Wednesday, February 10, 2010
HEALTH WORKERS TORTURED IN PHILLIPINES
Forty three health workers arrested at a seminar in the Phillipines a few days are undergoing torture. The military claims the health workers were making bombs. The 43 health workers who were arrested Saturday morning in Morong, Rizal province.
After three days, relatives and colleagues were finally able to visit the ...43 detainees in Camp Capinpin, in Tanay, Rizal, through the intervention of Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairperson Leila de Lima, who earlier denounced the military for refusing access to those detained.
The following is from Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Health workers tortured
By Alcuin Papa
MANILA, Philippines—The head of the Commission on Human Rights has accused the military of subjecting to “psychological torture” the 43 health workers who were arrested in Morong, Rizal, last Saturday on suspicion that they were communists.
“They are continuously handcuffed and blindfolded, they are not allowed to sleep, they are not allowed to feed themselves. Even when they use the bathroom, someone else is there to take off their underwear,” said CHR Chair Leila de Lima.
Blindfolding is a form of mental or psychological torture under the Anti-Torture Act, or Republic Act 9745, said De Lima who led a CHR team in interviewing the detainees at Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal, on Monday.
Right to counsel denied
She said the health workers were denied the right to counsel despite their repeated demands for a lawyer during interrogation.
Dr. Geneve E. Rivera, secretary general of the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) nongovernment organization, who was with De Lima, also confirmed the allegations of torture.
She said the detainees told them the military has been “torturing” them since their arrest last Saturday in the Morong resort owned by Dr. Melecia Velmonte attending a training seminar on public health. The military alleged they were members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) planning destabilization campaigns.
“Based on accounts of the detainees, the [Armed Forces] subjected them to various forms of torture and sexual harassment,” said Rivera.
They were handcuffed and blindfolded for more than 36 hours and were also denied food and bathroom privileges, she said.
Rivera said the detainees were confined in dark cells and forced to listen to sounds of gunfire. They were not allowed to speak to each other and were slapped around every night. The detainees were also forced to admit that they were NPA members.
Sore arms and wrists
“One of the detained men already had sore arms and wrists from being tied down for so long,” added Rivera.
She said that Dr. Alex Montes, whom the military has accused of being a member of a special NPA unit sent to kill retired general Jovito Palparan, was electrocuted and repeatedly hit on the chest while being questioned.
The pain was so unbearable that after several hours of taking the brutal punishment the 62-year-old Montes was willing to admit to anything, she said.
Rivera said that family members, when they were finally allowed to see the detainees last Monday, were taunted by a certain Col. Aurelio Baladad who called them “paid actors who are not really relatives of the detained.”
The workers’ families and the Community Medicine Development Foundation, the organizers of the seminar, have filed a habeas corpus petition with the Supreme Court, asking the high court to compel the military to bring the detainees before a judge or court, and to protect them against illegal punishment.
Abuse of discretion and authority
Named respondents in the petition were Armed Forces Chief Gen. Victor Ibrado, Philippine National Police Chief Director General Jesus Verzosa, Philippine Army Commander Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit, Army 2nd Infantry Division chief Gen. Jorge Segovia, 202nd Infantry Brigade Commander Col. Aurelio Baladad, and Rizal PNP chief Supt. Marion Balonglong.
At the Senate, Sen. Pia Cayetano, chair of the committee on social justice, Tuesday filed a resolution seeking a Senate inquiry into the “abuse of discretion and authority” of the military and police who arrested the health workers. With Norman Bordadora, Nikko Dizon and Christine Avendaño