MANILA, Philippines – Incoming Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chair Loretta Rosales dared the Philippine National Police (PNP) yesterday to produce the supposed robbery suspect caught on video being tortured in a community police precinct in Tondo, Manila.
“Dead or alive, the Manila Police District has to produce the victim,” Rosales said yesterday in a GMA News report.
The National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) said that the cell phone video was shot inside the Asuncion police community precinct in Manila’s Tondo district.
“They have already identified the police official involved as Senior Inspector Joselito Binayug, so now they have to surface the torture victim,” said Rosales.
Binayug refused to comment on the allegations against him, saying he would only speak in the proper forum.
Rosales said if the victim in the video had died in the course of his ordeal, the police officials involved in the controversy should face more charges.
“We urge PNP (chief) Director General Jesus Verzosa to act promptly in investigating the case and in imposing sanctions against the abusive policemen involved,” she said.
Aside from the CHR, several other agencies are investigating the alleged torture inside the police precinct.
The CHR also appealed to the police and other agencies involved in the investigation of the torture to respect the rights of witnesses and suspects.
CHR Commissioner Cecilia Quisumbing said that policemen reportedly harassed a woman who claimed to be the wife of the alleged torture victim Darius Evangelista.
Quisumbing said members of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) suddenly picked up late Wednesday afternoon the woman identified only as Ana to protect her identity.
Ana had earlier sought the help of the CHR and claimed the victim was her husband, Darius.
There were reports that alleged policemen picked up the robbery suspect a few months ago and he has been reported missing since then.
The torture video that was leaked to the media showed a police officer whipping the suspect and pulling on a rope that was tied to the victim’s genitals while cursing the latter. The incident allegedly happened inside a police precinct in Tondo.
The alleged torture was caught on a cell phone video.
Quisumbing said the policemen ordered Ana to ride a private vehicle and brought her to the CIDG office at the Manila Police District (MPD) compound.
“They told her (Ana) that they need to investigate her and so she should go with them to the CIDG office. They didn’t tell her she is free to say no and that she can make a statement another time,” Quisumbing said.
PNP regulations require that investigators use a clearly marked official vehicle for transporting suspects and by extension, witnesses and complainants, said Quisumbing.
“As urgent as it is to solve this case, punish the perpetrators of this specific incident and reform the systemic problems of the PNP, this does not justify shortcuts and rights violations. Violating rights and internal rules just further demonstrates the deep problems in the PNP and the operating practices of its men,” she said.
She said the policemen did not even inform Ana that she has the right to get her own lawyer.
The CIDG agents later insisted that they are not treating Ana as a suspect.
“Witnesses and victims, anyone giving information or being interviewed, interrogated by police have exactly the same rights as suspects, and even more such as the liberty to leave when they want to,” she said.
Quisumbing said the police only allowed Ana to leave the CIDG office when a lawyer from the Public Attorney’s Office arrived.
“They (policemen) also took documents from Ana and made photocopies of them. This violates the right to security of property and the right to be secure from unauthorized search and seizure,” she added.
The CHR official warned the police that further violations of human rights committed by any investigator would be probed by the commission and will undermine any case being built by concerned government agencies.
Meanwhile, an NCRPO official denied yesterday that agents of the CIDG are harassing Ana.
The source said CIDG operatives were taking the statement of Ana when the CHR team arrived and stopped them from filing the case against Binayug, because Ana had no lawyer assisting her.
“Because Ana is the complainant, she does not need a lawyer at this time but only during the trial of the case,” the NCRPO official explained. “There is no such thing as harassment.”
NCRPO commander director Leocadio Santiago had relieved and disarmed 11 policemen assigned at the Asuncion, Tondo police community precinct, including precinct commander Binayug, who are now at MPD support Unit, the holding center for policemen facing charges.
The Office of the Ombudsman has also started an investigation of the incident to determine the liability of Binayug and his men.
NCRPO verifying identity of victim
NCRPO director Santiago called on the public to provide information about the identity of the torture victim.
Santiago said they have several probable torture victims that include a snatcher, a robber, and another man whose wife claims that he is innocent of any crime.
All three probable victims have remained missing as of yesterday.
“We are working on identifying the torture victim first so the administrative and criminal cases against the suspects would prosper,” said Santiago.
The NCRPO filed yesterday administrative charges against Binayug and 11 of his men believed involved in the torture video.
The criminal case against the erring policemen would follow, said Santiago.
Santiago said the man who appeared in the video wearing shorts and a white t-shirt resembles Binayug.
“We are validating our evidence to pin down Binayug as the principal suspect in the case,” said Santiago in an interview.
The NCRPO chief said Binayug has acquired the services of a lawyer and “all our questioning would now be coursed through his counsel.”
He said the Task Force Asuncion headed by Chief Superintendent Roberto Rongavilla, NCRPO’s deputy chief for administration, is currently getting the statements of Binayug’s 11 other co-accused.
Rongavilla claimed the co-accused of Binayug are now detained separately at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig to prevent them from influencing each other regarding the case.
Binayug remains under the custody of Manila police director Chief Superintendent Rodolfo Magtibay.
Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim ordered Magtibay to investigate the torture of the robbery suspect and employ all lawful and available means to get to the bottom of the incident and to identify those involved.
“These dastardly acts or atrocious acts cannot be condoned by us. They are indeed an affront against one’s dignity and respect which has no place in a civilized society,” Lim said.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has started its investigation of the torture of the holdup suspect allegedly perpetrated by Binayug and policemen under him.
The NBI’s National Capital Region (NCR) Division headed by Regional Director Ludgi de Lemos would lead the investigation.
NBI spokesman Special Investigator IV Cecilio Zamora Jr. said the NBI agents have started interviewing witnesses.
A medical doctor was also sent to a wake in Tondo to check whether the deceased was the same person being tortured in the video.
The NBI said the deceased, whose body bore signs of torture, could be the same man in the video.
The NBI Medico-Legal Division identified the man at Universal Funeral Services in Tondo, Manila, as Vicente Mangobat Orbigo, 39, of 1559 Tindalo Street, Manila.
He was identified by his sister Sheryl Orbigo after he was declared dead on arrival at the Gat Andres Bonifacio Hospital in Tondo. Date of death was listed as Aug. 13, 2010.
Based on the police blotter, Orbigo was shot dead after a shootout with Manila policemen following a robbery in Tondo on the same date when he died.
The postmortem findings on Orbigo indicated that he suffered a gunshot wound on the left jaw, and two other gunshot wounds on the left chest.
The autopsy report also showed that Orbigo had ligature marks around his genitals. There were also bruises all over his body.
NBI agents said Orbigo’s ligature marks and the bruises jibe with what Binayug did on the torture victim as shown on the video provided to a television station.
The video footage showed a man tugging at a string that was tied to the genitals of the victim.
“If the one who sent the video would only coordinate with the NBI, that would be a great help,” said Zamora. He also said he has no idea if the one who sent the video is also a policeman.
A re-autopsy will also be undertaken by the NBI in order to know the cause of death of the victim in the Tondo funeral parlor. Rongavilla, who is also the head of the police Investigation Task Group (ITG), said Binayug and the other members of the Asuncion police precinct who were involved in the alleged torture of a robbery suspect would be given the chance to answer the charges against them.
“As much as we would like to resolve the case as soon as possible, Binayug and the other police officers are entitled to file their comment through their lawyers,” said Rongavilla during the Talakayan sa Isyu ng Pulis (TSIP), a weekly forum sponsored by the PNP.
Rongavilla, deputy regional director for administration of the NCRPO, assured the public that they would exert every effort to speed up the investigation and find out the truth on the matter.
Although police have yet to establish the identity of the robbery suspect shown on the cell phone video being beaten by a police officer, Rongavilla said the investigation on the administrative liability will be in full swing.
Manila police chief Magtibay has ordered an investigation to determine who was the chief of the Moriones, Tondo police station at the time of the alleged torture of one of the detainees of the Asuncion police precinct, which is under the supervision of the Moriones police station.
The investigation was ordered after Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said that the police chief of Tondo at the time of the alleged torture should have criminal liability for command responsibility.
Superintendent Ferdinand Quirante is the present chief of the Moriones police station who assumed his post only last Aug. 4 after replacing Superintendent Ernesto Tendero Jr. Prior to Tendero, Superintendent Rogelio Rosales Jr. was chief of the station.
Magtibay said his men are determining the possible date of the torture to identify who was the station commander at the time.
He said that if the station commander failed to act on the incident even if he had prior knowledge, then he is likewise held criminally responsible.
“However, we still could not determine who was the station commander at that time since the video footage has no date,” Magtibay said.
De Lima said that investigation should extend to whether or not the superiors had prior or subsequent knowledge of the torture or whether the station chief exercised due diligence on their personnel to avoid such incident of torture or cruelty.
Meanwhile, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said that the full force of the Anti-Torture Law should be used to punish the policemen found guilty of torture.
Santiago said that she is going to file a resolution on the torture incident in order to evaluate and possibly amend the Anti-Torture Law.
Under the Anti-Torture Law, Santiago said the immediate commanding officer of the police unit concerned with the human rights violation is principally liable, if he had knowledge of the act or should have known the acts of torture but did not take steps to prevent it. Likewise, those who deliberately concealed the act of torture to prevent its discovery should be held as an accessory to the crime.
Last week, she also filed a resolution calling for an investigation on the need to evaluate police procedures and practices on apprehending suspects, in light of the recent case involving Ivan Padilla.
Sen. Francis Escudero, chairman of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, said the torture incident should serve as a test case for the anti-torture law.
He said it should also be a test case for the Aquino administration to strongly enforce the law.
Buhay party-list Rep. Irwin Tieng, one of principal authors of the law penalizing the taking of photo and video clips of indecent acts and sex scandals, has asked the anonymous informant to come out and testify against the policemen who allegedly tortured a suspected robber in Manila.
“Emil (alias of the tipster) and his friend who furnished the media a copy of the incriminating video clip should now come out in the open to strengthen the case against the suspected torturers. I assure them that because they used the video to expose a crime, they will not be penalized under Republic Act 9995,” Tieng said.
Tieng was one of the main authors of the recently enacted law entitled Act Defining and Penalizing the Crime of Photo and Video Voyeurism with the aim to protect the dignity and privacy of all Filipinos and guarantee full respect for human rights.
Tieng cited Section six of RA 9995, which provides that a person is not punishable or is exempted by the law provided that the photo or video serves as evidence essential to the conviction of any person or to aid in the solution or prevention of such crime.
“They should not be penalized for reporting the video to the media. Though we have a law against photo and video voyeurism or illegally taking of a photo or video exposing a person’s naked body or undergarment-clad genitals in which the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy; they are not liable for the said video because it will be used as a strong evidence against the cases of human rights violations allegedly happening in the said police precinct,” Tieng said. – With Cecile Suerte Felipe, Sandy Araneta, Nestor Etolle, Christina Mendez