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An anti-torture advocate group is calling for the prosecution of suspects in the torture of an alleged thief in a police precinct in Manila’s Tondo district.

The United Against Torture Coalition (UATC)-Philippines made the call after the main suspect Senior Inspector Joselito Binayug denied during last Thursday's Senate hearing he was thepolice officer shown in a cell phone video torturing an alleged robbery suspect inside the Asuncion police precinct.

In a statement, UATC said “While we laud the Senate inquiry on Binayug’s case, we need more than an inquiry." 

Edeliza P. Hernandez, one of the spokespersons for the group and Executive Director of Medical Action Group (MAG) said “we are deeply concerned that torture and ill-treatment committed by the police are seldom investigated and prosecuted, and that torturers are either rarely convicted. Some are only sentenced to light penalties that are not in accordance with the grave nature of their crimes."

Under Republic Act No. 9745 or the Anti-Torture Act of 2009, penalty of reclusion perpetua shall be imposed upon the perpetrators if the torture resulted in the death of any victim.

The group likewise urged President Benigno Aquino III to announce a policy of total elimination against all acts of torture and to fully implement the anti-torture law. 

Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, who was also present during the Senate hearing last Thursday, claimed his department is aware of the recent reports of torture incidents by the police around the country.

In batting for prosecution of Binayug and other suspects in the crime, UATC stressed that “the video is a prima facie evidence of torture… that sheds light on the widespread use of the inhumane act by police on suspects under their custody." 

While the PNP has filed charges against Binayug and eight other policemen, the group stressed “Binayug and his subordinates should be suspended while investigation on the case is ongoing."

Also, UATC insisted that the investigation be done by an independent body, and not by the police.

The group reiterates its concerns over the climate of impunity, which seems to embolden perpetrators in doing acts of torture.

Under our Constitution and the Anti-Torture Act, torture is a crime, UATC said, adding that Congressional inquiries are welcomed, but prosecutions must begin soonest. 

The UATC-Philippines is a coalition of several human rights non-government organizations and institutions working together in defending human rights, even as it fights to eliminate the use of torture in the country. — Jerbert Briola/LBG, GMANews.TV