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Philippines

Philippine rights group urges UN to look into 110 torture cases

Abuses by military during operations against rebels continue unabated, Karapatan says

ucanews.com reporter, Manila

ucanews.com reporter, Manila

Published: May 25, 2015 06:49 AM GMT

Updated: May 24, 2015 07:49 PM GMT

Philippine rights group urges UN to look into 110 torture cases

A woman points as she watches a news program allegedly showing a policeman beating a naked man in Manila in 2010 (AFP Photo)

A Philippine human rights group on Monday called on the United Nations Sub-committee on Prevention of Torture to look into at least 110 reported cases of torture in the country since 2010.

The UN panel will be in the Philippines this week to monitor the implementation of the "Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture", a UN mechanism that was ratified by the Philippines in 2012.

"Torture and other degrading treatment of suspects and prisoners were being committed," said Cristina Palabay, secretary-general of the group Karapatan (Rights).

Palabay cited the case of three B'laan tribal members in the town of Malapatan, Sarangani province, who sometime between March 27 and April 10 this year were allegedly tortured by the military into admitting that they were communist rebels.

"They were tortured while their communities were bombed and other human rights abuses were committed in the communities," Palabay told ucanews.com.

She said that aside from torture cases, Karapatan also had documented 723 cases of illegal arrests and detention since 2010.

Most of the torture cases documented by Karapatan were allegedly perpetrated by members of the Philippine military in the course of combat operations in rural areas.

On March 14, some 30 Philippine soldiers arrested Henry Omandam, 19, Vergil Pitogo, 23, and Johnrey Flores, 18, in the village of Kahusayan, Kitaotao town in Bukidnon province. 

The military claimed the three farmers were communist rebels involved in an ambush four days previously.

The soldiers allegedly hogtied the men and left them in the sun for an hour. They later allegedly kicked the men before turning them over to the police.

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"We have said this before, and I will say this again. Illegal arrests and human rights violations only worsen the state of ‘unpeace’ and will not amount to anything as long as the root causes of the armed conflict remain unsolved," said Palabay.

She called on the UN sub-committee to listen to the alleged victims of torture and illegal arrests, "for in hearing and analyzing their testimonies can they have a comprehensive grasp and analysis on what is keeping the Philippine government from preventing torture".

Karapatan also wanted the UN panel to look into the alleged "collusion" of the police and the military in staging "illegal arrests and detention of civilians," especially political activists. 

The group cited the case of security guard Rolly Panesa who was arrested on October 5, 2012. 

Panesa claimed he was tortured while in detention for 11 months after he was tagged as Benjamin Mendoza, an alleged top rebel leader. The military even paid a US$126,000 reward to an informant who "identified" Panesa as Mendoza.

On August 29, 2013, the Court of Appeals ruled Panesa was a victim of mistaken identity, and ordered prison authorities to release him.

"Torture and other rights abuses commence without relent because the Philippine government continues to strongly adhere to a counter-insurgency program that violates people’s rights," Palabay said in a statement released on Monday.

In a report released in December 2014, Amnesty International noted an increase "year on year" of reports of "torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment within the police force" but without a single conviction.

According to Amnesty International, in 2013 alone, there were 75 complaints of torture received by the Philippine Commission of Human Rights, 80 percent of the cases involved police officers.

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