[Statement] No One is safe from Torture -MAG

No One is safe from Torture
MAG Statement on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture

Genesis Argoncillo alias “Tisoy” was just waiting for the cellphone load he bought from the store next to their house in Novaliches, Quezon City when the policemen arrested him for not wearing a shirt. He was brought to a police station along with others in Barangay Sauyo as a part of the current anti-crime campaign of the Philippine National Police called “Oplan Zero Tambay”. A few days later, he was seen gasping for air inside the crowded cell and was later pronounced dead in the hospital.

He was the fifth detainee to die inside jail cells of the Quezon City Police Department in less than a month. The police claimed that the death of Tisoy was due to jail congestion and not because he was maltreated at the police station. But his family believed that he was tortured to death as his death certificate showed he suffered multiple blunt force trauma in the neck, head, chest, and upper extremities. The police explained that Tisoy’s death might be self-inflicted, as he was uncontrollable, making a scene inside the cell. But they later charged two inmates for the murder of Tisoy.

The death of Tisoy and many others in police custody only proved that the climate of impunity persists with the erosion of the rule of law and total disregard of the standard police procedures. With more than 19,000 death as a result of the war on drugs and now nearly 8,000 people who were rounded up in the anti-tambay campaign by the police in just a week since President Rodrigo Duterte declared to rid off the streets of loiterers to help lessen crime and maintain peace and order, as he admitted the problem on illegal drugs “has become far worse”, human rights have become a collateral damage.

According to Ms Edeliza P. Hernandez, Executive Director of Medical Action Group, “Before it was Kian, now it is Tisoy. It seems like the police do not treat us as human anymore as they can brutally killed or torture anyone without showing any fear of accountability.”

“It is an irony that the law enforcement agencies who are charged with the responsibility of maintaining law and order are the ones committing these acts of violence,” she explained.

This is so despite the entry into force UN Convention Against Torture, 31 years ago which the Philippines is a state party, to prevent the abuse of police power through the systematic use of torture and ill treatment of persons deprived of liberty.

But in spite the enactment of RA 9745 or the Anti-Torture Law in 2009 that makes torture a crime in the country, however in practice, police brutality, extortion, intimidation, torture and maltreatment occur with constant regularity, especially in the course of exercising their powers and in fact have worsened in both practice and severity under the present political dispensation. The threats to life and liberties are compounded with the failure of the justice system to hold accountable those who violate the people’s fundamental rights and freedom.

“Justifying the killings or dismissing the act torture usually falls on the shoulder of medical and health professionals by issuing medico-legal report. This puts the health professional in a dilemma where it runs contrary to our Hippocratic Oath of Profession of do no harm. It is our duty to support the pursuit of justice by rendering our service truthfully and legally without intimidation,” Ms. Hernandez pointed out.

Today marks the commemoration of the International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture. The Medical Action Group together with the United Against Torture Coalition are calling on all Filipinos to listen to the cry of torture survivors and their families for justice and to join the annual conduct of the Basta Run Against Torture (BRAT) to make the public aware that torture continues to happen unabated.

“It is everyone’s concern because no one is safe from torture. Anyone of us can become the next victim.” She added.

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