Philippines: Persistence of torture and ill-treatment

News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International

Philippines: Persistence of torture in the Philippines

AI Index: ASA 35/003/2003 (Public)
24 January 2003

"The persistence of torture and ill-treatment in the Philippines highlights 
a serious discrepancy between the law and its application within the 
criminal justice system," Amnesty International said today launching a 
report on torture Philippines: Torture persists: appearance and reality 
within the criminal justice system" (ASA 35/001/2003).

On paper the critical elements necessary for the prevention of torture and 
other grave human rights violations are already in place. The Philippines 
has ratified the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman of 
Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Convention against Torture) and other 
key human rights standards and has also established the Philippine 
Commission on Human Rights (PCHR).

"Yet torture persists, constituting one of the most serious assaults on the 
principle of respect for human dignity," the international human rights 
organization added.

Techniques of torture used in recent years and documented by Amnesty 
International mirror those used in the 1970s and 1980s. These torture 
methods include electro-shocks, the use of plastic bags to suffocate 
detainees, burning detainees with cigarettes, beating with fists, metal 
pipes or gun barrels and placing chilli peppers on the detainees' eyes or 

These horrific techniques are used to extract information and force 
confessions. Those most at risk of torture are alleged members of armed 
opposition groups and their suspected sympathisers, ordinary criminal 
suspects and members of poor or marginalized communities, including women 
and children, who are suspected of committing criminal acts.

"The government of the Philippines must take immediate steps to prevent 
torture and ill-treatment in custody," Amnesty International stressed. 
"Urgent action is required to break the cycle of impunity".

The report also refers to a number of case studies where safeguards failed 
to prevent the use of torture or to facilitate its prosecution. One such 
case is that of the 'Abadilla Five' in which methods of torture including 
electro-shock, beating and suffocation were used to force suspects to 
'confess' to the murder of Colonel Rolando Abadilla in June 1996. Five 
suspects were convicted and sentenced to death. The Department of Justice 
has recently made a public commitment to re-open investigations into 
allegations of torture in this case.

In the report Amnesty International issues a number of recommendations 
based on the detailed safeguards set out by the UN Human Rights Committee, 
the UN Committee Against Torture and the UN Special Rapporteur on torture. 
Some of the key recommendations include:

     * legislation defining and penalizing torture which fully reflect the 
provisions of the Convention against Torture;
     * operational codes ensuring that officers identify themselves, inform 
suspects of the reason for arrest and of their rights including access to 
counsel, family members and medical assistance;
     * re-informing detainees of their rights (including the right against 
self-incrimination, the right to remain silent and the right to have a 
lawyer present) prior to interrogation;
     * keeping thorough documentation of interrogations including the names 
of all participants and prohibiting the blind-folding and hooding of 
suspects and the use of unofficial places of detention ;
     * evidence at trial which has been obtained through torture should not 
be accepted except as testimony against those who have used torture.


The 'People's Power' uprising and ousting of President Marcos and accession 
of President Corazon Aquino in 1986 led to the restoration of democracy, 
revival of a free press and the adoption of wide-ranging constitutional and 
legislative human rights safeguards. However, these positive developments 
did not lead to the elimination of torture or an erosion of a climate of 
impunity shielding perpetrators.

The report, Philippines: Torture persists: appearance and reality within 
the criminal justice system, is available at:

All AI documents on the Philippines:

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