Amnesty International, the human rights organization that is conducting the Stop Torture campaign in various countries, said police torture is prevalent in the Philippines and called on Filipinos to help stop this practice.
At the launch of its report in Quezon City on Thursday, Steven Crawshaw, assistant to Salil Shetty, secretary-general of Amnesty International, said police torture “is commonplace in the Philippines and impunity for it the norm.
He added that he was shocked that despite many complaints against 50 suspected police torturers, not a single police officer has ever been convicted.
Amnesty International, in a report titled “Above the Law: Police Torture in the Philippines,” claimed that it has established that police have unofficial and secret detention centers where torture of suspects is likely to take place.
Based on interviews with 55 survivors including 21 who were children when they suffered torture, two survived being shot and left for dead.
Summary execution is also a common police malpractice, the report added.
Of the 36 cases referred to the Office of the Ombudsman in 2013, not one was recommended for prosecution, an indication of the level of impunity that the police seem to enjoy, the group said.
A photo included in the report is that of a “wheel of fortune” or roulette with which the police allegedly torture prisoners for fun.
The wheel indicates the torture method they would use on the prisoners.
The report gave accounts of how the survivors were tortured by being beaten, threatened with a gun, handcuffed, blindfolded and dragged away in public as if they were convicted criminals.
It said 43 detainees were found and rescued in a secret torture facility but only 23 filed complaints against the police.
No resolution of the complaints has been made by prosecutors.
Torture methods used by the police are water-boarding, near-asphyxiation with plastic-bags over prisoners’ heads and burning prisoners with lighted cigarettes.
Of the survivors, 33 told Amnesty International that they had suffered beatings and blows to the body and 20 said they were hit with truncheons, rifle butts and bludgeoned with other hard objects.
Sixteen of the survivors were tortured with electric shocks and others said they were blindfolded and forced to squat in “stress” positions.
All said they were deprived of food and water for long periods.
Two victims said they were stripped naked and strings or wires were tied to their genitalia and repeatedly pulled by police torturers.
The report contains statements and accounts of Alfreda Disbarro and Jerryme Corre, who both survived horrific acts of torture.
Children are not exempt from torture, it said.
Amnesty interviewed 21 who were children when arrested and tortured.
They had their fingers crushed, were forced to hang from prison cell bars for long periods and made to do stressful physical activities and ill-treated in other ways.
The report said the practices uncovered are violations of international treaties and protocols to which the Philippines has agreed.
Father Shay Cullen, founder of the Preda Foundationfor human rights based in Olongapo City, said the report was too narrow in its focus and did not go far enough in revealing the truth behind the abuse, ill-treatment and torture of children in government municipal detention centers where they are brought by police and brutalized.
“It could have delved deeper into the horrific conditions of children held in dozens of detention centers where they are beaten, deprived, sexually abused and criminally neglected,” Cullen said.
He added that the Philippine NGO community has not been invited to participate in the campaign and the long years of work and effort to reveal and highlight torture of children ought to be supported by Amnesty.
“They didn’t come to our rally for Francisco,” Cullen said.
“Francisco” was tortured when he was 12 years old. He was photographed, thrown on the ground naked, starved and beaten.
“Hundreds of other children were overlooked by Amnesty. They need to reach out to the NGO community and listen and work with them because they are in jails and prisons and meet and document these victims of torture,” he added.
“This launch was a great start by Amnesty International and we will do all to make it succeed .It was an opportunity to give greater prominence, publicity and inspiration to the Philippine public but it fell short. We hope the campaign itself will be more robust and inclusive,” he added.