Punks protest at CHR for impartial probe, enactment of torture law; police reportedly charged with abuse
(Hong Kong, April 3, 2006) At least 30 punks held a sit-in protest at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) of the Philippines head office in Quezon City on Friday, demanding an impartial probe into the alleged brutal torture of 11 peers by police in Benguet province, north of Manila.
The demonstration coincided with a scheduled court hearing against the torture victims in La Trinidad, Benguet, on charges of homicide in connection with a February 10 raid on an army base.
The participants called on the CHR to conduct of an impartial investigation into the alleged torture and assist in having the victims--who all deny any criminal wrongdoing--released.
The group had a dialogue with CHR officials, but the result was not immediately known, Cris Vera, one of the organisers, said.
"The protesters raised their voices against the torture of their friends and also for the Philippines government to introduce a law criminalising torture without delay," Kate Hurst, urgent appeals coordinator of the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), said.
Although the constitution of the Philippines prohibits torture and the country has signed the international Convention against Torture, it has not made torture a crime under domestic law.
"The police and military in the Philippines will continue to use torture as their primary means of investigation until a law makes their practices illegal, and perpetrators are prosecuted," the AHRC said in a statement released on Friday.
The Hong Kong-based regional rights group urged the national parliament to speed through a bill prohibiting torture which has been sitting with legislature since last year.
Meanwhile, criminal charges were reportedly filed on Friday at the Benguet Prosecutorís Office against six accused police officers, including their commander, for violating Republic Act 7438, which defines certain rights of persons arrested, detained or under custodial investigation.
According to the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance, an umbrella group of human rights organisations based in Baguio City, Police Superintendent Brent Madjaco, the commanding officer of the 1604th Police Provincial Mobile Group, is among the respondents.
Also reportedly charged were Police Senior Inspector Joseph Paulo Bayongasan, Senior Police Officer 1 Alyson Kalang-ad, Police Officer 2 (PO2) Jonathan Pucya, PO2 Wendell B. Baglao, and PO2 James Ayan Jr, all attached to the Benguet Provincial Police Office.
The charges were laid in connection with the illegal arrest, alleged brutal torture and subsequent filing of fabricated charges against the 11 victims--two of whom are minors--following their arrest on 14 February 2006 in Buguias, Benguet.
The police allegedly beat the genitals, suffocated and electrocuted the detainees.
They also failed to separate the two children from the other suspects and treat them in accordance with provisions for juvenile suspects.
In its Friday statement the AHRC also strongly criticised the Department of Welfare and Development (DSWD) for its role in the case, accusing it of returning one escaped victim to the hands of his torturers and of "blatant negligence" regarding the underage detainees.
"The DSWD has proven itself unwilling to fulfil its mandate and protect human rights," the AHRC said.
It said that the government of the Philippines had violated its obligations under a raft of international laws, including the Convention against Torture, Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
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About AHRC The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.
Posted on 2006-04-03