Towards the end of January 2014, the Philippine Commission on Human Rights (CHR) conducted an inspection in what was alleged to be a secret detention facility in the province of Biñan, Laguna, Philippines. What the CHR officials discovered shocked them. They found the “wheel of torture,” which purported to be a torture device used by the officers of the PNP (Philippine National Police) provincial intelligence branch in Biñan, Laguna.
The “wheel of torture” looks like an innocuous entertainment device from afar. And even if it is examined closely, one would think of it as such. But the CHR officials revealed that the police used it to determine the kind of torture to be inflicted upon the detainees, mostly suspected drug traffickers. The policemen would spin the “wheel of torture,” which contains different ways of inflicting physical torture on detainees. For instance, the wheel contains “20 Second Manny Pacman,” which means twenty seconds of non-stop beating a la Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao, the famous Filipino boxer. CHR officials said the police officers do that for information, confession, or fun.
Human rights group at home and abroad condemned the practice. CHR Chairperson Loretta Ann Rosales called it “horrible.” Hazel Galang-Folli of Amnesty International called it “despicable.”
At least ten police officers involved in this abominable practice have been relieved from their posts and are now being investigated for probable administrative and criminal charges.
Philippine laws and international instruments prohibit torture for whatever purpose it is used. Article III, Section 12 (2) of the 1987 Philippine Constitution provides: “No torture, violence, threat, intimidation or any other means which vitiate the free will shall be used against…” “[a]ny person under investigation for the commission of an offense.”
The United Nations Convention Against Torture (UN CAT), to which the Philippines is a State party, called on State parties to “take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.”
The UN CAT defines torture as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.”
This definition was adopted by the Philippine legislature when it passed Republic Act 9745, the Philippine Anti-Torture Act of 2009. The law does not only punish physical torture, but also mental/ psychological torture which refers to “acts committed by a person in authority or agent of a person in authority which are calculated to affect or confuse the mind and/or undermine a person's dignity and morale.”
In 2013, as the Philippines joined the entire world in the celebration of International Human Rights Day, Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III’s spokesperson Secretary Sonny Coloma said that it is the primordial commitment of the President to protect the basic rights of the Filipinos.
Yet when human rights group called on the Aquino Administration to act swiftly, it chose to pussyfoot. Secretary Coloma said, “We will await CHR’s findings and recommendations on this specific matter as it has the primary responsibility for protecting and promoting human rights.”
When he assumed the presidency in 2010, among his priorities was to get rid of Philippine Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona who, the President believed, was a political lackey of his predecessor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Thus, in 2011, he vigorously supported the impeachment of Chief Justice Corona. The Philippine Senate successfully impeached the Chief Justice. But today, one of the Senators, Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Jr., is claiming that President Aquino invited him to lobby for the conviction of the Chief Justice.
That merely goes to show that if the President wishes to get things done, he can actually get things done. The recent exposure of torture practice in Biñan, Laguna presents a great opportunity for the Aquino Administration to deliver its promise to protect the basic rights of Filipinos.
This is a defining moment for the Aquino Administration insofar as human rights protection is concerned. As a Chief Law Enforcer, President Aquino’s mandate is to ensure that laws are faithfully executed. This includes notably the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 and the UN CAT. With barely two years before his term expires, President Aquino must seize this opportunity.
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Liceo Legal Aid Center (LiLAC) doing business under the name and style of Center for Alternative Lawyering of Liceo is the legal aid center of Liceo de Cagayan University, a privately owned university based in Cagayan de oro City. The group is composed of law students, alumni of the College of Law of the University, and lawyers who are passionate in the practice of alternative lawyering. LiLAC is guided by its vision of a holistic formation of law students committed to the transformation of society by promoting justice, empowerment, unity and peace, through helping the marginalized sector of the depressed areas here in Mindanao, in the Philippines and in the world. While the group was registered only this year with the Securities and Exchange Commission, it has been providing services to marginalized communities in partnership with NGOs for more than 8 years now. LiLAC has more than 50 members, 15 of whom are taking the active role of running the group’s activities.
The Mindanao State University Legal Aid Clinic or Mindanao SULAC for brevity, is the Legal Aid Clinic of Mindanao State University College of law. It is the first and currently the only one of its kind to be established in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). It strives to cater the legal needs of the underprivileged and/or indigent clients of the Region and to help promote the proper administration of justice as a key to lasting peace in the region and in the country as a whole.
Office Address: 1F MSU College of Law Bldg.,
MSU Main Campus, Marawi City 9700 Philippines
Mobile No.: (+63) 907 336 7762
The Notre Dame university is a Catholic Institution in Cotabato City run by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and member of the Notre Dame Educational Association Philippines.The Notre Dame University Legal Aid Center started sometime in 2009. Its members are the officially enrolled students of NDU-College of Law.
The following are the official pages and e-mail address of the group:
The Palawan Cradle of Rights is a unified composition of law students from Palawan State university school of Law, established last August 26, 2013 after the culminating activity of the Basic Orientation Seminar by the US Embassy in partnership with the MYVC.
Through our linkages and with the help of the different Government and Non-government organizations we aim to provide free access to people who need legal assistance.
The University of Mindanao Legal Aid Network (ULAN) is a non-stock, non-profit, and service institution of the University of Mindanao. As a service institution, it provides legal assistance, advocates human rights and social justice, and facilitates the formation of law students for alternative lawyering. It consists of law students and alumni of the College of Legal Education of the University of Mindanao committed to provide an adequate and greater access to justice of the community through its programs.
The CENTRO ADVOCACIA LEGAL is organized exclusively for charitable, socio-cultural and educational purposes, more specifically to serve the needs of the marginalized communities specifically children and youth and the minorities in Zamboanga City through Legal Aid Assistance and Human Rights Based Advocacies.