MANILA, Philippines—The Asian Human Rights Commission is calling for an investigation of Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim who was shown on a televised newscast interrogating and forcing a confession out of a robbery suspect while police officers looked on and did nothing.
The incident, captured by TV cameras, was a violation of the country’s antitorture law, the AHRC said in a statement.
“Forcing crime suspects to confess their supposed transgressions, in full view of the police, the public and the press has been done all too often in this country, but this does not make it right,” said the AHRC, a nongovernmental body of Asian jurists and human rights activists.
“If they could do this in open view of the public with impunity, there is nothing to prevent ordinary policemen from using torture as a method of investigation,” it added.
The Commission on Human Rights and the Public Attorney’s Office should investigate Lim for his actions, and the police officers for allowing him to violate the detainee’s rights, the Hong Kong-based AHRC said.
The TV footage from GMA News aired on June 21 showed Lim ordering the suspect to speak up on the allegations that he committed the robbery, while the mayor’s hand was pressing on the suspect’s shoulder. The suspect initially denied committing the robbery but, interrogated by Lim, he admitted his involvement.
The AHRC commented that it was “obvious” the suspect was forced to make the admission.
It pointed out that under the law, inflicting physical or psychological pain in order to extract a confession or information, and forcing a person to admit to a crime, were criminal offenses.
“The AHRC is shocked, but not surprised, by the inaction of the police and of how Mayor Lim could openly break the law in front of the law enforcement officers,” it said.
“In a situation where a suspect is questioned in the absence of his legal counsel by an influential politician in front of senior police officers and journalists, it is likely that any suspect would admit to anything,” it further said.
The human rights group believes there was no need for Lim to have extracted the confession from the suspect, since the police officers earlier said they had enough evidence to support a robbery and attempted rape case.
“In fact, Mayor Lim’s torture of the suspect in full view of the public only damages the probability of a successful prosecution because evidence taken by way of torture is not admissible in court. As a former policemen himself of 30 years, Mayor Lim should have known this most elementary rule of evidence,” it said.
“If Mayor Lim and the other policemen are not held accountable for this incident, this would aggravate and perhaps have irreversible consequences on the people’s loss of trust and confidence in the law,” it added.
Not a rare occurrence
The AHRC lamented that Lim’s actions, and the police officers’ acceptance of it, were not a rare occurrence in the country, and may even set the tone for future actions of law enforcers.
“There is nothing unique and scandalous about Mayor Lim torturing the suspect and the policemen not doing anything to protect a detainee’s rights. In fact, it merely reaffirms what all Filipinos know about the systematic and widespread torture practiced during police investigations and questioning while detainees are held in custody,” it said.
A transcript of the GMA-7 news clip was posted on the AHRC website (http://www.humanrights.asia/news/ahrc-news/AHRC-STM-113-2013):
Mayor Lim: ’Di ba ikaw ang nang holdap dito? (Wasn’t it you who robbed this woman?)
Suspect: Hindi kami (It was not us).
Mayor Lim: (asking the two complainants) Sino ba ang nang-holdap sa iyo? (Who robbed you?) O, ikaw daw eh. Magsalita ka. (You see, she said it was you.) (Mayor Lim, in a yellow shirt, was seen pressing on the suspect’s shoulder hard).
Suspect: Hindi (No).
Mayor Lim: Hindi? Ibig mong sabihin nagsisinungaling ito? (No? Are you saying the complainants are lying?)
Mayor Lim: Totoo ’yung sinasabi n’ya? Ha? (So, what she said is true, right?)
Suspect: Oo. (Yes).
Mayor Lim: So, totoo ito inaamin mo na pinagtatangkaan mo. Naholdap eh. Na dadalhin dun sa… para gahasain. (So, you are admitting that you attempted to rape this woman. She was robbed and was attempted to be raped).