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Friday, June 3, 2011

Police torture video sparks outrage

Sulaiman Kamal | 9:08 PM | | | | | Best Blogger Tips

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Police torture video sparks outrage
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MANILA, Philippines - Administrative charges will be filed against a Manila police precinct commander and 13 of his men who were allegedly involved in torturing a robbery suspect, a video footage of which was shown on national television on Tuesday.

"There's no need for a complainant filing the administrative case. Visual evidence is enough," Leocadio Santiago, director of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), told reporters.

Santiago said the NCRPO would be able to determine the civil and criminal liability of Senior Insp. Joselito Binayug and other policemen involved in two weeks.

"We will be filing a case against Binayug for dereliction of duty but we want something heavier," Santiago said. "There's no place for policemen like him in the police force."

Binayug and his men were relieved after a television news video showed the footage, shot using a cell phone camera, of a naked and bound man, grimacing apparently in great pain on the floor of what was described as the precinct station on Asuncion Street in Tondo, Manila.

The man tugging at the string tied to the genitals of the suspect each time he failed to answer a question was identified as Binayug.

Also on the video were men said to be policemen hitting the suspect while others were looking on.

Binayug has been under restricted custody of Chief Supt. Rodolfo Magtibay, Manila Police District (MPD) director, according to Santiago.

The entire police unit under Binayug will be assigned to a regional training unit while undergoing investigation, the NCRPO chief said.

International issue

The Philippine National Police has formed Task Force Asuncion to probe the alleged torture and determine the appropriate charges against the perpetrators.

"This has become a national issue and even an international issue. We won't be satisfied filing administrative charges. Criminal charges must also be filed," Santiago said.

The PNP said the police officers would be investigated if they violated Republic Act No. 9745, or the Anti-Torture Act of 2009.

Binayug denied any knowledge of the video purportedly showing him as the torturer.

"I will face it in a proper forum. Let my counsel speak on my behalf," he told reporters at the MPD headquarters on UN Avenue. He granted the interview on the condition that there would be no cameras and tape recorders.

Binayug, who has been in the police service for 15 years, said he did not know anything about what was shown on TV when asked about it.

Visibly anxious over the accusation, Binayug paced the floor, sat and stood up from an arm chair as he spoke to reporters. He constantly fiddled with his mobile phones and toyed with a ball cap, alternately removing and wearing it.

He made comments about previous cases he handled in which he figured in shoot-outs with suspected robbers and emphasized that the incidents had complainants.

Reputation destroyed

Binayug seemed to be fighting back tears when he remarked that with his reputation destroyed he was more concerned with his children.

He briefly mentioned that one of his children had been held up near a precinct and told reporters that if they had children, they would know how it felt.

In an attempt to curb the torture of suspects, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) said it would probe police personnel facing various charges.

Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo told the Inquirer on Wednesday that the DILG would review records of cases filed against policemen and their service records to determine if any of them would need to be relieved and to undergo a new round of neuropsychiatric evaluation.

"We want to send a message that this kind of behavior and culture will not be tolerated," Robredo said.

He also said he would move to make the investigations against alleged abuses committed by police personnel "speedier and more credible."

As interior secretary, Robredo chairs the National Police Commission (Napolcom) which has administrative and operational control over the PNP.

A charge of kidnap for ransom was filed in 2005 by the National Bureau of Investigation against Binayug and five other policemen of the Western Police District (now the Manila Police District).

Binayug, then a police lieutenant, and his men allegedly posed as agents of the NBI and abducted mobile phone store owner Roberto Ong. The businessman was allegedly released after coughing up P18,000 in cash and more than P1 million worth of mobile phones.

But Binayug Thursday said that the only charge he ever faced was an administrative case where he failed to appear before a court for a hearing in a drug case.

Magtibay told the Inquirer that the MPD would be looking into incidents in which Binayug figured in shoot-outs with suspected robbers.

Based on reports, Binayug and his men last figured in an alleged shoot-out with a suspected robber on Aug. 13. Apart from that incident, he engaged suspects in armed encounters in which one of his men or he himself was victimized by robbers.

Best police outpost

The Asuncion precinct, which Binayug leads, was awarded in January by Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim as the best police outpost of the year during the MPD anniversary, for at least six instances in which the police captain and his men neutralized suspected robbers in armed encounters.

As part of the investigation, Magtibay said he had directed the Asuncion precinct to surrender its blotter book to the NCRPO task force to establish the time when the video was taken and to determine the identity of the victim.

"We are hoping that other policemen who know something about this come out in the open and describe in detail what happened," he said.

The MPD director said not all of policemen assigned to the precinct were involved in the actual torture but the policemen were suspended as part of standard operating procedure.


Magtibay described the alleged torture at the precinct as an isolated case. "We will not allow the few rogues to destroy the institution," he said.

But the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said mistreatment of criminal suspects appeared to be the norm for law enforcement officers.

"There really is a problem with how the police treat the suspects," CHR Commissioner Cecilia Quisumbing said. In the first semester of 2010 alone, the CHR recorded "more than 200 cases of police maltreatment."

The CHR is investigating the torture of the suspected thief caught on video, and is helping identify the suspect.

The Office of the Ombudsman has also formed a task force to probe the criminal culpability of the policemen. This is the first time that the Ombudsman would investigate law enforcement members for violating the Anti-Torture Act.

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