Torture victims narrate their ordeal

at the 42nd Session of the UN Committee Against Torture.

 

Geneva, Switzerland

 

April 27, 2009

 

 

Farmer Raymond Manalo (center), who suffered 18 horrible months of barbarity in the hands of the military, and Berlin Guerrero (left), 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.  With them is counsel, Atty. Edre Olalia

 

Read: Statement on behalf of the Commission of Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches (CCIA WCC) read by Pastor Berlin Guerrero at the 42nd Session of the Committee Against Torture
 

Read: Statement of Torture Victim Raymond Manalo to the UN Committee Against Torture Read at the NGO Briefing to the Committee on its 42nd session April 27, 2009 Palais Wilson, Geneva

 

   
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Photos courtesy of KARAPATAN Public Information
           
           

 

KARAPATAN
Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights

Press Release - April 28, 2009

Reference: Marie Hilao-Enriquez, KARAPATAN Secretary General (+63...; +0041772510560)

Torture survivors tell UN their story

Geneva, 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) endorsed 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.

Philippine 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.#

 

UNCAT Spl.Rapporteur Felice Gaer of USA and Atty. Olalia
           
 

Read: Statement to the Committee Against Torture read at the Briefing of NGO’s to the 42nd Session of the UNCAT, April 27, 2009, Palais Wilson, Geneva, read by Marie Hilao-Enriquez
 

Legal counsel Atty. Edre Olalia and Karapatan Secretary General Marie Hilao listening to the report of the RP delegation
           

 

 

Press Release – April 30, 2009
Reference: Marie Hilao-Enriquez, KARAPATAN Secretary General (+63-9175616800; +41772510560)

Ermita: Phil Gov`t neither engages in nor encourages acts of torture.
Victims and UPR Watch: Tell that to the Victims!

Government Panel Says Sorry for 20-year delayed report, Lectures UNCAT on Philippine Lawmaking Instead.

Geneva, Switzerland –The two hour session provided for the Philippine government replies to issues raised by the members of the United Nations Committee Against Torture (UN CAT) in its 42nd Session turned into a class on Political Science 101. Frustration seemed to be written on the faces of the Committee members who were given a textbook lecture by the government panel which included how laws are made in the Philippines. The only truth that has come out is the fact that the government has gone far away from complying with the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment which it acceded to in 1986.

Ambassador Erlinda Basilio, permanent representative of the Philippines to the UN in Geneva apologized for having taken 20 years to submit a report to the Committee due to “natural and man-made calamities.”
Even with so many speakers from the 27-member delegation of the Philippines, no honest-to-goodness answer has come out of their lengthy presentation that would sincerely respond to the issues raised by the Committee members and address the use of torture by state security forces in the country.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita who headed the delegation in his closing words boasted of a so-called “fruitful and constructive dialogue” between the CAT and the Philippines delegation. But human rights groups and NGO observers are at a loss as to what dialogue he is referring to.
 

 

 

 

 

 

Torture survivors farmer Raymond Manalo and United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Pastor Berlin Guerrero who were present at the CAT session together with Karapatan secretary general Marie Hilao Enriquez, Karapatan special legal consultant on UN mechanisms lawyer Edre Olalia, Karapatan intern Trisha Garvida and other NGO representatives observed how the government panel led by Ermita shamelessly evaded the issues and cover up the reality of torture in the country.

Ermita even incorrigibly took a dig at Karapatan and other human rights defenders by casting aspersions on their motives rather than facing the reports and reality of a consistent pattern of – in the words of some Committee members themselves - the “widespread practice of torture” as illustrated by a “morass of cases.”

“Inubos nila ang oras sa pagle-lecture!” (They [government delegation] used up all the time for lectures!), said Manalo who hoped for something good to come out of his trip to Geneva. “What will happen now to the cases of Sherlyn Cadapan, Karren Empeno and Tatay Manuel Merino? How can justice be served to these people?”

Ermita deftly led his platoon of generals, colonels, bureaucrats, technicians and lawyers under his baton in their individual roleplaying and consumed almost all the time for the whole session and left the Committee members with little time to ask more searching and probing questions even after being reminded a couple of times. It was pretty obvious to the Philippine and international NGOs that the Philippine delegation was just “dribbling” the time away to avoid being put to task its general and high-falluting replies spruced up with cute acronyms that – in the words of another Committee member - have “nothing on the practical side” and have no value on the ground.

For his part, Guerrero said he believed the Committee will see through the bunch of lies and pretensions that the Gloria Arroyo administration is employing to cover up its non-compliance with the convention and other human rights instruments.

In her assessment, Enriquez said, “A lot of substantial questions specially coming from the Committee rapporteurs were not responded to by the panel. One is in the area of protection of human rights defenders and another area is on administrative actions against erring elements of the AFP and PNP. What bothers me is their wrong interpretation of human rights and who is culpable if such is violated. The Philippine state is still hiding behind a narrow self-serving and even distorted understanding of human rights.”
 

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With WCC General Secretary and Asia Secretary /WCC interview with Pastor Berlin Guerrero and Raymond Nabaki
           

 

World Council of Churches - News Release
Contact: +41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363 media@wcc-coe.org

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 torture victim.

 

 

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:
http://www.oikoumene.org/?id=3111


WCC member churches in the Philippines:
http://www.oikoumene.org/?id=4679


42nd Session of the UN Committee against Torture:
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cat/cats42.htm


Additional information: Juan Michel,+41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363
media@wcc-coe.org



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.
 

 

           

Pastor Berlin Guerrero testifying before the United Nations Committee Against Torture

Torture victims Raymond Manalo and Pastor Berlin  Guerrero in a  press interview

           
           

 

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
WCC-NCCP Delegate
April 27, 2009
 

Torture victims Manolo and Guerrero in a meeting with UN officer on Phil desk
Philippine  UPR Watch delegation with torture victims
           
           

 

Statement of Torture Victim Raymond Manalo
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 aiding them.

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 soldiers) food.

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 accountable.
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.

 

Raymond Manalo

 

Philippine  UPR Watch with victims and Migrante Swittzerland

Torture Victims Manalo and Guerrero listening to RP Executive Secretary Ermita

Torture victim Raymond Manalo on train to Bern to meet with  Swiss parliamentarians

           
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