Philippines: Check Claims & Protect Manalo Bros
Philippines: Investigate claims and Protect Manalo Brothers
On 8 November, Raymond and Reynaldo Manalo, two farmers suspected of being sympathetic to a local insurgency and detained for 18 months, will testify at their hearing at the Supreme Court that they were held illegally and subject to torture, inhuman and degrading treatment.
Amnesty International calls on the Philippines authorities to investigate their claims of abduction, ill-treatment and torture at the hands of the armed forces. Amnesty International is concerned that on a number of occasions when allegations of human rights violations were levelled against the armed forces, no charges were filed, apparently due to lack of evidence and witnesses afraid to come forward to file affidavits.
On 14 February 2006, Raymond and Reynaldo Manalo were forcibly taken from their residence by unidentified armed men. They were then led to various military detention camps and tortured over a period of 18 months. On 13 August 2007, they escaped from detention. During the period under detention, they recognised a high ranking military officer, who has been implicated in many enforced disappearances but was never charged. They say he was aware of their torture and ill-treatment.
Whilst Raymond and Reynaldo were being held in military detention, the families filed habeas corpus petitions in courts, but the military officers responded with denials of any involvement in the disappearance.
Amnesty International points out that the Manalo brothers have put themselves at risk of harassment and possible arrest by coming forward to depose. Following their escape, they feared for their safety and that of their relatives and appealed to the Supreme Court for protection instead of making use of the State-run Witness Protection Program, which they felt was ineffective.
During the hearing at the Supreme Court they are filing a Writ of Amparo, in which the Manalo brothers seek further protective custody from the Court, appointment of an independent commissioner to examine their claims, as well as inspection and access orders for the Court to inquire into the places of their detention.
Amnesty International calls on the Philippines authorities to act on their requests and ensure their continued protection.
Amnesty International, the Melo Commission and the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, Philip Alston, have all highlighted the necessity of ensuring prompt, thorough and impartial investigation of human rights violations and strengthening of the witness protection program.
Amnesty International wishes to remind the Government of Philippines that it has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits arbitrary detention, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment. Investigation into cases of disappearances and extrajudicial killings is key to ending impunity. Protection of witnesses is important in order for prosecutors to obtain important information for charges to be filed and perpetrators brought to justice.