A Philippine Human Rights NGO providing Psychosocial Services and Rehabilitation to Internally Displaced Persons and Survivors of Torture and Organized Violence.

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The UN Committee against Torture has expressed concern over the persistence of impunity for acts of torture despite the enactment of the Anti-Torture Act in 2009 in the Philippines. It noted that only one perpetrator has been convicted considering the rising number of torture cases compiled by the Commission on Human Rights six years after torture was declared a criminal offense.

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A minor died while another young boy and an adult farmer were seriously injured  reportedly as a result of unlawful violence they suffered  in the hands of soldiers in the municipality of Tipo-Tipo in Basilan. The incident happened on April 12, 2016 in the midst of the military  combat operations against  the Abu Sayyaf group that  were involved  in  the recent kidnappings and killings of civilian hostages in southern Philippines.

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The  United against Torture Coalition  (UATC) has called attention on the  non-conviction of torturers and the weak implementation of the Anti-Torture Act six years since it was enacted in 2009. The coalition raised this observation, among other issues,  during the 57th session of the United Nations Committee on Torture at  Palais Wilson in Geneva on April 27, 2015. 

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Cry Torture: The Story of Addul

Addul is 34 years old; married with four children, two boys and two girls is from Bgy. Tabuk, Isabela City, Basilan. He finished only second year in college but he worked as a lineman at a local electric cooperative for close to ten years. Addul's wife, Miriam is an elementary teacher by profession having graduated with a degree in elementary education. They are both Muslims belonging to the Yakan tribe who are predominant in Basilan.

Miriam had been very supportive to him. Her job as a teacher is stable and though Addul had to help his own family [he still supports his siblings to school], their children continued going to school and there was not much disruptions and they were able to make ends meet.

What Happened

July 16, 2001 is a very unforgettable date for Addul. If he has a choice, he would have wanted to erase that date from the calendar. It was on this day, a Monday when he was arrested right in his office.

Addul arrived in the office a few minutes before eight. After the usual Monday flag ceremony, everybody started to go about the week's workload. For Addul and the other linemen, this was the day were they would plan the week's schedule, which town they would visit during the week, which electric post needed a check – up, and so on.

All of a sudden at around 9:30, uniformed men from the 103rd Infantry Brigade (IB), stormed the offices of the electric cooperative and singled out Addul. His officemates and even his boss were helpless. Not a word was uttered because of the swiftness of the incident. The armed men presented no warrants whatsoever; they just dragged him out of their office. Addul was made to ride an army vehicle; his hands and feet tied with a nylon rope, blindfolded and brought to the army headquarters.

Addul was interrogated and tortured for 9 days before he was eventually brought to the Basilan Provincial Jail on July 25, 2001. The whole time that he was under the custody of his captors, Addul was denied of visitors even from his immediate family. His wife and his relatives were repeatedly told by the military that Addul was not being held at the headquarters. Repeated appeal even from his superiors and local leaders attesting to his innocence was not heeded.

The Nine Day Nightmare

Immediately upon arrival at the army headquarters, his captors took his personal belongings such as identification cards, wallet, shoes, cellular phone and other important papers including his income tax return documents.

Addul suffered different kinds of physical and psychological torture for nine days. There were times when his head, his eyes blindfolded was covered with plastic cellophane and his torturer would either tighten the plastic around his neck with a masking tape or a rope. Every position of defiance would be countered with a kick, or a whack from the butt of an armalite rifle.

But he recalled that his most difficult ordeal was not the three days that he was denied any food, nor the time when he was hit with a metal water pipe on the knees, hands, fingers and other parts of the body whenever he denies the accusation that he was a member of the dreaded Abu Sayyaf. The hardest method of torture that he endured was when his penis was soaked in a bottle of gasoline with crushed pepper, at the same time a cloth wet of similar stuff was rubbed in his eyes, ears and armpit.

Addul recalled that he almost passed out; he thought at that moment that he would really die in the hands of his captors.

Throughout his nine-day nightmare, Addul just pinned his hopes on seeing his family again. He kept on praying whenever he can. Upon his transfer to the Provincial Jail on July 25, he learned that he was being charged with Murder.

The Effects of Torture

Addul's biggest problem upon his transfer to the jail was urinary tract infection. He had difficulty urinating and was given an antibiotic a week after he first complained to the warden. He lost weight and he often had stomach problems, which he said he got from the continuous beatings that he got at the army headquarters. Addul had sore throat days after he arrived at the jail, he attributed this to the cellophane – masking tape strangulation he went through several times when he was being tortured.

Aside from the physical pain like frequent headaches and body pains, Addul is bothered by his nightmares. He hardly sleeps and if he does, the slightest noise would wake him up, especially footsteps. Addul slept in a hammock made of blanket on top of a double-decked bed occupied by two other prisoners.

Moreover, he is worried about his case, the economic condition of his family and most especially, how to regain his dignity as a person particularly seeking employment again after his release.

Addul's torture changed him from being cheerful and friendly to a silent, depressed and short – tempered person. He is evidently suspicious and angry that of all people, he said repeatedly, why it had to be him? He is pessimistic about his early release from prison. He is devastated that his dreams and plans for the future of his family are now dim.

Addul opened up during BALAY's third visit. Though he was cordial, only objective data was obtained from him during the early exchanges. The initial interview and rapport developed with his wife loosened up Addul's defenses. He submitted himself to the BALAY partnership.

MOVING ON

Initially, BALAY attended to the physical complaints of Addul. Then, his wife included, debriefing sessions were followed up with stress tension reduction techniques. The latter was aimed at equipping not only Addul but also his wife as well with helpful and constructive way by which they can deal with stress.

BALAY saw the importance of teaching and encouraging Miriam so she will better understand the situation of her husband. Further, it is aimed at strengthening the support system of Addul so that his feeling helpless and hopeless would diminish over time.

Marked improvement was very evident not only on Addul's face but on his disposition as well. The worry about their future is still there, including the fear and the occasional nightmare. But he is more able to take control of his life now that he knows help from outside is being extended to him and his family.

Monitoring and follow – up on Addul's treatment course was sustained. Though he appears to be improving, the deep wounds of his physical and psychological torture are still deep in his heart and on his head. More is yet to be done. But the support and love of his family is doing him well, as such, his wife and children should continue to be strong, for the court battle as well as encouraging Addul to move on even after everything is over. Hopefully soon.