[Press Release] Human rights groups urges Aquino “Tuldukan na ang tortyur’! Announce policy of total elimination of torture -UATC

Human rights groups urges Aquino “Tuldukan na ang tortyur’! Announce policy of total elimination of torture. Photo by TFDP

Human rights groups urges Aquino “Tuldukan na ang tortyur’! Announce policy of total elimination of torture

As the country marks the 26th anniversary of the 1986 EDSA “People Power”, several human rights groups called on the Aquino administration to take all necessary measures to announce a policy of “total elimination” of the vestiges of Martial Law.

While the Anti-Torture Act or Republic Act (RA) No. 9745 is enacted to criminalize the acts of torture, the United Against Torture Coalition (UATC)-Philippines, made the call noting there are reports cases of torture being routinely practiced by authorities against suspects despite the law criminalizing such act.

In its statement, Ernesto A. Anasarias, Executive Director of Balay Rehabilitation Center and currently the head of UATC Secretariat, said “the authorities’ partiality not to comply with the law runs in the ‘institutional impunity’ we have right now.”

“The persistence of torture casts doubts on the effectiveness of the law. Despite the law, in practice, there are insufficient legal safeguards for arrested suspects and detainees, including among others, failure to bring them promptly before a judicial authority, restricted access to lawyers and medical doctors, and failure to contact family member immediately after their arrest,” Anasarias added.

Edeliza P. Hernandez of the Medical Action Group (MAG) likewise claimed the government seems to be dragging their heels on the investigation of torture cases. No member of the police and military has been arrested for alleged torture case since Aquino took office, and no superiors have been put on trial for their suspected involvement in or acquiescence to the alleged acts of torture.

“We cite as an example the case of Lenin Salas and his four companions in Pampanga against Police Supt. Madzgani Mukaram for violation of the Anti-Torture Act. The victims were tortured which was medically documented and verified. But last July 21, 2011, the prosecutor disregarded the evidences in favor of the accused and the case was dismissed for insufficiency of evidence,” Hernandez said.

The group reiterates its concerns over the increasing number of cases which expose the weak implementation of “command responsibility” as stipulated in the Anti-Torture Act and the Law on the International Humanitarian Law, which embolden perpetrators in doing acts of torture. This situation breeds and perpetuates impunity.

Max M. de Mesa of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) said “the many perpetrators of unresolved cases of torture have become obstacles to the announced “paradigm shift” in Aquino’s administration that it would adhere to the primacy of human rights.”

“Particularly those experienced by Abdul Khan Balanting while in custody of the Army’s 39th Scout Ranger Company in Sumisip, Basilan and that of Lenin Salas and companions in the hands of security forces headed by PSupt. Mukaram expose the collution between the responsible command and the rank and file to acquiesce or cover up the violation and/or crime. This is tantamount to superior or command conspiracy,” de Mesa added.

On the medical documentation findings, Ajid was heavily tortured. He suffered first and second-degree burns in different parts of his body, including the head, face, private parts, abdomen, lower back and buttocks, among others.

“Hangad namin ang katarungan sa pag-tortyur kay Lenin at sa kasamahan niya,” said a Salas family member. “Hindi kami magpapatakot.” (We will seek justice for the torture of Lenin and his companions. We will not be intimidated.”)

The group underscored the necessity that for the government to effectively address the issue of torture, it should publicly announce a clear policy of “total elimination” of all acts of torture, and by fully implementing the laws and international human rights instruments against all human rights violations.

The UATC-Philippines is a coalition of human rights non-government organizations and civil society organizations working together in defending human rights and campaigning against the use of torture in the country.

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