1992-11-27 00:00:00

Most currently detained political prisoners in the Philippines have been tortured, according a medical group´s study.

Joel Eleazar of the Philippine General Hospital´s psychiatry department said at a symposium Nov. 22 that 102 or almost 89 percent of 115 detainees interviewed in Metro Manila claimed they were tortured.

Eleazar, Edna Elaine Obillo, De la Salle University Medical Center psychiatry department consultant and Doctor June Pagaduan-Lopez, consultant and training officer of the Philippine General Hospital´s psychiatry department, were members of Medical Action Group (MAG) which conducted the study "Psychiatric Morbidity Patterns Among Filipino Political Prisoners."

Psychiatric morbidity -- showing signs of depression, anxiety and psychotic disorders -- was found in 82 percent of the survey respondents, compared with the estimated 16 percent morbidity rate among Metro Manila´s general population, the study revealed.

Eleazar said that most physical tortures were "simple and crude yet grave and injurious" -- among them beatings (79 percent) and head bangings (41 percent). Nearly 21 percent of the prisoners interviewed had sustained fractures.

"Kapatid" (sibling), an organization of families and relatives of political detainees, claims there are 1,516 political prisoners in the Philippines. Task Force Detainees, a Church-backed group, puts the figure at 633.

Other forms of physical torture documented were electrocution (18 percent), forcible feeding of spoiled food (16 percent), submersion under water (17 percent), continuous beating of the soles (17 percent) and exposure to intensely loud sounds (13 percent).

Prisoners also reported being forced to take drugs (8 percent), hanging (6 percent), sexual abuse (4 percent), and mutilation (3 percent).

The MAG study said the most common form of psychological torture was threats of violence against the prisoner (90 percent) and his/her family (31 percent).

They also reported verbal humiliation (81 percent), blackmail and being forced to sign affidavits (77 percent) and playing Russian roulette (47 percent).

Forty percent of the prisoners had been subjected to strips, 23 percent threatened by false firing of guns, and 3 percent said they had been buried alive.

The MAG study also found "strong indications that Filipino health professionals are involved, directly or indirectly, in torture."

Lopez said the Geneva Convention requires health professionals to report incidents of torture, but many do not to make reports.

MAG´s findings showed that nearly 58 percent of the torture victims reported having visited a doctor or other health professionals. Ten percent said they were examined before torture, 9 percent during and 93 percent after being tortured.

Many health professionals, according to Lopez, issue certificates denying evidence of torture even though such was found.

Senior Superintendent Lamberto Ruzol, the Philippine National Police (PNP) director for medical services, said the PNP has difficulty verifying if detainees have been tortured or not.

"Most of them don´t tell the truth because arresting officers are usually with them when we examine them," Ruzol said.

He also explained that at the PNP General Hospital "there was no single referral as far as psychiatric disorders are concerned" but hinted that the political prisoners may have been referred to other hospitals.


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