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Philippines

    September 11, 2014

    By Hazel Galang-Folli, Amnesty International’s Expert on the Philippines

    Although it is talked about little, torture is the Phillipines’ dirty, open secret. It is endemic. Even though banned in Philippine law, and even though the country has signed up to all the right international treaties on ending torture, this has amounted to little more than paper promises.

    Amnesty International has received numerous and harrowing reports of the widespread use of torture and other cruel and inhuman practices by security forces.

    And the police are woefully equipped to address the issue. With around a quarter of a million police officers and soldiers combined, according to the President himself, the Philippines has one of the smallest police to population ratios in the world. This means that the national police has been dependent on poorly trained but sometimes armed police auxiliaries. On the ground, police officers rely on informants and “assets” to do their policing – and sometimes extra-legal activities.

    August 12, 2014

    This morning’s arrest of a General accused of abductions and torture in the Philippines is an encouraging sign that the authorities are finally tackling a culture of impunity for serious human rights violations by the security forces, Amnesty International said.

    Retired Major General Jovito Palparan, 63, was arrested by the National Bureau of Investigation and members of the armed forces at around 3am in the Santa Mesa area of the Philippines’ capital, Manila.

    Often referred to as Berdugo (“the executioner” or “the butcher”) by human rights activists, he faces charges of kidnapping and illegal detention of university students in 2006.  

    “Today’s arrest of one of the Philippines’ most wanted alleged human rights violators must embolden the authorities to step up their efforts to bring to justice military and law enforcement officials who have reportedly abused their power through involvement in torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions,” said Rupert Abbott, Deputy Asia-Pacific Director at Amnesty International.

    May 09, 2014

    Alfreda Disbarro from Quezon City, Philippines was at an internet café near her house in the early evening of October 3, 2013. Police stopped her and accused her of drug dealing. She denied this and emptied her pockets voluntarily, revealing just a mobile phone and a five-peso coin.

    The police then pointed a gun at her, punched her in the chest, handcuffed her and took her to police headquarters. Officers tortured her to force her to confess to the crime and she was in such pain that she could not eat for days and had difficulty breathing and kept vomiting.

    She was taken to the Barangay Hall of Barangay San Antonio the following day, where she was told to sign a blank sheet of paper, and photographed with three one-hundred-dollar bills and a sachet of drugs produced by the policy. Alfreda protested her innocence.

    Alfreda went before the Prosecutor on October 8, charged with the sale and possession of illegal drugs but was not asked about what the police had done to her.

    April 08, 2014

    The Philippine Supreme Court’s decision on Tuesday to uphold a landmark reproductive health law as constitutional is an important victory for millions of Filipino women and girls, Amnesty International said.

    The court’s decision, which will require the government to provide free contraception to millions of the nation’s poorest women, is being welcomed by activists across the country.

    “Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a victory for the independence of the judiciary and means that millions of women and girls have a right to access medical services and information they need,” said Hazel Galang-Folli, Amnesty International’s Researcher on the Philippines.

    “The Philippine authorities must resist all ongoing efforts to roll back the country’s landmark law on sexual and reproductive rights. Caving in to pressure would mean denying women and girls their human rights.”

    January 27, 2014

    The discovery of a secret torture cell in a police intelligence facility in the Philippines where officers physically abused inmates for fun in a game of “roulette” shows the authorities’ pitiful lack of control over the police force in the country, Amnesty International said today.

    The organization is calling on the Aquino administration to act immediately to put an end to routine torture under their watch.

    “For police officers to use torture ‘for fun’ is despicable. These are abhorrent acts. Suspending officers is not enough. Errant police personnel and their commanding officers should be held accountable in a court of law,” said Hazel Galang-Folli, Amnesty International's Philippines Researcher.

     "Torture is a criminal act, and the leadership of the Philippine National Police must end its practice within its ranks. The authorities must ensure that torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment is not tolerated.”

    March 25, 2013

    Ericson Acosta, a Philippine poet and activist detained on trumped-up charges for almost two years, was released in January—after all charges against him were dropped.

    “This is great news, not just for Ericson Acosta himself, but also for accountability and justice in the Philippines”, said Amnesty International’s Isabelle Arradon.

    Ericson Acosta was first arrested in February 2011 by the military. He was eventually charged with the illegal possession of explosives. The charges had no merit and Amnesty declared him to be a prisoner of conscience and campaigned for his freedom.

    After his release, Acosta thanked supporters, including Amnesty members, for their solidarity: “In jail, I yearned for sea and sky. Freedom cannot be achieved by mere yearning, only by struggle...I would personally thank everyone who campaigned for my release—my family, lawyers, friends, former classmates and colleagues, fellow artists and human rights advocates.”

    March 19, 2013

    A ruling by the Philippines’ Supreme Court to halt a new law on reproductive health is a leap backwards for human rights in the country, Amnesty International said.  

    The Act Providing for a National Policy on Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health, known as the RH Law, provides for access to contraception and reproductive health information for adults.

    It came into force in January 2013, amid opposition from Catholic clergy. The Supreme Court, however, has now delayed its implementation pending a new hearing on 18 June.  

    “The law is a historical milestone in the protection of women’s rights in the Philippines as it strikes down some longstanding barriers for women’s access to sexual and reproductive health,” said Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International's Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.

    “It is disappointing that there is another delay in protecting these basic human rights.”

    The RH Law does not merely focus on fertility-related concerns, but also addresses HIV and AIDS, breast and reproductive tract cancers, and menopausal and post-menopausal conditions.  

    February 01, 2013

    A Philippine poet and activist who has been detained on trumped up charges for almost two years must be released immediately, Amnesty International said after the Philippine Department of Justice (DoJ) dropped all charges against him.

    Ericson Acosta was first arrested in Samar province on 13 February 2011 by the military.  He was eventually charged with the illegal possession of explosives.

    But the Philippine government has said Acosta will now be released after the DoJ ordered the Samar provincial prosecutor to drop all charges against him on 31 January 2013, citing “serious irregularities” in the military’s handling of his arrest and detention.

    “This is great news, not just for Ericson Acosta himself, but also for accountability and justice in the Philippines. He must now be released immediately,” said Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.

    “But he should never have been detained in the first place – the charges against him were spurious at best, and an example of the authorities trying to silence a peaceful activist.”

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