MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) - ABS-CBN News has obtained exclusive video of a robbery suspect being tortured by an alleged police officer inside a precinct in Tondo, Manila.
"Emil" (not his real name) said he got the cellphone video from a friend who witnessed the torture of the victim. He said his friend has gone into hiding for fear of suffering the same fate as the man in the video.
The video showed a naked man in a fetal position on the floor of an alleged police precinct, his genitals supposedly bound with a rope.
Another man wearing a white shirt and shorts is then seen whipping the victim's face and torso with a rope while heaping curses on him. "Dito bawal ang snatcher ha," the man said.
The man is also seen ordering the victim to remove his hands from his genitals while pulling the rope, making the victim cry out in pain.
The video also shows a police officer seemingly using his cellphone to text someone.
Emil said the victim was a notorious criminal who was being tortured to own up to a hold-up incident. He said the torturer is allegedly the chief of a police community precinct in Asuncion, Tondo, Manila.
He claimed police usually torture suspected criminals, and sometimes even kill them.
"Madalas daw talaga nangyayari lalo na tuwing maraming napapansing holdaper. Sasabihin nila nanlaban tapos papatayin (It happens a lot when they notice a lot of hold-up suspects. They say the suspects tried to fight back and then kill them)," he said.
Asked what happened to the victim in the video, Emil claimed the victim has also died "after making it appear that he tried to fight."
Emil could not say when the torture happened or who the victim was in the video. The only identifying marks of the victim are the tattoos on his back.
Cops vow to investigate
Meanwhile, Manila Police District (MPD) Director Rodolfo Magtibay has relieved Sr. Inspector Joselito Binayug following reports of his alleged involvement in the supposed torture of the suspect.
The MPD and National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) will be investigating Binayug after he was identified by a source who gave ABS-CBN News a cellphone video of the alleged torture.
Director Leocadio Santiago, NCRPO chief, said he has done tactical interrogation on suspects "but not to the extent of being sadistic."
Magtibay said the police investigation would be conducted much faster if "Emil" comes forward and testifies.
"The Manila Police District will ensure the security of your informant, the one who took this video. We assure him that he will be given ample protection," he said.
Emil, however, said his only intent in releasing the video is to stop the torture of criminal suspects.
"Huwag sana na lang gawin yung ganyang bagay. Kung nahuli, ikulong na lang. Kung ano yung nararapat...huwag nang gawing parang hayop," he said.
CHR decries torture
Commissioner Cecilia "Coco" Quisumbing of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), meanwhile, said she was highly disturbed by the torture video.
"That kind of treatment should not be done to anybody whether it's a suspect or someone in your house. It shouldn't be done to anybody. It's very, very disturbing. It's not just physical attacks. To have somebody naked on the floor, while you are swearing at them, you are also attacking their human dignity. You are treating them worse than an animal," she told ABS-CBN News.
Quisumbing said the government should respect human rights even while trying to keep the peace and fight crime.
She said CHR receives more complaints about human rights abuses allegedly committed by the police than those against the military.
Quisumbing said the CHR will wait for a formal complaint on the incident before starting its own investigation.
She added that the campaign against human rights abuses should start not just from the CHR but from the heads of all government agencies.
"This really shows we have to be much more strict not just in the CHR in terms of having hearings and investigations but it has to come from the very, very top, from the heads of the agencies or the new President who has sworn to be a human rights protector," she said.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the Department of Justice will investigate the incident and prosecute those involved under the Anti-Torture Act.
She will also ask the PNP to take immediate action against the policeman involved, such as placing him under preventive suspension.
'Torture a heinous crime'
A human rights lawyer, meanwhile, said torture is now considered a heinous crime under Republic Act No. 9745 or the Anti-Torture Act of 2009.
Under RA 9745, the act of physical torture is described as "a form of treatment or punishment inflicted by a person in authority or agent of a person in authority upon another in his/her custody that causes severe pain, exhaustion, disability or dysfunction of one or more parts of the body."
The law describes several acts of physical torture such as systematic beating, food deprivation, electric shock, cigarette burning, being submerged in water, urine, vomit or blood "until the brink of suffocation, rape, mutilation, asphyxiation and other analogous acts. It also penalizes mental or psychological torture.
Atty. Eric Mallonga said the use of torture against a criminal suspect is unacceptable no matter what the crime.
"No matter what he has done, he does not deserve this barbaric, cruel form of torture where his genitals are bound with a rope and pulled," he said.
"The police condemned [the victim] automatically. Basta na lang pinarurusahan ng pulis na hindi naman nila nalalaman kung ano yung partisipasyon nung tino-torture nila doon sa krimen ng snatching," he added.
Mallonga said the law gives equal penalties to the torturer and other police officers who witnessed the crime but did nothing.
"A crime was being committed in front of them. They have an obligation and a mandate that no crime should happen in front of them. Because they permitted it to happen, they are equally guilty with the one who committed the abuse," he said.
If found guilty of violating RA 9745, perpetrators could face a 12 to 20-year prison sentence. If the torture victim dies, the perpetrators shall be sentenced to life imprisonment.
Mallonga said he believes other torture incidents committed by the police are not being reported to the media because the victims and their relatives are afraid to report the abuse. This, he said, means that the violence will be repeated.
The lawyer challenged the Philippine National Police leadership to surrender those involved in the incident and act on the case to ensure that it would not happen again. -- With reports from Niko Baua, Jeff Canoy and Jing Castañeda, ABS-CBN News