims, Rights Group to Confront Philippine Gov’t in UN Committee Session on Torture

Two survivors of torture and leaders of the human rights group Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) would expose the abuses of the Philippine government before the United Nations Committee Against Torture.


Two survivors of torture and leaders of the human rights group Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) would expose the abuses of the Philippine government before the United Nations Committee Against Torture.

The Committee Against Torture monitors the compliance of state parties to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT).

The UNCAT defines torture as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”

The Convention was adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution 39/46 of 10 December 1984. The Philippines has been a state party to the UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT) since June 18, 1986 .

The Committee Against Torture will hold its 42nd Session from 27 April to 15 May 2009. The Philippine government would present its second periodic report to the UN Committee Against Torture on 28 April 2009 a.m. and on Wednesday, 29 April 2009 p.m.

The Philippine delegation would be headed by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita as chairman of the Presidential Human Rights Committee of the Philippines. Ermita is also a member of the Cabinet Oversight Committee on Internal Security (COCIS) and of the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG), two bodies that direct the counter-insurgency program of the Arroyo government.

Determined to counter the Philippine government’s report, Raymond Manalo and Pastor Berlin Guerrero of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), along with Karapatan secretary general Marie Hilao Enriquez and Karapatan special counsel Edre Olalia, left for Geneva, Switzerland, April 24. They would face the members of the Committee Against Torture on April 27 in the afternoon.

Raymond and his brother Reynaldo were abducted on Feb. 14, 2006 in San Ildefonso, Bulacan, and were detained in three military camps and two safe houses. They were first brought to Fort Magsaysay, Laur, Nueva Ecija before being transferred to Camp Tecson in San Miguel, Bulacan and later in a safehouse in Zambales. They were again transferred to the headquarters of the 24th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army in Limay, Bataan and finally, to another safehouse in Pangasinan where the brothers escaped on Aug. 13.

Raymond said they were subjected to various forms of torture during their captivity.

The Supreme Court, in its decision to grant the brothers the writ of amparo, said that it found Raymond’s account “harrowing” as well as “clear and convincing.”

Meanwhile, Guerrero was abducted on May 27, 2007 in Biñan, Laguna allegedly by elements of the Naval Intelligence Security Forces. In an affidavit, the pastor said he was tortured in a safehouse before he was brought to the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Camp Pantaleon Garcia in Imus, Cavite.

In its resolution, Sept. 11, 2008, the Court of Appeals (CA) Third Division ordered his release to the custody of his lawyers, former Senator Jovito Salonga and Emilio Capulong Jr.

Torture as a policy

In an interview with Bulatlat, Enriquez said, “Torture is widely used by the state. It has in fact become a policy.”

Based on the data gathered by the Karapatan documentation team, there have been 1,016 victims of torture from 2001 to March 31, 2009.

Enriquez said there could be more unreported incidents of torture.

The human rights leader added that the state employs torture along with extrajudicial killings enforced disappearances for its counter-insurgency campaign. “Most of the victims are ordinary citizens, activists and human rights defenders.”

Enriquez said they would also cite particular cases such as the sexual assault against Angelina Bisuña Ipong a political detainee who has been languishing in jail since March 8, 2005 and the abduction, torture and murder of Rebelyn Pitao, daughter of New People’s Army commander Leoncio Pitao, also known as Kumander Parago.

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