Torture in the Philippines & the unfulfilled promise of the 1987 Constitution
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received details about the torture of two men in separate incidents in Basilan, Mindanao. The group of soldiers who tortured one of them had previously been accused of torturing a boy. The two victims are presently in detention and being prosecuted over questionable charges.
CASE DETAILS: (based on the information received from the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines – Mindanao (TFDP))
In our previous appeal (AHRC-UAU-040-2011), we mentioned that Asraf Jamiri Musa, a 17-year-old boy, was tortured by soldiers attached to the 32nd Infantry Battalion (IB), Philippine Army. The boy was temporarily released from detention when the court granted the petition to recognizance filed by his parents.
However, we have also learned that three days after Asraf’s torture, the same military unit was again involved in the illegal arrest, detention and torture of a 27-year-old man, Jedil Esmael Mestiri. The details of Mestiri’s case are below:
CASE 1: “If you do not admit, I will kill you”
Jedil Esmael Mestiri (27) belongs to the Yakan, ‘the majority Muslim group in Basilan’ (see “Yakan” by Gwendalene Ting, http://litera1no4.tripod.com/yakan_frame.html for further information). On June 26, 2011 at 7pm, Mestiri was resting inside his home in Lamitan City when a certain Ben (alias), said to be a military intelligence officer, called him. Having previously served the military as an informant, Mestiri was not suspicious of going out with him on a motorcycle.
When they reach a checkpoint, the soldiers guarding it stopped them. Ben spoke to the soldiers, and one of them, Captain Guianan, performed a body search on Mestiri without giving any reasons. He was then instructed to go inside the soldier’s detachment, where they tied his hands and feet with a nylon cord, and blindfolded him.
He was later taken to Camp 1 of the military battalion in Lamitan City, Basilan. Here they interrogated him about the bombing incident in Lamitan City in 2010. They also questioned him about the kidnapping of an engineer, while they repeatedly punched his chest. He could sense that there were several persons punching him.
When Mestiri asked the military why they were treating him like this despite him helping them as an informant in the past, he was only told: “Pag hindi ka umamin papatayin kita” (If you do not admit, I will kill you). But Mestiri did not admit anything, despite being subjected to repeated interrogation with similar questions, over a period of eight hours.
On the following day, June 27, he was not given food to eat for breakfast, only water to drink. At 10am, they took him to a police station in Lamitan City. It was only at this time that the soldiers removed his blindfold, and when they reached the police station, his hands were untied. He was then brought to the court in Isabela City.
The soldiers did take him to the General hospital in Isabela City to see a doctor. Mestiri informed the doctor examining him that he had pains in his chest. He later saw the soldiers talking with the doctor. The doctor did not pay attention to his complaint of chest pains, and nor did he inform him about what he and the soldiers had discussed regarding his medical condition.
Mestiri is presently detained at the provincial jail in Isabela City, Basilan. He is being tried over questionable charges of arson and murder that happened in 2010.
CASE 2: “I do not know what a bomb looks like”
Rahman Totoh (34) also belongs to the Yakan group. On July 28, 2011 at 12noon, he was forcibly taken by armed men in camouflage uniforms from his home in Barangay San Rafael, Isabela City. The perpetrators are members of the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Basilan Police Provincial Office (BPPO) of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
Totoh was resting when suddenly the door of his house was kicked open. Several persons carrying M16 rifles entered, and Totoh was told, “huwag kang gagalaw” (do not move). One of them kicked him down, while three others stepped on his nape and covered his head with a balaclava.
Inside the vehicle in which he was taken, both of his ears were repeatedly flicked. He was taken to an unknown place about 30 minutes away from his home. With his head covered, he could still sense that he was inside a room. The torturers also wrapped the balaclava covering his head with adhesive tape and handcuffed him behind his back.
Here, he was interrogated about the incidents of killing in Isabela City and forced to admit involvement in the bombing incidents two months earlier. When he answered, “I don’t even know what a bomb looks like”, they repeatedly punched him, hit his chest, face, head and other parts of his body. His watch, mobile phone and necklace were also confiscated.
His torturers were forcing him to admit to the crime as they stepped on his nape and his feet. His handcuff, which was attached to a bench, was kicked several times. They also set his moustache on fire once. For about three hours, they repeatedly subjected him to interrogation before he was taken to the Hall of Justice. At about 4pm, he was remanded to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) in Isabela City.
Later, Totoh learned that his arrest was due to a pending arrest warrant for murder issued by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Isabela City, Basilan; however, he had not been shown the arrest orders or had the reason of arrest explained to him, during either his arrest or interrogation.
In the medical examination report issued by Dr. Jesus Daniel Naon M.D., the physician who examined him at the General Hospital of Basilan, he indicated that Totoh had: 1 cm # 2 linear abrasions; 1 cm apart (L) anterior chest anterior axillary line 5th ICS and 2 cm reddish discoloration of skin 7th ICS (L) anterior axillary line. The doctor’s medical report, however, fell short as to what the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 requires in examining the condition of persons alleging torture. At the time of the last interview on August 18, 2011, Totoh was still suffering from pains in his chest and his right thumb was numb.
Please write letters to the concerned authorities listed below requesting their appropriate intervention.
The AHRC is also writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment for his intervention.
To support this appeal, please click here:
Re: PHILIPPINES: Investigate separate incidents of torture of two men in Basilan
Name of victim: Jedil Esmael Mestiri (27), presently detained at the provincial jail in Isabela City.
Alleged perpetrators: Members of the 32nd Infantry Battalion (IB), Philippine Army (PA), led by a certain Capt. Guianan
Date of incident: June 26, 2011
Place where he was tortured: Inside Camp 1 of the Military Battalion in Lamitan City, Basilan.
Name of victim: Rahman Totoh (34), of Barangay San Rafael, Isabela City, presently detained at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) in Isabela City.
Alleged perpetrators: Special Action Force (SAF) of the Basilan Police Provincial Office (BPPO) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Isabela City
Date of incident: July 28, 2011
Place of incident: In a place about 30 minutes away from his home in Barangay San Rafael, Isabela City, Basilan
I am writing to draw your attention to the cases of two torture victims, Jedil Esmael Mestiri of Lamitan City, and Rahman Totoh of Isabela City. Some of the basic details about their case are mentioned above in this letter of appeal.
In the first case, Mestiri was tortured by soldiers attached to the 32nd Infantry Battalion (IB), Philippine Army (PA) on June 26 and 27. Ben (alias), an informant of the military, called up Mestiri at his home while he was resting, asked him to go somewhere with him, and subsequently turned him over to the military.
While in their custody at Camp 1 of the military battalion in Lamitan City, Mestiri was not informed of what charges he was being held for. However, they interrogated him about the bombing incident in Lamitan City in 2010, and also questioned him about the kidnapping of an engineer, while they repeatedly punched his chest. He could sense that there were several persons punching him.
When Mestiri asked the military why they were torturing him he was told, “Pag hindi ka umamin papatayin kita” (If you do not admit, I will kill you). Despite being subjected to repeated interrogation with similar questions, over a period of eight hours, he did not admit to what the soldiers wanted. On the next day morning, he was deprived of food.
The soldiers did take Mestiri to the General Hospital in Isabela City to be examined by a doctor. But when he informed the doctor he had pains in his chest, he did not pay much attention. Later, Mestiri saw the soldiers talking to the doctor; the doctor did not inform Mestiri about his medical condition, but the soldiers.
In the second case, Totoh was tortured by policemen who forcibly took him from his home while he was resting on July 28. The policemen, who were armed with M16 rifles, kicked him, stepped on his nape and covered his head with a balaclava. Inside the vehicle they were riding, both of his ears were repeatedly flicked. At an unknown place about 30 minutes away from his home, the torturers wrapped the balaclava already covering his head with adhesive tapes and handcuffed him behind his back.
Here, he was interrogated about the incidents of killing in Isabela City and forced to admit involvement in the bombing incidents in the same city two months earlier. When he answered, “I don’t even know what a bomb looks like”, they repeatedly punched him, hit his chest, face, head and other parts of his body. His watch, mobile phone and necklace were also confiscated. His torturers forced him to admit to the crime while stepping on his nape and feet. His handcuff, which was attached to a bench, was kicked several times. They also set his moustache on fire once.
I am aware that the soldiers involved in the torture of Mestiri were earlier accused of torturing a 17-year-old boy, Asraf Jamiri Musa on June 23, 2011. I appreciate Musa’s temporary release from detention on September 8 when the court granted his parents’ petition for recognizance. I am disappointed however, by yet another torture case by the same group of soldiers.
I urge you to conduct an impartial and prompt investigation into the allegations of torture by victims Mestiri and Totoh as legally required by the Anti-Torture Act of 2009.
The allegations of irregularities in the process of arrest, detention and filing of charges in Mestiri’s case must be looked into. His complaint of poor medical treatment, where his chest pains were overlooked and he was not informed of his medical condition must also be addressed.
Similarly, the gaps in due process regarding Totoh’s arrest–not being shown the arrest order or given reasons for his arrest–must also be looked into, as must the torture at the time of arrest.
I trust you will take immediate action in this case.
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:
1. Mr. Benigno Aquino III
Republic of the Philippines
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel
Fax: +63 2 736 1010
Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80
2. Ms. Loretta Ann Rosales
Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., Commonwealth Avenue
U.P. Complex, Diliman
Fax: +63 2 929 0102
Tel: +63 2 928 5655 / 926 6188
3. Director General Nicanor Bartolome
Chief, Philippine National Police (PNP)
Camp General Rafael Crame
Fax: +63 2724 8763
Tel: +63 2 726 4361/4366/8763
4. Ms. Leila de Lima
Department of Justice (DOJ)
DOJ Bldg., Padre Faura
Fax: +63 2 521 1614
5. Mr. Emilio Gonzalez
Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Military
and Other Law Enforcement Offices
3rd Floor, Ombudsman Bldg., Agham Road, Diliman
1104 Quezon City
Fax: +63 2 926 8747
Tel: +63 2 926 9032
Urgent Appeals Desk
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) (email@example.com)