Karapatan warns terror bill will embolden State forces to commit torture, rights violations

As the world marked the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture yesterday, June 26, human rights watchdog Karapatan warned that the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 will “alarmingly enable and worsen the use of torture and other brutal forms of state violence in the government's counterinsurgency and counterterror campaigns.” 

Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said that "the rabid proponents of the Anti-Terrorism Act propagate the lie that the proposed measure will not be abused while, in the same breath, eschewing the human rights safeguards in the already draconian Human Security Act."

"Even without the Anti-Terrorism Act and even with the supposed human rights safeguards in the current Human Security Act, the use of various forms of torture, red-tagging, and other human rights violations such as the illegal arrests, abductions, enforced disappearances, and killings of activists and dissenters have continued with rampant impunity especially under the Duterte administration. We cannot trust the honeyed words of sycophants when the reality of State violence and repression is as clear as day," Palabay continued.

Under the Human Security Act, Aeta peasant Edgar Candule was arrested by elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) without a warrant on March 21, 2008 in Botolan, Zambales and was illegally detained at Camp Conrado Yap for three days where he was tied to a monobloc chair, interrogated without legal counsel, physically tortured through repeated punches and electrocution to force him to admit to the crime of terrorism. On October 20, 2010, the Zambales Regional Trial Court Branch 69 granted the motion to dismiss the charge but Candule is yet to be compensated at least PHP 470 million, which he is entitled to under the Human Security Act.

The Karapatan officer said that "the provision of the Human Security Act on damages for unproven charge of terrorism and unlawful arrests did not deter the police in illegally arresting, torturing and detaining Edgar Candule. Now they are removing this crucial safeguard in the proposed Anti-Terrorism Bill because it supposedly made the Human Security Act ‘toothless.’ What they want is a law that can allow them to commit torture and State repression without any fear of being held accountable!"

Yesterday, the 14th year of the abduction of University of the Philippines students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan was also commemorated. The two women, together with farmer Manuel Merino, remain missing after being taken by military agents under the directives of then-Major General and convicted kidnapper Jovito Palparan Jr. Farmer and eyewitness Raymond Manalo, who was also abducted by Palparan’s men on February 14, 2006 and was tortured in several military camps in Central Luzon with his older brother Reynaldo, testified before the Bulacan Regional Trial Court that he saw the missing students being held captive, tortured, and sexually molested and mutilated by Palparan’s men.

"As we commemorate and demand justice for torture victims on International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, we must oppose and resist any law that seeks to enable more forms of torture and human rights violations such as the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act. History is replete with numerous examples and cases on how the police and military are undeterred by human rights safeguards in our laws to commit abuses. A law like the Anti-Terrorism Act, which removes human rights safeguards in our anti-terrorism policies, will only result to more torture victims and unleash more terrifying forms of State terrorism," she ended.