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Police torture video affirms police stations are 'torture chambers'

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission
August 19, 2010

On August 17, a national television ABS CBN broadcast the graphic video of a man being tortured by a policeman inside a police station in Tondo, Metro Manila. In the video, the torture victim, whom reports said had been arrested for theft, had his penis pulled by a string tied around it as he was lying on the floor naked. He was beaten every time he folded his body as he tried to reach his genitals in pain. The torture took place in front of several policemen who are also attached to the same police station.

It was the brave act of the informant, whose identity was kept confidential, that made this video widely known to the public possible. It exposed the state of policing in the Philippines. The video is perhaps shocking for others but what is more shocking is that it is by no means the only one of this type. It is however, the first such video to be made public. As the informant had told the television reporter: these incidents increase if there is an increase in robbery incidents (in the community); and the (police) make sure nobody sees it. It explains the wrong attitude of the police on 'crime prevention'.

In this video, the policeman who tortured the victim, Senior Inspector Joselito Binayug, is not an ordinary officer. He is the chief of the said police station; and his subordinates were watching him as he was torturing the victim. When he told the victim: "dito bawal ang snatcher (snatchers are prohibited here) ", he was telling him that anyone who commits crimes in his area of responsibility would suffer the same fate. That is what Sr. Insp. Binayug and his subordinates, who did nothing to stop him from torturing the victim, understand of investigation and policing in reality.

To instil fear by demonstrating unthinkable pain and humiliation them remains, for them, the practical and cost-efficient method of investigation. The police took offence at suspected criminals who commit crimes and get away unpunished in their area that is why they deal with them in this manner once they catch them. This is not an isolated case, contrary to what the police establishment would want to tell the public in their defence. This is rather an unwritten policy that is heavily embedded and well-practiced in the minds of the police in investigating and preventing crimes.

When Police Director Leocadio Santiago, of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), made comments on the torture video, he said: "I've gone through physical interrogation before. I've conducted it but not to the extent that it would be sadistic, there are boundaries and parameters". His comments had no pretence at all that the policemen, including him, do harm their arrestees; and that this practice is acceptable to a certain extent only the police would know. The notion of the absolute prohibition of torture does exist not in their minds. This type of mentality is deeply embedded and shared largely by the police and the military.

While this video is now widely known many of these incidents go unreported. The majority of the Filipino people's reaction was disbelief, some would say: "this can't be", also illustrates their denial and difficulty of coming to terms as to how cruel their policemen could become. In a largely religious country, there is supposedly a certain level of behaviour and morals of people in civilized society; however, this incident shatters the people's conservative thought. Only when the people come to terms with this and try to understand the fundamental reasons behind it will the discussion on police torture in the country be substantial. There must be an acceptance first that in the country's supposed civilized society this has s ince been happening. The Filipinos and the outside world have seen how cruel and barbaric the policemen could become.

This case is neither indiscriminate nor isolated, but rather targeted and systematic practice as methods of investigation and crime prevention by the law enforcement agencies and the security forces. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has documented numerous cases of torture that took place inside police station and military camps. This incident also illustrates that torture is also used against ordinary people, not necessarily for political reasons, who often had no connections and influence in the society. They are people whom the police and the military would thought either incapable of or would not challenge their authority.

The AHRC further urges the concerned government agencies, in particular the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the Department of Justice (DoJ), to determine the plight of the torture victim in the video, in addition to having the policemen involved investigated. The investigation, as required by the Anti-Torture Act of 2009, must also be completed immediately. The CHR and the DoJ should also ensure that the informant should be afforded with necessary protection should he decide to stand as witness in the investigation and prosecution of the case. However, regardless of whether the victim wishes to testify, there is sufficient evidence in the video to charge and convict the police officers involved.