Torture survivors tell UN their story

Phil UPR Watch with OMCTGeneva, Switzerland – Victims of human rights abuses under the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo administration traveled all the way to Geneva to tell their stories of torture during the 42nd Session of the UN Committee Against Torture.

The UN human rights body is reviewing the Philippine government's compliance with the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Punishment.

Farmer Raymond Manalo, who suffered 18 horrible months of barbarity in the hands of the military, and Berlin Guerrero, a United Church of Christ in the Philippines pastor who was abducted and tortured by naval intelligence elements, narrated their ordeals before the Committee at Palais Wilson.

Manalo, also confirmed his previous personal vivid account on the disappearance, unspeakable maltreatment, sexual abuse, and involuntary servitude of UP students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno; the killing and burning of farmer Manuel Merino as well as the disappearance and summary execution of several other civilians.

Together with Manalo and Guerrero were Philippine Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Watch human rights defenders Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Karapatan Secretary General; Edre Olalia, Karapatan Special Legal Consultant for UN Mechanisms; and Trisha Garvida, Karapatan intern, joined by other Geneva-based Filipinos under Migrante International.

Human rights organizations gave a briefing to the 10-member Committee on their data, views, and analysis of the county's human rights condition. The Committee posed questions with keen interest and concern.

Enriquez presented Karapatan's Joint Report with the Geneva-based World Organization against Torture (OMCT) UNCAT Spl.Rapporteur Felice Gaer of USA and Atty. Olaliaendorsed by Bayan, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilpinas, Kalikasan, Center for Environmental Concerns, Amihan and Center for Trade Union and Human Rights and other organizations. She said many people “believe that torture has now become a covert national policy, together with extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and other grievous rights violations resorted to by the State to quell the protests and dissent of the people.”

Karapatan said their analysis is based on about 1,016 cases they have monitored and documented since President Arroyo took power in 2001. Various forms of abuses continue to be leveled against ordinary citizens all over the country in the name of counter-insurgency.

The joint report also noted that attacks against human right defenders, church people and other social sectors are on the upswing following 20 cases of extra-judicial killings recorded beginning January 2009.  

Guerrero, Manalo, Atty. OlaliaPhilippine UPR Watch lamented that the Arroyo government has not only turned a blind eye on torture but has allowed it to perpetuate.  Perpetrators have not been punished, and instead they are being installed in government.  They pointed to the unrepentant violator Ret. Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, Jr. who was dubiously included as one of the new members in the House of Representatives through a party list that rode on the very same mindset that resulted in these violations.

The delegation appealed to the Committee to (1) call the attention of the government to make real its commitments to uphold human rights, (2) stop torturing its citizens and (3) make the perpetrators accountable.#