Torturers and their
victims: how the Anti-torture law is failing, and why
A Statement by the Asian
Human Rights Commission
August 29, 2013
After 22 years of advocacy and lobbying, the Philippines enacted the
Anti-Torture Law in November 2009. This law is not an ordinary law.
The Philippines became the first country in Southeast Asia to enact a
domestic law on torture. In effect, this law means the country commits
itself legally to the international community to enforce the
principles of jus cogens or peremptory norm. It means freedom from
torture is an absolute right.
Nearly four years after the law was enforced, no one from the police,
military or public civil service, found to have committed acts of
torture, was convicted for violating the Anti-Torture Law. There was
also no consideration given to the severity of the physical and
psychological pain they inflicted upon their victims. Regardless, of
who the torturers were and who their victims were, none of the torture
cases resulted in just punishment under this law.
The AHRC has concluded that, in the Philippines, torture forms part of
the security apparatus and is used as a method to investigate and to
impose social control. It is perceived by the government de facto as
needed and required; therefore, whether torture is accepted as a jus
cogens norm by the international community or the country's
constitution and domestic law, it doesn’t really matter. The police,
military and public officials are expected to torture in violation of
their suspects' right to due process. The norm has been: not to
torture suspects is psychologically unthinkable.
This is not an exaggeration. After examining the cases that the AHRC
has carefully documented and analysed after the Anti-torture Law was
enforced, a pattern was observed. How and why the practice of torture
continues to be part of the fabric of Filipino society with or without
a law, is obvious.
No accountability for not investigating
Not to investigate a complaint of torture is very common. The absence
of any sort of accountability by investigating bodies is not seen as
anything wrong. This would include neglect, failure and inability to
investigate as would be expected. By law, any public official could be
laid with administrative charges for not performing their duty. But,
in practice, not to investigate is the norm, rather than the
If a victim or their family files an administrative case against the
officials of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) or the Public
Attorney Office (PAO), for not investigating a complaint, they would
be further ignored. A recent example is the public torture committed
by a former Mayor of Manila, Alfredo Lim. In this case, it means the
torture victims and their families, in practice, have to wait until
these agencies are good and ready to investigate and finally do their
Excessive delay in investigation
And even when the complaint is investigated, the completion
requirement of 60 days for the investigation never happens. The case
of Darius Evangelista, a victim whose torture was caught on video in
2010, has taken over a year to be completed. In comparison to other
torture cases, the progress of this case is quicker than usual, simply
because of public pressure urging that the policemen involved be
In other cases we have documented, from December 2009 onwards, the
agencies investigating these cases have yet to conclude any of their
investigations. Thus, the precedent established so far on the length
of a torture investigation to reach a conclusion, appears to be one
year at the earliest. It explains why, the CHR and PAO, could afford
to ignore demands to have former Manila Mayor Lim investigated for
torture two months ago.
No protection to victims and their families
The lack of complaint of torture does not mean there are no cases of
torture. Torture victims and their families choose not to complain for
fear of reprisals together with the absence of protection during the
process of complaint making. In the case of John Paul Nerio, a boy who
was tortured in police custody in December 2010, he and his family
decided to withdraw their complaint because of lack of protection.
There is a law which protects witnesses, as envisaged under the
Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act; however, this law only
protects witnesses, not the complainants or their family members.
Thus, once victims and their families face threats, their protection
would still, as it exists in the present structures, come from the
institution who committed the torture: the police. In the case of
Nerio, it did not work because in his remote area there are only a few
policemen. And most of those accused in his case already formed nearly
half of the police force in his community.
Distorted interpretation of the crime of torture
Under the Anti-Torture Law, an act of torture is defined in line with
the Convention against Torture (CAT), which means inflicting physical
and psychological pain on a victim for purposes of extracting a
confession. But the investigators, prosecutors and the judges put a
personal interpretation on the violation of torture which effectively
defeats any sort of remedy to eliminate torture. Some of examples are:
In Nerio's case, the PAO lawyer refused to prosecute this as a
criminal case of torture because he could not see any 'political
motivation' as to why the police would torture the boy. Torture is
political for this lawyer. The boy is an ordinary person who was not
involved in any kind of political activism; therefore, for this
lawyer, what the victim suffered could not be torture. This is despite
compelling evidence that pain was inflicted to force a confession.
In the case of Lenin and others, the prosecutor refused to indict the
policemen in a criminal case of torture. The reason they gave was
this: the victims, blindfolded when taken into police custody and
tortured, failed to see with their own eyes who perpetrated the
torture on them. The prosecutor deliberately ignored other materials
and circumstantial evidence that could have led to the indictment of
the policemen involved in the torture.
These are only a few of the many observations that the AHRC has
surfaced by examining the cases of torture since the Anti-Torture Law
was enforced. We are deeply concerned about how fast the enforcement
of this law is deteriorating. If the violators of the Anti-Torture Law
are not punished, the absolute freedom from torture, and the
Constitutional and Statutory right not to be tortured, would continue
to be meaningless.
ROY CIMAGALA, firstname.lastname@example.org
August 26, 2013
I’M happy to know that the
Vatican issued early this year a new edition of the Directory on the
Ministry and Life of Priests. The first edition came in 1994, under
Blessed John Paul II’s watch, after an extensive review of all
pertinent documents and reports on priesthood that came from different
places. It was a very rich document.
This new edition is one of
the last documents that Pope Benedict XVI approved before he resigned
in February. It puts in more data as to the new challenges priests
Let’s hope that this
directory gets to reach all the clergy, from bishops to priests and
even to those studying for the priesthood, since it truly gives a
global picture of who the priest is and how he should be. Now with all
the communication technologies we have, that concern should be no
problem at all.
Still, priests need to be
encouraged to study and assimilate this manual. Thus, I encourage even
our lay faithful, especially those who occupy some positions of
prominence in society, to be familiar with its content.
The laity can do a lot in
helping the clergy, just as clergy can also do a lot in helping the
laity. This, I believe, is part of what is called as organic mutual
relation between clergy and laity that is highly valued in the Church.
Next time you see priest, I
suggest that you ask him if he has read the document. I don’t think
that would be an impertinent intrusion into his privacy. With the
proper words, tone and timing, it can only mean genuine care for him,
and I am sure the priest would be thankful for the gesture.
Truth is with all the
complicating elements around – unfavourable bishops/priests,
clergy/laity ratios, inadequacies in seminary training, increasingly
secularized world, etc. – it’s important that priests be adequately
equipped to face the formidable challenges.
At this time, so sensitive
and delicate, it’s indispensable that we, priests, really know who we
are and how we are supposed to behave. In fact, as much as possible,
everybody should know this, so everyone can help promote, protect and
defend the true identity of priests.
We cannot deny that in many
occasions, the identity of priests has been blurred and distorted, and
cases of anomalies in priestly ministry and lifestyles have
multiplied. That’s why we have been having scandals right and left in
the recent past, and they are still evolving.
Obviously, we cannot expect
that all problems, irregularities and anomalies regarding priestly
life and ministry will disappear, but hopefully they can be minimized
and reduced to what we may call as “tolerable” levels.
The directory has three main
parts. The first one is on priestly identity that traces the basis in
concentric levels of who a priest is. There’s the Trinitarian level,
the Christological level and the Pneumatic (Spirit) level. Let’s hope
these roots of the priestly identity cease to remain mere abstract
Then the second part is on
priestly spirituality, which is very important, since that is how a
priest corresponds to his identity and mission. Without this
spirituality, or with a spirituality that is not suited to his status,
we will just do things badly. No doubt about that.
Yes, there are priests who
do not pray, who just act like performers when administering the
sacraments, etc. – why deny it – and these simply have to be
corrected, obviously also in an appropriate way. No forcing, of
course, and as much as possible, no scolding, but yes, a lot of
reminders, suggestions and even paternal or fraternal corrections.
Then the third part is on
priestly formation, which should always be ongoing. It’s something
that never stops, and in fact, it has to go to more subtle points and
ways the older and the more exposed to the world we, priests, become.
Woe to us when we feel we already have enough of formation!
This is a big and endless
challenge, and the appropriate attitudes, practices and structures
have to be put in place. Truth is at the moment, though a lot of
improvement has taken place in this respect, still a lot of things
need to be done.
We have to remember that the
role of priests in the Church and the world is strategic,
indispensable and irreplaceable. Everything has to be done to keep the
priests as they should be according to the mind of Christ, for they
are nothing less than other Christs as head of the Church. Where they
are, that’s where Christ is.
Priesthood is a tremendous
A statement against
the pork barrel scam
By Bishop Gerardo Alminaza,
Auxiliary Bishop of Jaro and Visayas Clergy Discernment Group (VCDG)
August 21, 2013
"Whoever can be trusted with
very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest
with very little will also be dishonest with much.” - Luke 16:10
We, bishops and priests of
the Visayas Clergy Discernment Group, ask President Benigno Aquino III
(PNOY), the Senators and Lower House Representatives to show to the
Filipino people that they honor the martyrdom of Ninoy Aquino by
taking steps in truly ending the culture of corruption and impunity in
We join Luis Cardinal
Tagle’s call for a thorough investigation, and appropriate punishment
for the culprits of the Pork Barrel Scam. PNOY must go after the
guilty lawmakers and other perpetrators, be they his allies or foes.
Furthermore, we suggest the following: Take the budget for the
Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) amounting to P25.240
billion away from the hands of the Senators and Lower House
Representatives. We also call on PNOY to give up his office’s
corresponding “pork barrel” which the Commission on Audit identified
as the Special Purpose Funds (P310.1 billion for 2014) and the
Unprogrammed Funds (P139.9 billion for 2014), totaling P499 billion!
These funds must be
entrusted to and managed by the sovereign people who are the REAL BOSS
of our ELECTED SERVANTS. It is unfortunate that our elected servants
can no longer be trusted with our people’s money, which we own. The
pork barrel system is one of the ROOT CANCERS that breeds the other
lethal diseases of corruption. It is not enough for the “Daang Matuwid”
to run after corrupt people AFTER THE DASTARDLY DEED HAS BEEN DONE. IT
is better to nip in the bud the ROOT of corruption. An ounce of
prevention is better than a pound of cure.
Moreover, everybody knows
that whatever guidelines Congress and the Executive might craft
regarding the pork barrel WILL NOT WORK; the system itself, which was
copied from the U.S.A., has been scrapped by their federal government.
During the World Youth Day
in July 2013, Pope Francis urged the Faithful to change a world where
food is discarded while millions go hungry, where politics is more
associated with corruption than service.
We therefore call on all
concerned sectors of the Philippine society to study and propose
appropriate mechanisms to RE-CLAIM OWNERSHIP of, and MANAGE the “pork
barrel” funds. The people’s money should be spent for the benefit of
the majority; especially for lifting the poor out of poverty, as
enjoined by our beloved Pope Francis.
Programs for genuine
agrarian reform, decent shelter for the informal settlers, free
education for our youth, and health services for our people must be
As we commemorate the 30th
anniversary of the assassination of Ninoy Aquino, may PNOY, the
lawmakers and all of us prove that indeed, Ninoy was not martyred in
vain; and that we are truly committed to a straight path by giving to
the people, especially the poor, what is due to them.
find jobs for their graduates?
By RON McGOWAN
August 20, 2013
This was the “Question of
the day” CNN posed for its’ viewers on April 4, 2013. It’s a question
that is increasingly being asked, in different ways, by graduates,
their families, and the public. It’s a question we should have been
asking at least twenty years ago. If we had, we would have
significantly fewer unemployed/underemployed graduates today.
Universities have been shortchanging their graduates for years and the
main culprits are the senior bureaucrats who are in charge of our
education system and the senior administrators in charge of our post
These people have never
missed a paycheque in their lives and their own work environment
doesn’t look any different from what it did fifty years ago. They have
no affinity whatever with the challenges their graduates are facing in
trying to find meaningful employment in today’s workplace.
Here are a few examples of
how universities/colleges can help their graduates:
In 2011, Tom Friedman, the
bestselling author and New York Times columnist, was in India where he
met Prem Kalra, the director of the Indian Institute of Technology in
Rajasthan. He told Friedman that he tells recruiters for major
companies to stay away from his campus. He wants his Indian students
to think about inventing their first jobs, not applying for them.
In the U.K., the heads of
five Further Education Colleges are working with venture capitalists
and entrepreneurs to help their graduates create their own jobs.
Fintan Donohue, the head of North Hertfordshire College said:
“Everyone is in favour of entrepreneurship, but we’re saying is that
colleges like ours need to embrace an entrepreneurial culture. We need
to be producing students who embrace self-employment and who are
prepared to walk out and create their own businesses.
reported in 2012 that six U.S. undergraduate business schools require
students to attend classes that prepare them for the process of
finding work. Most significantly, these classes are embedded in the
curriculum and students must complete them, just like all their other
classes, before they can graduate.
In World War II, the U.S.
was facing a critical shortage of ships. Henry Kaiser, the famed
industrialist, said he would solve the problem by building ships in
six weeks. The experts in the shipbuilding industry said he was a
fool; that this was impossible. But he did build his Liberty Ships in
That’s the kind of bold,
visionary initiative we need to help today’s graduates. It won’t come
from the government or the education sector. Not from a politician.
Not from a senior bureaucrat. Not from a senior educator: but from
another Henry Kaiser.
Ron McGowan is the author of the international bestseller “How to Find
WORK – In the 21st Century”. The 2013 edition has just been released
by Thames River Press and is available from Amazon and other
Scrap the pork
barrel, the fount of patronage politics
A press statement by NCCP on
the Pork Barrel System issue
August 14, 2013
“When the righteous are in
authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked rule, the people
groan.” (Proverbs 29:2)
The amount involved, the
outrageous sense of betrayal felt by the general public and the total
insensitivity of those involved to the greater majority of the people
boggle the mind. The scandal provokes sadness and anger. Sadness at
the plight of the people in the hands of its leaders. Anger over the
way people’s taxes have been misused.
This political decadence
brought about by the pork barrel is not new. It is a part of the
patronage politics that has plagued the electoral and political system
in this country. No less than the Budget Secretary himself said in
June 2012 that the “context of pork is ‘patronage politics’ and the
logic that drives the selection of projects and the disbursement of
many politicians’ pork funds, ‘pautakan lang ‘yan’ or ‘just play it
smart’” (PCIJ, July 22, 2013). The previous dispensation was an
example of patronage politics.
Thus, there is every reason
to be upset that the President who was elected via an anti-corruption
drive and a platform of “daang matuwid” is not keen on removing this
scourge. Instead, it will remain and may even be increased. Aside from
the P25 Billion for Congress, the Philippine Center for Investigative
Journalism (PCIJ) also reported that the office of the President is
allotted about P317.5B for special purpose funds and P117.5B for
unprogrammed funds in the proposed General Appropriation Act of 2013.
PCIJ said “disbursement record on these funds have hardly been
published online or disclosed to the citizens, despite repeated
There is neither
justification for the misuse of public funds by leaders while the
majority of the people wallow in want and vulnerability to disasters,
nor any moral ground in the failure of our leaders to be accountable.
The National Council of
Churches in the Philippines joins the groundswell to scrap the pork
barrel system. Let the funds be channelled to education, health,
housing and other social services. Let us be vigilant that the calls
for investigation will not be muddled by the patronage system. Let us
remain focused on the issue of corruption in high places diverted as
we are often by other issues.
To our leaders take heed
when you become dealers of the posterity and patrimony of this
country: “When the wicked are in authority, transgression increases;
but the righteous will look upon their downfall” (Proverbs 29:16).
Take heed that callous insensitivity and betrayal of the public trust
has led many of our people from imploring arms to defiant clenched
fists. The downfall of the foolish is swift.
Rev. Rex RB Reyes, Jr.
The Most Rev. Ephraim S.
Obispo Maximo XII, Iglesia Filipina Independiente
August 5, 2013
YES, why not? Why not launch
an anti-greed campaign and keep it going like some lifelong
maintenance mechanism in a world that has become rickety with all
sorts of moral sicknesses, with greed among the prominent ones?
We just have to look around,
and see greed and avarice and their many faces proliferating like
anything, from the individual level to the farthest global ends.
Many people are trapped in
an almost invincible grip of selfishness, pursuing nothing other than
their own self-interest and throwing any consideration for the common
good to the wind.
This is not to mention that
many have forgotten to relate their earthly business to God, to
consider it as a prayer and even an act of worship that is not only
pleasing to God but also most beneficial to everybody else.
We have been reminded in the
gospel about this aspect of our life. “Take care to guard against all
greed,” Christ said, “for though one may be rich, one’s life does not
consist of possession.” (Lk 12,14) We have been warned against storing
up treasure for oneself but not being rich in what matters to God.
Nowadays, many, in fact, do
not even know the idea of common good. And if there is anything they
do that would contribute one way or another to the common good, it’s
by sheer coincidence that it happens. Any deliberate effort to do
things for the common good is practically absent, if not openly
The world is drowning in a
sea of materialism and consumerism, with the spiritual values and the
supernatural destination of human life all but forgotten. It’s still
working under an increasing infusion of deceptive economic tricks, but
the illusion is also getting so increasingly untenable that things now
are approaching breaking point.
It seems that we are being
set up higher and higher in our materialistic and consumeristic ways
for a deeper and more painful crash sooner or later. The signs are
already there, and many of our leaders in politics, business, media
and even in the church are hesitant to give the bad news. The
predicament is practically left unattended.
Productivity is dropping,
even in an accelerated rate in some places, mainly because without the
support of the spiritual and supernatural elements of our life, people
have no way but to tend to become lazy, and simply wanting to be
comfortable, rich and continually entertained, and with narrow and
shallow understanding of things.
In the corridors of power
and influence, graft and corruption have practically become the SOP.
Just read the papers, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The
banking and financial sector continues to blow bubbles in the hope of
stimulating productive economic activity. But they now seem to pop out
soon after being launched.
We need to go back to God
and seriously relate our earthly business affairs to him and to his
plan and providence. We have to reassure ourselves that this is the
proper way to do business, taking us away from the tendency to be
swallowed up by the logic of the flesh and the world that cannot help
but lead us to greed and its ilk.
God and economics are not
two mutually exclusive realities. God’s eternal law includes the
economic laws proper to us as image and likeness of his, and children
At the moment, we seem to do
economics by practically ignoring God, or even openly opposing his
laws. The supreme law of charity is often considered as impractical
and impracticable. In short, that it is inhuman, anti-business and all
We need to change that
mindset. God and charity should be the be-all and end-all of our
economic affairs. We just cannot stop at the level of profitability or
practicality, making them the supreme goal of our businesses.
Without discarding them, we
need to go beyond them and aim at what really is the goal for us – God
and charity, which is the very essence of God and also the essence
meant for us precisely because we are God’s image and likeness, and
Doing business with God as
the origin, way and end in no way harms our economic activities. On
the contrary, it will broaden our perspective, sharpen our creativity,
foster our productivity, and increase our capacity to tackle whatever
challenges, burden or trials we may meet along the way.
Doing business with God in
mind and heart melts away the fears and doubts that often lead us to
be greedy and to pursue only our self-interests at the expense of the
From lego to
ROY CIMAGALA, email@example.com
July 19, 2013
Many children come to me and
talk very fondly about their lego toys. I must say that I had to do a
little research on lego, since in my kidhood years, there were no such
Thus, I discovered why they
like lego so much. It’s a child’s plastic construction set to make
mechanical models. It stirs their imagination and creativity, and
stimulates their liking for building things and making believe. It
challenges their ability to put into concrete form what they have in
They can choose either to be
very faithful to the models they want to copy, or they can introduce
innovations and even combinations. But still, lego is just a toy. It’s
more for fun and making fantasies or science fictions. It’s not
supposed to be taken seriously.
Nowadays, though, lego has
acquired another meaning, a figurative reference to a make-believe
world that we seem to be making in many aspects of our life. Thus, we
can hear people talking about the lego world in the global economy
that is supposed to be a far cry from what is really happening in that
area of the world’s life.
It seems that what was not
supposed to be taken seriously is now taken seriously. Fiction is now
made true-to-life. Fantasy is now considered real.
Which brings us to a much
deeper issue. And that is how do we correctly define reality? What is
reality, in the first place? Would things in one’s imagination and
dreams not qualify as part of reality?
Would reality be simply
defined as anything that has physical and material existence, anything
that can be measured, seen, weighed, smelled, felt, etc.? How about
ideas, judgments, reasonings, values, and other abstract or
non-tangible things? Would they not be considered real?
We need to tackle these
questions to resolve the issue of what reality is. We are supposed to
live in reality, we are supposed to be realistic, we are supposed to
be and to act real, but what is reality?
With the distinction between
objective and subjective, we can wonder whether one of them is real
and the other not. But it would seem unfair that what is subjective
would be considered wholesale as not real, just because it is
For sure, reality has
infinite aspects and possibilities, because it simply does not only
include material and tangible things. It also covers non-tangible
things that can lend themselves to an infinity of levels, aspects,
If we just consider our
ideas and what consequences, implications and possibilities they can
spawn, then we would somehow be convinced that reality is indeed a
very complicated thing.
I imagine that to simplify
the need to effectively grapple with reality, we need to go to the
very author of reality, which in the end is definitely not us, nor
somebody or something else that is merely sensible or even
intelligible, but a supreme, eternal being whom we consider to be God.
He is the creator and
therefore is the very author of the whole of creation. In short, he is
the very author of reality in all its levels, aspects and
possibilities. In short, if we have to effectively deal with reality,
then we need to engage ourselves with the Creator, who is God.
This would require some
faith, which again should be part of reality, since this God as the
creator of all things simply cannot be fully grasped by us, and yet he
is real. In fact, he is the very foundation of reality, and all
reality must revolve around him.
But he is beyond the world
of the sensible and the intelligible. Not that he is not in the
sensible and the intelligible. He is right there as he is everywhere,
but he also transcends them. That’s why, we can somehow sense and
understand him, but we cannot fully comprehend him.
In other words, to
effectively grapple with reality involves developing in us a certain
piety, a certain intimacy in our relation with God the Creator. It
cannot be any other way, since ignoring him can only at best let us
touch reality by mere coincidence.
Ignoring God the Creator
would lead us to the great danger of having a shallow, narrow, rigid
if not distorted and even wrong grasp of reality. Though these latter
situations would still be part of reality, they are that part that is
not supposed to be.
Vitally engaging with God
our Creator, through prayer and study of his doctrine, brings us to
the dynamism of reality that God himself maintains and directs both in
time and eternity.