Karapatan statement on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture

As we mark the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture this June 26th, we denounce torture and reaffirm our support for victims and survivors of this grave human rights violation.

In the Philippines, torture persists despite the enactment of Republic Act No. 9745 or the Anti-Torture Act of 2009, which punishes torture inflicted by a person in authority on someone in his or her custody. It persists in spite of the issuance in 2012 of Administrative Order 35 (AO 35) which created a task force to investigate and prosecute torture, among other grave violations of human rights like extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.

According to reports, fifteen years after RA 9745’s enactment, convictions under the Anti-Torture Act are a drop in the bucket, despite findings by human rights groups that torture remains a prevalent practice of police and military forces in the country, especially in forcing out confessions from persons they have arbitrarily or illegally detained or were in their custody.

AO 35 has an even more miserable record, with not a single conviction for torture.

Torture, in its many forms, is very much real under the Marcos Jr. regime. To date, there are 27 victims of torture under the current administration.

Activist couple Dyan Gumanao and Armand Dayoha and environmental activists Jonila Castro, Jhed Tamano, Francisco “Eco” Dangla III, and Jak Tiong who were abducted by suspected State agents in separate incidents, suffered physical, mental and psychological torture in the hands of their abductors who tried to pressure them to spy against their organizations and lie about their advocacies.

Jonila and Eco’s abductors repeatedly threatened them and their families with death, mutilation and other bodily harm. Jonila and her companion Jhed Tamano endured this torture for 17 days before they were surfaced and able to seize the opportunity to speak the truth about their disappearance. Their abductors had wanted them to say that they “surrendered.”

Eco and his companion Joxelle “Jak” Tiong were physically and mentally tortured for two days before being surfaced.

Dyan and Armand were blindfolded, shunted from one safehouse to another and underwent the same ordeal for six days, of not knowing whether their abductors would make good on their threats of killing them and their families.

Instead of investigating and prosecuting the perpetrators for the well-documented and articulated torture, abduction and illegal detention of Jonila and Jhed, however, the Department of Justice (DOJ), the lead agency in AO 35, has filed a case of grave oral defamation against the two activists. Under the Marcos Jr. regime, AO 35 has kept up its role of turning a blind eye and whitewashing torture and other human rights violations.

We shall support the victims and survivors of torture by keeping their stories alive and raising public awareness about this and other despicable violations of human rights in our continuing struggle to exact justice and accountability from the perpetrators.