The military led Brig. Gen. Jorge Segovia, the commander of the 2nd Infantry Division continues to deny that they tortured the 43 health workers they arrested and accused of being members of the New People’s Army (NPA) last Saturday. According to them, the process of arrest and the conditions of the victims’ detention were all well and above-board. Humane, they said. No human rights violations were committed, and certainly no torture!
Textbook definitions from the United Nations Secretariat publications: “Perpetrators often attempt to justify their acts of torture and ill-treatment by the need to gather information. One of the central aims of torture is to reduce an individual to the position of extreme helplessness and distress that can lead to a deterioration of cognitive, emotional and behavioral functions. The torturer aims to not only physically incapacitate a victim, but also to disintegrate a person’s personality, his sense of being grounded in a family and society as a human being with dreams, hopes and aspirations for the future.
“The distinction between physical and psychological methods of torture is artificial. For instance, sexual torture generally causes both physical and psychological symptoms even when there has been no physical assault.”
No torture? The victims were arrested and they were not informed of their supposed crime when they handcuffed, blindfolded, then forced into a truck with no knowledge of where they were being taken. In detention, they were kept handcuffed, denied sustenance, subjected to questioning and interrogation for hours on end and threatened with death during instances when they were too befuddled, scared and tired to answer. They were denied legal counsel. They were denied the right to be seen by their families and colleagues who rushed to give aid and rescue. They were treated like the criminals they were not and it was a very long and draining two days of uncertainty. Their lives, they must have felt hung in the balance and it took courage and a strong sense of their own rights to remain silent.
No torture? To be accused of being an NPA member and to be at the hands of the military is torture enough. The victims were constantly ACCUSED of being NPA, they were THREATENED, and they were INTERROGATED without the option of remaining silent as was their right. If it were not for the swift response of human rights organizations and the victims’ own families under the direction of the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) and the Community Health Development (CHD), who knows what worse things could have happened?
No torture. It makes me sick to hear and read about the excuses of the military and their continued excuse for the illegal arrest, illegal detention, and their continuing insistence that the 43 are NPA members caught in the middle of a supposed training session on bomb making! They twist and violate the very laws they declare they’re precisely upholding and then thrown these out the window. They refuse to adhere to international humanitarian law and the Philippine law prohibiting torture, and they say that the manner by which they arrested the victims and continue to detain them are justified because the victims are NPA — ANO DAW?!
There is no justifying what the military has done and continues to do to the 43. There are laws and statutes governing the conduct of the war between the AFP and the NPA; there are laws regarding arrests and the treatment of suspects. But beyond and more important than all these laws is BASIC HUMANITY. How dare they treat the 43 health personnel in the manner that they did? What does it say about the nature, character and orientation of the AFP but that the very institution, its members and the government the protect and defend are inhumane and inhuman and moronic to boot.
RA 9745 which was principally authored by Bayan Muna Rep and now Makabayan and Nacionalista Party senatorial bet Satur Ocampo was approved only last year, but I guess the government’s armed forces are too busy abducting or killing civilians to have read read about it.
The Anti-Torture Law criminalizes all forms of torture — physical, mental, psychological and pharmacological. It disallows any justification for torture and other inhuman punishments. Torturers will be penalized as principals, as well as their superiors in the military, police or law enforcement establishments who ordered the torture.
The law orders a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Other penalties range from a minimum of six months to a maximum of 12 years of imprisonment depending on the gravity of the offense.
In this case, the AFP’s 22nd IB is guilty of torture and they must be made to face criminal and administrative sanctions. It makes one seethe with the knowledge that we can only demand for these beasts to respect our rights.
The AFP has refused to to present the 43. This is outrageous arrogance in defiance of the law. The AFP’s refusal should not be taken lightly and should be seen as an act of betrayal of the very laws the institution and its members are supposedly upholding. There is no believing the attempts of the AFP to justify its refusal as hinged on logistical problems — that’s hogwash. The habeas corpus order is a sancrosanct measure, and the AFP thumbed its nose at it, this is not to be borne sitting down.
Most likely, the AFP is highly apprehensive at the idea of presenting the 43 because the accusations that they suffered torture at the hands of their captors will be proven true. What are they afraid of? They have so far been arrogant to the point of conceit saying that the 43 are NPA members and that they suffered no mistreatment. Their refusal to present the 43 should be construed as an act of fear: they are now going to force the consequences of their illegal actions and their false charges against their victims.
The Supreme Court should be allowed to hear the testimonies of the 43 victims regarding their ordeal. No doubt, it will be exposed that the military abused its authority and violated civil, political and human rights laws left and right in the raid, the manner of arrest, their handling of the victims and their refusal to present the said 43 to court.
In the meantime, it goes without saying that Morong 43 continue to suffer torture in captivity. Again, the very fact that the victims are constantly being accused of being NPA members while in the hands of the military is torture by itself — everyone knows how the AFP has no respect for international humanitarian law when it comes to the treatment of captured NPA. These civilians are tortured every second while under the ‘caretaking’ of the military. They must be released at once and their captors must be made to face administrative and criminal charges for all the law breaking they have done to justify the victims’ arrest.
Imagine it were your friend, your colleague, your husband, your wife, your mother, your father, your sister OR YOU the military had arrested. They charge you of being an NPA member, they threaten your life, the lives of those nearest and closest to you. You deny the accusations, you plead for mercy and within you, bewilderment grows and so does fear as you realize that you are in the hands of the ruthless, relentless and unthinking. They slap you, punch you, won’t allow you to sleep or even just close your eyes and hence make a temporary escape from the hell they have been thrown you in. They refuse to acknowledge your rights. They refuse to hear your explanations that your are but a civilian, albeit one who serves the poor and commits to the cause of the genuine democracy and freedom for the oppressed of this country. They tell you, “You’re an NPA member –you have no rights,” and they deny you legal counsel. Your very humanity is being stripped away from you with every insult, every slap, every punch or kick on your body exhausted beyond the strength you usually devote to your work. In the eyes of the military you are no one and nothing.
This is the message the AFP is making with its refusal to present the 43: they are above the law. Truly, monsters recognize nothing and respect nothing but their own monstrosity.