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Pastor and farmer tell UN of torture in Philippines

Manila, 30 April (ENI)

A Protestant pastor and a farmer have given testimony before the United Nations in Geneva that they have faced torture in the Philippines, giving lie to the government’s claims about its human rights record.

"Inside [a] van, I was blindfolded and handcuffed. I was brought to a ‘safe house’ where I was tortured. I was threatened with death and harm to my family," said Pastor Berlin Guerrero of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines. "They wrapped my head with layers of plastic bags. Twice I passed out, only to be awakened for more physical abuse."

The pastor was sent to Geneva by the National Council of Churches in the Philippines and sponsored by the World Council of Churches. He testified on 27 April before the 42nd Session of the UN Committee Against Torture in Geneva. Guerrero recalled harrowing experiences under Naval Intelligence Security Force operatives. A copy of the pastor’s testimony was sent to Ecumenical News International on 29 April.

Guerrero said he was abducted on 27 May 2007 in front of his family after attending Sunday worship at the local UCCP church in Malaban, Laguna, south of Manila. He said he was arrested without a warrant "on trumped up charges of murder" and spend one year, three months and 15 days in jail before the Court of Appeals released him into the custody of his lawyers.

During his November 2007 visit to Manila, WCC general secretary, the Rev. Samuel Kobia, appealed for Guerrero’s release. The case against Guerrero was dismissed on 23 September 2008 for lack of evidence.

Guerrero was one of 1010 torture victims the human rights group Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) said it documented between 2001 and 2008. The group said it recorded 991 extra-judicial killings over the same period.

Along with Guerrero in Geneva was Raymond Manalo, a 27-year old farmer from San Ildefonso, in the northern province of Bulacan. He said he was abducted with his brother Reynaldo on 14 February 2006 and held for 18 months in three different secret military detention facilities, where he suffered beatings and burning.

Philippine presidential executive secretary Eduardo Ermita told the UN Committee that the country is committed to promoting and protecting human rights "on a global scale". He cited various human rights treaties and conventions to which the country is a signatory, including the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, which President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed in 2008.

All articles (c) Ecumenical News International