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Philippines police in 'abuse video'
Police commander charged after footage shows him apparently torturing a prisoner.
Last Modified: 19 Aug 2010 04:11 GMT

Police in the Philippines have relieved 11 officers of duty after the release of video footage showing the apparent torture a naked detainee.

The torturer, allegedly a police commander in Manila, shouts insults as his victim screams in pain as a rope tied around his genitals is pulled.

The victim is believed to be a suspected thief caught in Manila's Tondo slum district. It is unclear when the video was taken but it was given to a local TV station on Tuesday.

Al Jazeera's Marga Ortigas, reporting from Manila, said: "This isn’t the first time police have been accused of brutality, but such an incident, caught on tape, has not been seen by the Filipino public before".

"The man in this video is believed to have died in the hands of the police," she said.

The source of the video is now reported to be in hiding.

Commander charged

Leocadio Santiago, the Metropolitan Manila police chief, suspended the 11 member police precinct on Wednesday and ordered a criminal investigation against its commander, senior inspector Joselito Binayug.

"Tommorrow is the 50th day of the Aquino presidency and in the first 50 days we've already seen torture cases, we've seen extra-judicial killings"

Hazal Galang, Amnesty International

"We are holding Binayug responsible," Leocadio Santiago said. "We will be filing charges for dereliction of duty but we want something heavier," the chief told reporters.  

It is not clear if the 10 other officers will face charges, but they will be part of the investigation, police said.

The accused officer faces a maximum 40 year prison sentence if convicted under an anti-torture law passed last year.

Agrimero Cruz, a spokesman for the Philippine national police, told Al Jazeera that the alleged torturer is being investigated by the proper authorities.

"He [the police commander] is now in custody and he is under investigation. Pending the result of the investigation, we cannot do anything about it ... everybody has rights," Gruz said.

"We have already convicted some of those who violated the human rights laws. We are conducting investigations of those who have violated other people's rights."

He could not provide statistics on how many police officers had been successfully prosecuted for torture or other rights violations. 

Record of impunity

Cecilia Quisumbing, an official with the Commission on Human Rights, said her group would separately investigate the torture video.

"This is very disturbing. They treated him worse than an animal," she said.

Hazal Galang, a researcher with the Amnesty International said: "Tomorrow is the 50th day of the Aquino presidency and in the first 50 days we've already seen torture cases, we've seen extra-judicial killings." 

Benigno Aquino III, the recently installed Philippine president, has pledged to crack down on corruption and impunity.

"Swift action has been taken on this one case, the newly-installed government determined to show it meant business when it promised to improve the country’s human rights record," Al Jazeera's Ortigas said.

"But the question remains - what of the others whose pain isn't captured by a camera?"

Just a week ago, Al Jazeera spoke to a man still in custody who also claimed to be a victim of police brutality and his wounds, including a black eye and inflamed bruising, were evident.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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