Adding insult to injury: Zero conviction under PH’s anti-torture law

Jun. 26, 2014

TAGUM CITY – A Hong Kong-based legal rights organization said the Aquino administration failed “to investigate, prosecute and convict” state agents and their accomplices for violating the Anti-Torture Act of 2009, as the country is supposed to join the global observance on
Thursday the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

“The law has been in operation for over four years now; however, none of the perpetrators involved in the dozens of cases we have documented have been convicted for their crimes,” The Asian Legal Resource Center (ALRC), a sister organization of the Asian Human Rights Commission, noted that “the Philippine government fails not only to cooperate with the Council’s mandate, but also to effectively implement the Anti-Torture Act,” the Asian Legal Resource Center (ALRC) said in a document submitted to the UN Human Rights Council that the

In its February 19, 2014 report, the group noted that “there exists an emerging pattern of dismissals of torture complaints”  with many cases have never been effectively investigated and prosecuted.

“Since the Anti- Torture Act was signed into effect in 2009, in none of the complaints that the AHRC has documented has a court so far resolved that the accused have a case to answer,” said Basil Fernando, director of Policy and Programme Development of both the Asian Human Rights Commission and that ALRC.

The ALRC said government agencies are being “soft” in assuming their mandate to speedily investigate allegations of torture promptly within the prescribed period of sixty workings as provided by law.

According to ALRC, the government Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), the Philippine National Police (PNP), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and Armed Forces of the
Philippines (AFP) – which have legal obligation to investigate torture complaints “failed to comply with this provision in a routine, systematic and widespread manner.”

“First, by either not conducting or choosing to ignore complaints of torture submitted to it; second, even if they investigate, the result
of their investigation and findings take months, years or do not appear at all,” the ALRC said.

Fernando said processing of torture cases “is characterized by neglect, failure to investigate and conclude investigation promptly as required by law, including the lack of competence”.

He also attributed the failure to “misunderstanding of officials’ roles, inadequate forensic analysis and medical reporting, and lack of protection for victims complaining of torture and their families, who are subjected to  intimidation and threats”.

“The government’s failure to investigate promptly violates the absolute and non-derogable nature of the prohibition of torture in the Convention against Torture (CAT), in General Assembly Resolutions,” he

For instance, the Abdulbayan Guiamblang case where it said the Commission on
Human Rights in  Region 12  failed to intervene and investigate promptly the complaint of torture filed on his behalf.

The ALRC said Abdulbayan, a farmer accused by the military of being a rebel was arrested, detained and tortured in custody on February 26, 2010.

The case of the Morong 43 where a group of medical practitioners and community health workers were  arrested on February 6, 2010. They were arrested and detained. They filed a complaint of torture against the soldiers and policemen.

It cited another case of a 17-year-old boy who it claimed was tortured inside the women and children’s desk of the police in Kidapawan City on December 11, 2010.
The boy and his parents filed criminal, administrative and civil charges against the police. The ALRC said the failure of the
prosecutor to conclude its investigation promptly and due to the absence of protection that the complaint was later withdrawn.

There was also the case of three activists, Charity Diño, Billy Batrina and Sonny
Rogelio, the ALRC said. They were detained, tortured and had fabricated charges
brought against them after they were arrested in Talisay, Batangas on November 23, 2009. The three were community
organizers, and ALRC said they were arrested without a warrant and had firearms
and ammunitions planted on them to justify their arrest.

To date, the human rights group Karapatan ( Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) documented 94 cases of torture in the country from January to March 2014.

“Unfortunately, justice has been denied to all the victims of state-sponsored tortures. There will be no justice if all perpetrators
are protected by the government,” Karapatan told DavaoToday.

Karapatan said the lack of political will of the government to investigate and pursue perpetrators of torture cases is an added
“insult to the injury” of families and victims of these cases.

The progressive rights group said the Aquino administration “has failed to provide adequate protection to all the victims of
torture in the country and admit them to Witness Protection Program.”

“The government must meet the needs of victims of torture and ill-treatment by offering them protection and by putting into place mechanisms for reparation and compensation,” Karapatan urged.

An allegation was also cited by ALRC saying that “In fact, none of the torture victims, complainants and witnesses that the AHRC has documented has been admitted under this program. The government is clearly failing to protect victims, complainants and witnesses, when it is needed the most.”

ALRC said “the inability, if not deliberate act in providing victims and complainants protection, is due to pervasive deeply-rooted bias against persons claiming to have been tortured by the police and the military.”

“The mentality amongst some of the police, prosecutors and judges, is that: they do not make distinction between a torture victim exercising her/his right to remedy by complaining; and from a torture victim they
claimed using torture as defence to get even with the authorities and to get away from crimes. There is a deeply held bias and stereotypes that criminals often claims torture once they are arrested, resulting
in them taking lightly complaints of torture.”

Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, in his message, said: “The prohibition of torture is absolute.  The Convention against Torture states unequivocally that the use of torture is illegal under any circumstances, including armed conflict, the fight against terrorism, political instability or other emergency conditions. “

“All 155 States that have ratified this treaty have committed to fight impunity by thoroughly investigating and prosecuting violations and bringing perpetrators, no matter their level of office, to justice.

They have also accepted the obligation to provide redress to the victims and their families.”

Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), and Article 7 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) sate that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

On  December 12 1997, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 26 June the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, with a view to the total eradication of torture and the effective
functioning of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Torture is a crime under international law. According to all relevant instruments, it is absolutely prohibited and cannot be justified under any circumstances. The systematic or widespread practice of torture constitutes a crime against humanity.

Philippines is one of the 155 countries signatory of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. (

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