Karapatan Accuses Arroyo Government of Practicing Torture

On the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, human rights group Karapatan accused the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration of violating the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which was entered into force on 26 June 1987 and ratified by the Philippine government on October 23, 1987.

Among the alleged torture cases that Karapatan and other human-rights organizations have recorded are:

1. Erap 5. The case of the five supporters of former President Joseph Estrada, namely Virgilio Eustaquio, chair of the pro-Estrada Union of the Masses for Democracy and Justice (UMDJ), Jim Cabauatan, Dennis Ebona, Police Officer 3 Jose Curameng and Ruben Dionisio, who were arrested without warrant in Eustaquio’s home in Kamuning, Quezon City on May 22, 2006. They have torture marks as shown to media and during their testimony at a Senate inquiry. (The Arroyo administration said the Erap 5 were plotting to assassinate Cabinet members. “If the lives of Cabinet members were indeed at peril in the hands of these men, it is better that they were interdicted before they could cause serious harm to public order,” Presidential spokesperson Ignacio Bunye said.)

2. Tagaytay 5. Axel Alejandro Pinpin, Aristides Sarmiento, Riel Custodio, Rico Ybanez, and Michael Masa, who were arrested in Tagaytay, Cavite on mere suspicion that they were members of the New People’s Army (NPA). Physicians who visited them attested that they were tortured.

3. Sagada 11. Eleven young, punk backpackers collectively known as the “Sagada 11” who were on their way to Sagada when accosted by the Regional Mobile Group of the Philippine National Police at a checkpoint. They were stripped naked, made to endure beatings, watercure, and other forms of cruelty.

4. Angelina Bisuna-Ipong. A 60-year old peace advocate who was forcibly taken from a resort on March 8, 2005 without a warrant, held in military custody in Zamboanga for 12 days where she was tortured and sexually molested before being surfaced in the Pagadian City Jail on March 20, 2005.

5. Eduardo Serrano and two other women. They were accosted in early May 2004 after alighting a bus, has gone missing for more than a week and underwent torture while in military custody before being surfaced by the military at the Oriental Mindoro Provincial Jail. His brother was abducted on January 29, 2005 by military operatives, tortured and intimidated before being released after three days.

Karapatan said Arroyo government’s human rights record is “abominable”.

“It purports to uphold human rights simply because it has signed agreements but it is not implementing national and international human rights laws that are only meaningful when practiced,” the group added.

KARAPATAN also demanded that the torture victims it named be released, “all malicious charges against them” be dropped, and their torturers be penalized. It also called on the Philippine Congress to immediately pass House Bill 03021 or An Act Declaring Torture A Crime and Prescribing Penalties for Commission of Acts of Torture.

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