MANILA, Philippines - An official of the National Police Commission (Napolcom) yesterday said they have identified the victim shown in the video allegedly being tortured inside a police precinct in Manila.
Napolcom Investigation, Monitoring and Inspection Services director Owen de Luna also said they have traced the exact location of the “torture chamber,” which he confirmed as the Asuncion police community precinct in Tondo, Manila.
De Luna refused to name the victim, but said he was the same person earlier reported killed during an encounter with policemen in a botched robbery attempt.
“We are just awaiting the official result of the autopsy so we can start building up a case,” De Luna said.
According to De Luna, even before the controversial video came out, the Napolcom was already acting on the complaint of the family of the victim.
He said the family filed a complaint accusing the policemen in the precinct in Tondo led by Senior Inspector Joselito Binayug of murder.
De Luna said the video, apparently taken using a cell phone, would compliment the testimonies of the witnesses that the victim was indeed arrested and tortured before the alleged shootout took place.
“The family of the victim positively identified the man in the television as the same man killed by the police,” he said.
The torture video that was leaked to the media showed a police officer cursing and whipping the suspect while pulling on a rope that was tied to the victim’s genitals.
The video was shown on video sharing websites such as YouTube and even made it to some international news websites on the Internet.
The accusations immediately fell on Binayug and his men after it was recognized that the torture was held at the Asuncion community police precinct in Tondo.
Binayug merely shrugged off the accusations, saying he would only speak before a proper forum.
De Luna said they discovered Binayug and his men had tried to rearrange the location of the furniture and cabinets in an effort to deny that the torture took place in their precinct.
But the tiles of the room where the torture took place betrayed the location of the crime scene, he said.
De Luna said they are focusing their probe on the possible filing of administrative and criminal cases against Binayug and 11 policemen in the precinct.
De Luna said the family of the victim is now under the protective custody of the Napolcom and they will assist them in filing criminal complaints against the suspected policemen before the Department of Justice (DOJ).
He said they are withholding the identity of the victim pending the final autopsy report from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
“The Napolcom will make an official announcement as soon as we will get the official autopsy report on the victim,” De Luna said.
Too many claimants
The Manila Police District (MPD), on the other hand, said they would summon the three women who all claimed that the torture victim was their husband.
MPD director Chief Superintendent Rodolfo Magtibay said they wanted to put an end to the controversy that he said had put the entire Manila police in a bad light.
“We will determine who is the real wife of the alleged torture victim so she can identify the victim in the video. From there, we could start looking for the body, and if ever the victim was already dead, we can exhume his body to look for distinguishing (torture) marks as seen from the video,” Magtibay said.
One of the women identified the torture victim as her husband Darius Villanueva who remains missing.
Another identified the victim as Vicente Obrigo who was killed during the shootout with Binayug and his men on Aug. 13.
Still another woman claimed the man that was killed by policemen was her husband. But the woman said her husband was killed in a shootout with Binayug and his men a month earlier.
Magtibay urged all witnesses to come out and testify against the suspect policemen. He personally assured prospective witnesses of ample protection and security.
The National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) said they are also receiving several claims as to the identity of the torture victim.
“There are now so many claimants. We are investigating and validating the witnesses’ claims,” NCRPO chief Director Leocadio Santiago said.
Santiago said the NCRPO is looking into a number of possible torture victims, including a suspected snatcher, a suspected robber and another man whose wife has insisted on his innocence.
Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesman Senior Superintendent Agrimero Cruz said they are tracing the identity of the victim through the tattoos on his body.
Cruz said the video was of poor quality and the face of the victim could not be ascertained since he was lying naked on the floor with his face away from the camera, but the tattoos on his body are visible.
Santiago, on the other hand, assured the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) that they are tracing the whereabouts of the tortured man.
“Any investigator worth his salt will always look for the body of the victim,” he said.
Incoming CHR chairperson Loretta Ann Rosales has dared the PNP to produce “dead or alive” the supposed torture victim.
Malacañang welcomed the statement from Rosales, saying the issue is already under heavy investigation.
“The CHR is looking into it, there’s an investigation ongoing, and the investigation is very transparent. Everything comes out in the media. In fact, the media is very quick to report what’s happening in this case and rightly so, because the (public) have much interest in this,” Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Secretary Ricky Carandang said.
Carandang assured the public all efforts are being taken by the government to ensure this will not happen again.
“If we want to eliminate this culture of violence... the best thing to do is to show that we will not tolerate it anymore and that’s what the government is doing right now,” he said. - With Mike Frialde, Aurea Calica and Nestor Etolle