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Philippines: 10 officers dismissed over torture claims

Police allegedly tortured young detainees who were arrested on drug charges by beating and electrocuting them

Gulf News

Manila: A police chief inspector and nine subordinates were relieved from their posts over the alleged torture of arrested drug pushers in a secret facility in southern Luzon, sources said, adding that the policemen might have contributed to the successful seizure of P9.9 billion (Dh825 million) worth of illegal drugs and drug-making paraphernalia in 2013.

On January 15, a provincial office of the Philippine National Police (PNP) relieved Chief Inspector Arnold Formento of the PNP Provincial Intelligence Branch (PIB) in Binan, Laguna, following complaints that his men tortured drug pushers by beating them while they there hanging upside down, police said.

Also relieved were two senior police officers, Bernardino Artisen and Alexander Asis; and seven police officers, Freddie Ramos, Renan Galang, Marc Julius Ceazar, Melmar Baybayado, Mateo Cailo, Aldwin Paulo Tibuc, and Nelson Caribo.

They were charged administratively with grave misconduct and were kept at Camp Sandigan in Laguna.

Fifteen of the 50 detainees who formally filed complaints against their erring jailors were taken out of PIB.

On January 9, the Public Affairs Office (PAO) filed a complaint to the Commission on Human Rights, saying that PIB police officers had been torturing young detainees who were arrested on drug charges by beating and electrocuting them. Older prisoners were not tortured, said PAO.

Policemen allegedly tortured the detainees to extract information from them. They also were alleged to have extorted money from detainees with promises of lighter charges or dropping of charges filed against the prisoners, said PAO, adding that torturing detainees had become a form of amusement among drunk jailors.

Some of the suspected drug pushers at PIB have been imprisoned for a long time. All of them were not included in PNP’s official list of people in its custody, PAO said.

The facility is based in a secret location in a residential area in San Francisco village, Binan, PAO said.

The complaint was filed to the Commission on Human Rights because the country’s anti-torture act (Republic Act 9745), passed by Congress in 2009, requires the police to report to the rights commission, PAO explained.

Meanwhile, other non-government rights organisation have started scrutinising the PNP’s official list of arrested drug pushers. Some of them might be secretly held somewhere, said a staff member of Amnesty International in Manila who requested anonymity.

There might be other secret detention centres in the Philippines, said the source,

Police said it has in its custody 8,600 people, including 73 foreigners, who were arrested in drug-related cases in 2013.

After a series of drug-related arrests from December 23 up to January this year, authorities have concluded that Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel and Chinese drug syndicates have started operating in the Philippines, said Arturo Cacdac, chief of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

Some P9.9 billion worth of illegal drugs were seized in 2013, including P4.6 billion worth of methamphetamine and P5.3 billion worth of other illegal drugs and drug-making paraphernalia, said Cacdac.

On January 24, police arrested four men in possession of 272kg of methamphetamine in six crates, worth P1.3 billion. The suspects were under surveillance for two months, said Senior Superintendent Bartolome Tobias, head of the Philippine National Police anti-illegal drugs task force.

On January 15, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) arrested Barry Espadilla, Christian Julazo, and James Riach, Canadian passport holders and members of the Independent Soldiers, a Vancouver-based drug syndicate, in five simultaneous raids in posh condominium units in suburban Makati and Taguig. Police seized P100 million worth of drugs from Mexico, said NBI Investigator Augusto Isidoro.

Also recovered from them were cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA, another version of ecstasy.

On December 26 last year, police arrested Gary Tan, Argay Argenos and Rochelle Argenos for keeping 84kg of metehamphetamine, estimated at P420 million, in a poultry farm owned by the Levistes, a political clan in Inosloban village, Batangas, southern Luzon, said police spokesperson, Reuben Theodore Sindac.

The Leviste farm was leased to Jorge Torres who escaped arrest, claimed former Batangas Governor Antonio Leviste.

The London-based Amnesty International asked President Benigo Aquino to stop the police from subjecting arrested suspects to torture.

Local rights groups have supported Amnesty International’s demand.