AN ALLIANCE denouncing the detention of 43 health workers suspected to be communist rebels revealed Friday the series of torture and intimidation allegedly inflicted by the military.
In a media briefing in Quezon City, Free the 43 Health Workers said the detainees suffered physical and psychological torture, sexual harassment, and denial of medical treatment.
Under physical torture, the detainees were subjected to manhandling, electrocution, food and sleep deprivation, and chemical exposure.
One of the detainees, Dr. Alex Montes of the Community Medicine Development Foundation (Commed), narrated that in one interrogation session, “some things were placed on his head like clips and he felt numbness and twitching on his muscles.”
The report also said the detainees were not allowed to sleep in the first 36 hours, some were seated and handcuffed on mono-blocks or stools and some were made to stand.
“They are interrogated during the night and wee hours of the morning...they were made to hear person or persons crying in pain and begging for their lives during the night,” it added.
As to psychological torture, death threats came in the form of statements, such as “lilitsunin,” “bubulukin sa presohan,” “sasampahan ng iba't-ibang kaso,” “mamayang gabi gagawin kang pataba,” and “ililibing ng buhay,” among others.
The group said psychological techniques to break down the individual were employed by the military, including "forced betrayals, learned helplessness, exposure to ambiguous situations or contradictory messages."
“Some (detainees) reported that they were being convinced to admit to being NPAs (New People’s Army) and avail of the amnesty program and to surrender armaments and that they will rewarded P50,000 for each rifle.”
Free the 43 health workers further said sexual harassment by soldiers is not only limited to females as two detainees reported that their "testicles were pulled and crushed."
Other "abuses" include incommunicado detention, solitary confinement, and denial of legal counsel.
The 43 health workers were arrested by the military and police during an operation in a farmhouse in Morong, Rizal last February 6.
Of the 43, three were held for illegal possession of firearms, while the 40 are facing the non-bailable offense of illegal possession of explosive devices before the Morong Regional Trial Court.
The military and police claim the health workers are New People’s Army (NPA) members who were undergoing explosives training.
But Health Alliance for Democracy (Head) secretary-general Dr. Geneve Rivera reiterated that the 43 health workers were neither supporters nor members of the NPA, and the arrest had already produced a "chilling effect" on medical professionals wanting to do missions in the countryside.
“There is even a Rotary Club medical mission that has to be called off because of the lack of medical personnel who are willing to volunteer,” Rivera said.
On Thursday, the group, through the Public Interest Law Center and National Union of Peoples Lawyers, filed before the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) a complaint against the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for the group's illegal detention at Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal.
Last week, the party-list group Bayan Muna said it will file the necessary criminal and administrative charges against those who led the raid.
The group said Major General Jorge Segovia of the 2nd Infantry Division and Colonel Aurelio Baladad of the 202nd Infantry Battalion should be made answerable for violating Republic Act 9745 or the Anti-Torture Law.
Not under martial law
But military authorities have repeatedly denied the allegations, dismissing them as mere propaganda.
“We would like to tell the public that torture is a thing of the past. In fact, our leaders are adamant that human rights are respected,” said AFP spokesman Romeo Brawner Jr.
Nacionalista Party vice-presidential bet Senator Loren Legarda, meanwhile, urged the AFP to expedite the investigation to determine whether the detainees are indeed members of the NPA, and barring any proof, to release the detainees at the soonest time.
“We are not under Martial Law. We cannot tolerate this practice. We cannot allow our soldiers to be doing this,” Legarda said in a statement.
“Why are they still detained? If we cannot prove they are members of the NPA, they have no reason to be detained here,” she added.
As part of their protest campaign, the alliance will hold a rally in Mendiola on March 5 (Friday) to press the government for concrete actions.
Earlier, Malacanang has distanced itself from the issue, saying they are leaving it to the AFP and the Department of National Defense to act on the allegations. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)