The report, however, did not mention the cases filed against military officials for using torture and for being responsible for the extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances of activists, media people and human-rights defenders.
In his presentation, Raymond Manalo was abducted with his brother Reynaldo on Feb. 14, 2006, in San Ildefonso, Bulacan, a province north of Manila. They were held captives by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and were subjected to different forms of torture for 18 months, Manalo said.
“Kapag lasing ‘yung mga sundalo, pinaglalaruan nila kami. Hinahampas ng baril, ng kadena,” Manalo said. (“When the soldiers were drunk, they played with us. They beat us with their guns or with chains.”)
In an interview with Bulatlat last week, Manalo said he felt brave when he spoke before the committee. He believed his account revealed the true state of human rights in the Philippines and that it would help victims of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.
Another torture victim who recounted his ordeal before the UN committee was Pastor Berlin Guerrero of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines. He was abducted on May 27, 2007, in Laguna and was brought to a safe house and tortured by the military.
Manalo and Guerrero’s accounts was consistent with reports earlier made public by the World Organization Against Torture, the International Fact Finding Mission, the Asian Legal Resource Center, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, the Action of Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT), and the Joint Civil Society (JCS).
These reports assert that torture persists and that the government is responsible for several human-rights violations in the country.
In its report, JCS even said that the Philippines “is in breach of its duties and obligations under the CAT.”
“The government itself, through its counter-insurgency campaign, war on terrorism and dysfunctional administration of criminal justice system, has further set the stage for the culture of torture and impunity in the Philippines to persist,” the JCS report says.
Ermita denied to the committee that torture exists in the country.
Manalo, the farmer, said it was obvious the committee knew whose report to believe since Ermita was flooded with questions after his presentation while Manalo received support and sympathy from nongovernment organizations at the UNCAT.
“Namutla si Ermita nang tanungin na siya,” Manalo told Bulatlat. (“Ermita became pale when members of the Committee started asking questions.”)
Almost every part of Ermita’s report was questioned by the committee, Manalo said. Like his report, Ermita’s responses to the committee’s questions also sounded like lectures and filled descriptions of laws and government policies, Manalo said.
When asked about the government’s steps to address the concerns expressed by Philip Alston, the special rapporteur on extajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions who visited the Philippines last year to investigate the killings of activists, Ermita said Alston’s findings were inaccurate.
“A number of important sections and statements contained in his reports were unfounded, unbalanced, incomplete or at best premature,” Ermita told the committee.
Ermita added that Karapatan, the human-rights group, had blown up the issue of extrajudicial killings with misleading figures and allegations.