MANILA, Philippines – Amnesty International said Thursday that five years after the Philippines passed a law criminalizing torture, the practice continues, with an overstretched police force resorting to "shortcuts" to extract confessions from criminal suspects.
The Philippine National Police has acknowledged violations persist but stressed they have taken action against erring officers and that cases have drastically declined in recent years, saying the Commission on Human Rights reported just six last year from 68 in 2011.
The human rights group said in a report released Thursday that eight of the 55 torture victims it interviewed were subjected to Russian roulette and threatened with death if they refused to cooperate. Two of them were shot but survived. Others were systematically beaten, received electric shocks and forced to sit or sleep in an uncomfortable position for long periods without food or water. At least two were stripped naked with their genital tied to a string pulled by police officers, it said.
The report said that no one has been convicted under the 2009 Anti-Torture Act.
Particularly worrying, Amnesty said, was the existence of unofficial and secret detention centers where it said torture and other ill-treatment were likely to take place.
The report cited the secret detention facility in Laguna, a province south of Manila, which was exposed by the Philippine Commission on Human Rights in January. Forty-three detainees were found inside the facility where police officers played a "wheel of torture" game to have fun and punish criminal suspects during interrogation.
The small police-to-population ratio where 150,000 police officers serve a population of 100 million Filipinos, a lack of forensic capability and reliance on witness testimony underlie the use of torture and ill-treatment to extract confession, the report said.
Many of the torture victims said those who arrested them wore civilian clothes, did not identify themselves as police officers and did not inform them of the charges against them nor their rights, the report said. Some were beaten, threatened at gunpoint, blindfolded and handcuffed then put in unmarked vehicles. Many were children under 18 when they were tortured or ill-treated, the report said.