Group urges govt to declare policy vs all acts of torture

While it welcomes Malacañang’s order for a speedy probe into the torture row, a human rights group on Saturday called on the Aquino administration to announce a policy of “total elimination” of all acts of torture.

At a press conference in Quezon City, the Medical Action Group (MAG), a health organization working for the promotion and defense of health and human rights, made the call noting there are indications of torture being routinely practiced by authorities against suspected criminals.

In its statement, MAG said “the act of torture of an alleged snatcher inside a police precinct in Manila’s Tondo district sheds light on such “dark practice in the country.”

The video footage on the alleged torture incident, which was aired on television and later spread through the Internet video-sharing platform YouTube, has enraged local and international human rights advocates. 

In the video, the torturer string tied the penis of the victim as he was lying on the floor naked and being beaten.

MAG said “the video corroborates the numerous and consistent allegations of routine and widespread use of torture and ill-treatment of suspects in police custody.” 

The group also cited the experience of Lenin Salas and his four companions who were arrested by the police and military in San Fernando City, Pampanga on 3 August 2010, on suspicion they had links to a rebel group. 

“They were subjected to various forms of torture as narrated by Lenin and his companions who were interviewed on Al Jazeera TV network,” MAG said. 

Based on Salas group’s case and some other reports of torture reaching its office, MAG said “torture usually occurs from the point of arrest, through interrogation and detention. The period between arrest and presentation of the arrested person before a judicial authority is a period conducive to torture and ill-treatment on the person arrested.” 

Despite the enactment of laws such as the Act Defining Certain Rights of Person Arrested, in practice, there are insufficient legal safeguards for detainees, including among others, failure to bring detainees promptly before a judicial authority, MAG added. 

Admitting it is worried about negative perceptions caused by the incident, Malacañang on Saturday pushed for a speedy investigation into the alleged torture of a suspected thief by a policeman inside a Manila police station.

Presidential Communications Development Strategic and Planning Secretary Ramon “Ricky” Carandang said government cannot afford to be portrayed as allowing torture to be part of a “culture of violence.”

“We have instances where we see torture, the government and its agencies should act fast in trying to resolve it. There should be no perception we are dragging our heels on this,” Carandang said on a radio interview. 

But MAG insisted that Malacañang could better address the issue on torture by announcing a clear policy “total elimination” of all acts of torture, and by fully implementing the laws and international human rights obligations against the inhumane practice.

Moreover, it said government must undertake continuous and long-term programs for the police and the military personnel on promotion and protection of human rights.

Also, it said that mechanisms in investigating complaints of torture and ill-treatment by the police and the military must be improved, and that government must ensure the prosecution and punishment of those found guilty of employing torture on arrested suspects. — Jerbert Briola/LBG, GMANews.TV