[Statement] Why is there no investigation into the torture of a rape suspect two months on? -AHRC

A Statement from the Asian Human Rights Commission

PHILIPPINES: Why is there no investigation into the torture of a rape suspect two months on?

Asian Human Rights Commission

On June 21, we reported that Alfredo Lim, the former Mayor of Manila, had tortured a rape suspect in full view of the public, while the senior police officers present did nothing to prevent him. We rightly demanded that Lim, who perpetrated the torture and the policemen, who did nothing to stop the torture, be investigated for violation of the Anti-torture Act of 2009. The criminal liability under this law applies not only to public officials who commit torture but also those who knowingly allow it to happen and do nothing to prevent it.

In our previous statement, we also published the transcript of the video. By reading the transcript of the conversation between Lim and the suspect it was clear that the infliction of physical and psychological pain by Lim on the man was to extract a confession. In full view of the public, the suspect was forced to admit that he had raped, not one, but several women in separate incidents.

In response to our demand for a full investigation, without any reservations Lim defended his actions arguing as to why they were necessary and why he was not liable under the Anti-torture Law. In this report, Lim was quoted to have said:

The purpose of the press conference was not to extract admission from the suspect as he has already confessed to the crime before the police, the intention was for other possible victims to surface once they see the suspect’s face on television and newspapers.

In a separate report, Lim also challenged the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) “….to investigate questions being raised by an alleged group of activists”. In this he was obviously referring to the AHRC. Lim’s call for the CHR to investigate, however, was to serve his own purposes and not to shed light on the allegations of torture. Lim’s remark: “What about the victims? Don’t they have human rights, too?” clearly demonstrates his typically divisive strategy by making the public choose between the rights of a ‘criminal’ and a ‘victim’, and not whether he should be held criminally liable for having committed torture.

Lim’s style is not surprising. In fact, in November 2012, he defended the policemen who killed a man accused of murdering three women. In that report, Lim argued the “presumption of regularity” in defence of the policemen who were criticized for the killing. What Lim meant was that the policemen who took custody of the murdered suspect must be assumed to have been performing in accordance with the law; thus, to kill the suspect in custody by simply explaining that the suspect tried to grab a gun in order to escape was justified.

While we are not surprise by Lim’s actions in dealing with criminal suspects; however, the inaction by the CHR and the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) is indeed shocking. If the prohibition and prevention of torture were to be absolute, either by the Constitution and Statutory laws, the failure of the CHR and the PAO to conduct a “prompt, immediate and impartial investigation” on Lim and the policemen means that the absolute freedom from torture only exist on paper and not in practice, as is evident in this case.

It is clear that neither the CHR nor the PAO did anything to investigate. Our demand for an investigation has been widely publicized; thus, it could not have been possible that the CHR and the PAO were not aware about this case. If Lim could ignore the CHR’s questioning about the custodial death of a man in police custody in 2012, we would not be surprised if Lim could, again, ignore the CHR now if it continues not to do anything.

The CHR and the PAO must explain why, two months after the incident, Lim and the policemen were never subjected to any form of investigation to answer these serious allegations. The absence of investigation into allegations of torture weakens the efficacy of the Anti-torture Law, and has since given rise to the loss of confidence in the law, not only by the torture victims, but also the public.

If the public officials and the law enforcers are not held accountable for the gravest forms of violations of fundamental rights: torture, they can hardly expect people and the public to abide by the law as well. It is completely wrong for the CHR and PAO to ignore this issue and just carryon on as if nothing has happened, especially with the violation of the law that Lim and the policemen committed.

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

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