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For immediate release - 29/04/2009 16:27:56
A PASTOR TESTIFIES HE WAS TORTURED IN THE PHILIPPINES
Claims made by the Philippines government to a good human rights track
record "are utterly false", Rev. Berlin Guerrero told the United Nations
Committee against Torture this week. A victim of torture himself, Guerrero
said the government of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is
"remiss in its responsibility to prevent torture".
A pastor of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Guerrero
stated that "church people have not been spared from torture". "Most of
the victims of torture among church people are from member churches of the
National Council of Churches in the Philippines, and I am one of those who
have been victimized," he said.
According to the human rights group Karapatan (Alliance for the
Advancement of People's Rights), between 2001 and 2008 there were 1,010
documented victims of torture in the Philippines. Extra judicial killings
over the same period amounted to 991.
Guerrero spoke before the 42nd session of the UN Committee against Torture
meeting in Geneva, Switzerland this week to review the human rights record
of Philippines and other countries. He was sponsored by the World Council
of Churches (WCC) Commission of the Churches in International Affairs.
Guerrero was abducted on 27 May 2007 in front of his family, soon after
Sunday worship at the local UCCP church in Malaban, Biñan. "No warrant of
arrest was shown despite our pleas and protests," he recalled in his
statement to the UN committee.
After "one year, three months and 15 days", he was released because of the
"insufficiency of evidence" against him. "To experience this kind of
persecution strengthened and confirmed my faith," he says. "While in
detention I was happy to be able to serve the prison community by starting
a Christian ministry to my fellow detainees."
When he visited the WCC offices in Geneva on 28 April, Guerrero was
welcomed by WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia. During a visit to
the Philippines in November 2007 at the helm of an international
delegation, Kobia had joined the campaign for Guerrero's liberation,
publicly calling for his release.
According to Guerrero, thanks to an international campaign in which
churches have played a crucial role, the extra judicial executions in the
Philippines have decreased. But "with general elections scheduled for 2010
they are peaking again, with a rate of one person killed
every week," he says.
"The WCC will continue supporting the efforts of human rights defenders in
the Philippines," Kobia told Guerrero, who was accompanied by Karapatan
general secretary Marie Hilao-Enriquez, and by Raymond Manalo, another
A farmer's ordeal
Manalo, a 27-year old farmer in San Ildefonso, in the northern province of
Bulacan, was abducted together with his brother Reynaldo on 14 February
2006. He was held for 18 months in three different secret detention
facilities within military camps.
"The soldiers beat us with pieces of wood on our backs and different parts
of our bodies, beat us with chains, burn different parts of our bodies
with cigarettes and heated metal tin, kicked us with their combat boots
on, hit us with the butts of their rifles, poured gasoline on my waist and
legs while threatening to burn me," Manalo told the UN committee.
He witnessed "soldiers summarily killing civilians whom they accused of
being rebels or aiding them" as well as other captives being tortured.
After admitting to his captors' accusations, the torture was eased and he
entered a slave work regime.
Manalo escaped with his brother in August 2007. With help from human
rights organizations he was able to obtain a writ of amparo - a legal
remedy for victims of extrajudicial killings or enforced disappearances -
and in September 2008 filed criminal complaints against members of the
military he was able to identify amongst his torturers.
"I do not want this ordeal to happen to anybody else. I wish that the
extrajudicial killings, disappearances and torture in my country will stop
[…] I hope that President Gloria Arroyo will end the impunity," Manalo
told the UN committee.
WCC work on human rights:
WCC member churches in the Philippines:
42nd Session of the UN Committee against Torture:
Additional information: Juan Michel,+41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363
The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness
and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of
churches founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 349 Protestant,
Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million
Christians in over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman
Catholic Church. The WCC general secretary is Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, from
the Methodist Church in Kenya.
Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.
Statement on behalf of the
Commission of Churches on International Affairs of the
World Council of Churches (CCIA WCC) read at the
42nd Session of the Committee Against Torture
We thank the World Council of Churches’ Commission of Churches on
International Affairs (WCC CCIA) for their support to this statement. We
also take this opportunity to thank the Committee for letting me speak
about my ordeal.
The Philippine government in its report to the Committee has claimed that
it “has always been conscious of its obligation to respect, protect,
promote and fulfill the rights of its citizens”. The report added that it
“has not been remiss in its responsibility to prevent torture in all its
forms” and that “ there are enough legislative, judicial, and
administrative measures that give effect to the provisions of the
Convention”, the reality on the ground, sadly shows the contrary.
From 2001 to 2008, there were 1,016 victims of torture in the Philippines,
according to the group Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s
Rights). Church people have not been spared from torture. Most of the
victims of torture among church people are from member churches of the
National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) and I am one of
those who have been victimized.
I am a Pastor of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, 48 years
old and married. I was abducted on May 27, 2007 at around 6:00 in the
evening following Sunday worship at the UCCP local church in Malaban,
Biñan, Laguna, where I was assigned as administrative pastor. I was on
board a motored tricycle with my family when two unmarked vans suddenly
blocked our path. Armed men alighted, pointed their guns at us, and
forcibly shoved me into one of the vans with no plate numbers. No warrant
of arrest was shown despite our pleas and protests.
Inside the van I was blindfolded and handcuffed. I was brought to a
“safehouse” where I was tortured. I was, threatened with death and harm to
my family. They suffocated me by wrapping my head with layers of plastic
bags. Twice I passed out only to be awakened for more physical abuse. I
was being forced to admit that I was an officer of the Communist Party of
the Philippines and was training NPA guerrillas inside our seminary..
Then, I was brought to the National Police Camp in,Imus, Province of
Cavite. Only then was I informed that my arrest was based on a warrant
issued for a murder case in 1990. I learned later that the men who
detained and tortured me before turning me over to the police were from
the Naval Intelligence Security Force.
I languished in jail for one year, three months, and 15 days before the
Court of Appeals Third Division released me in the custody of my lawyers.
The Court of Appeals ruled against the insufficiency of evidence to
constitute probable cause in the murder charge against me. The case was
finally dismissed in September 23, 2008.
My case shows that the Philippine government is remiss in its
responsibility to prevent torture in all its forms in our country. It
shows that the claim of the government that legislative, judicial, and
administrative measures are already in place to give effect to the
provisions of the Convention is utterly false. Until now, not a single
member of the state’s security forces that committed these crimes against
me has been put under administrative sanctions or criminally convicted.
I respectfully urge this august body to encourage the Philippines to abide
by its pledge and commitment to uphold the treaties and conventions the
Philippine state has made before the community of nations.
Thank you very much.
Pastor Berlin V. Guerrero
April 27, 2009
Statement of Torture Victim
to the UN Committee Against Torture
Read at the NGO Briefing to the Committee on its 42nd session
April 27, 2009 Palais Wilson, Geneva
Thank you for this opportunity to tell my harrowing experience at the
hands of security agents of the Philippine government. I would also like
to thank the OMCT, Karapatan, as well as the Chairperson of the Philippine
Commission on Human Rights, for encouraging and supporting me to come and
speak before you.
I am Raymond E. Manalo, 27 years old, a Filipino farmer residing in a
village in Bulacan, a province immediately north of Manila. At about
noontime of 14 February 2006, while I was sleeping in our home, I was
roused by a noise and a punch in the gut from a rifle by unidentified men
armed with high-caliber rifles.
These men were looking for my brother Bestre who they label as a member of
the rebel New People's Army (NPA) and wanted to know where he was. They
introduced themselves as vigilantes but I later found out that they were
soldiers of the Philippine Army. They pointed their guns at our family and
forced me and my other brother, 38-year old Reynaldo, to a van,
blindfolded us and took us to a place we did not know. They beat us in
different parts of our body while forcing us to admit that we are members
of the New People’s Army and to tell them where our brother was.
We were held incommunicado for 18 months and were transferred from three
separate military camps and three safehouses. During our captivity, the
soldiers beat us with pieces of wood on our backs and different parts of
our body, beat us with chains, burn different parts of our bodies with
cigarettes and heated metal tin, kicked us with their combat boots on, hit
us with the butt of their rifles, poured gasoline on my waist and legs
while threatening to burn me. We were at one point, chained to our cots
during the night.
Because of the beatings and extreme pain I suffered, there were times I
lost consciousness could hardly walk. To stop the beatings, I admitted to
their false accusations, pretending that I joined the rebels but only for
a short time. They eased the beatings and ordered us to clean their
quarters and barracks, cook food and fetch water for them, run errands and
even forced us to come with them in their “operations” where I witnessed
soldiers summarily killing civilians whom they accused of being rebels or
I was also brought face to face with then army General Jovito Palparan.
When he asked me if I knew him and when I answered in the negative, he
introduced himself and then asked if I was afraid of him to which I said
No, even if I was terrified and so afraid of my life. He told me to
cooperate with them, to tell my parents not to see Karapatan and human
rights groups and not attend hearings and rallies anymore so that our
lives will be spared.
During our detention, I and my brother met and were together with other
disappeared victims. The longest we stayed with were the missing
university students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno as well as their
companion, farmer Manuel Merino. Like us, they were treated like slaves in
the camp, the women forced to wash the soldier’s clothes, give them
massages and help in the cleaning. I saw the two young women chained to
their cots at night.
At one point, I chanced upon and personally witnessed the two women being
tortured by the soldiers, stripped naked, with Sherlyn tied upside down,
one leg tied to a post and another tied to a bench while Karen was tied at
her hands and feet, with the soldiers pouring water on their faces and
while their genitals where being poked by pieces of wood. Karen’s back was
also burned with cigarettes. They were screaming, begging and writhing in
pain. I saw this because the soldiers ordered me to bring them (the
Sometime in June 2007, I did not see the women. A few days after, I
personally saw the soldiers kill by burning farmer Merino in the military
camp where we stayed. A few more days later, “Master Caigas” who I later
found out to be MSgt. Donald Caigas, told me and my brother never to look
for them anymore as they have ‘joined” Merino.
Sometime in July, 2007, the soldiers sent me and my brother to work as
caretakers at Master Caigas’ farm. We planned our escape and one night in
August of 2007, we escaped when five civilians who were guarding us and
who were given firearms by Caigas were in deep sleep because they got
drunk from their drinking binge.
I sought the help of human rights organizations for me to be able to get a
writ of amparo to ensure our safety and I was glad that the court granted
our petition. I also testified in court at on the petition for the writ of
amparo for Cadapan and Empeno. I helped Karapatan and the Commission on
Human rights dig up one of the former military camps where we were kept
and where I saw Merino being burned. In October 2008, we were able to get
fragments of burned human bones in the site.
In September 2008, I filed criminal complaints against now former Gen.
Palparan and the others whom I identified. The cases remain pending.
I do not want this ordeal to happen to anybody else. I wish that the
extrajudicial killings, disappearances and torture in my country will
stop. I will do everything to tell the truth and to make the perpetrators
I hope that the Philippine government will not condone what its security
forces are doing. I hope that President Gloria Arroyo will end the
impunity instead of sending the message that the likes of Gen. Jovito
Palparan and MSgt. Donald Caigas, TSgt. Rizal Hilario can get away with
these violations, let alone be praised or rewarded for them.
I want that justice be served.
Thank you very much.