MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 20, 2011) – The Philippine military on Sunday said it would not tolerate hazing as part of a training after a video posted on the Internet showed army soldiers torturing draftees simulating enemy prison scenarios.
“Hazing is not tolerated in the Philippine Army including the previous escape and evasion training that used simulated physical pains,” said a statement released by the Department of Defense.
The two-part video which runs for over 14 minutes were uploaded to YouTube by a revolutionary media group in the Bicol region called ISNAYP. The Bicol region in southeastern end of Luzon Island is composed of six provinces – Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Masbate and Sorsogon – where communist rebels are also actively operating.
The two videos can be accessed on the following sites: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtmnN9xnzGo&feature=player_embedded#at=151
ISNAYP said the videos were given by disgruntled soldiers from the 9th Infantry Division based in Camarines Sur province.
“The footage covers a significant part of the army recruits' months-long training (ECO2 Cl 185-08). Dismayed soldiers of the 9th Infantry Division submitted the video to the National Democratic Front-Bicol to protest the maltreatment and abuse carried out by the Training Unit,” it said, adding the clips exposed various types of torture inflicted by the military on army trainees.
“According to the upset soldiers who submitted the video, the extremely cruel exercises supposedly prepares the trainees in the eventualities that they will be captured by red fighters of the New People's Army. However, the 9th Infantry Division Training Unit's indoctrination is the exact opposite of the New People’s Army policies. More so, former prisoners of war of the New People’s Army attest to its humane treatment of captives and adherence to international humanitarian law,” ISNAYP said.
The videos showed military trainers beating up more than 100 draftees clad only in a pair of black short pants. The trainers whipped the draftees with rope, punched their faces and kicked their body. One soldier was seen pouring alcohol at the wounds of draftees and then another whips them over and over again.
One trainer ordered the draftees to look at the camera while he recorded the beatings. One soldier hit the face of trainee with a belt buckle and another was pricking draftees with what appeared to be a pointed object.
“With the Armed Forces of the Philippines systematic brutality even to its own soldiers, the military's platitudes of its supposed respect for human rights are nothing but a big lie,” ISNAYP said.
But the Philippine Army said the torture video was taken in 2008 before new training systems were institutionalized and when the military directed the retraining of cadres in Doctrine Center to come up with scientific approaches in military training in 2009.
It said the perpetrators of the torture video were removed from Doctrine Training Unit also in 2008. The 9th Infantry Division said communist rebels were using the issue to divert public attention from their own human rights violations in the Bicol region where the New People’s Army killed three people, one of them a former rebel-turned-government militia, in recent attacks.
“The NPA is trying to depict soldiers as inhuman to sway the public attention from their own human rights violation and dastardly acts of liquidating unarmed military personnel like militiaman Gino Olugar and innocent civilians like Jason Niervesa and Sandy Lozano,” it said.
Olugar, a member of the army-led militia, was killed by rebels on March 17 in Camarines Sur province. The two others were accused by the rebels as behind the series of banditry and other crimes in Albay province.
The Philippine Army also accused the rebels as behind the February massacre of six family members after they failed to pay illegal taxation in Bicol and 45 other people last year. Just last month, the Philippine military launched an investigation into a video also uploaded on the social networking site Facebook where it showed soldiers beating up four men whose faces were covered and hands tied behind their back.
The video was believed taken by one of the soldiers from his cell phone and showed about a dozen troops at a coconut farm taking turns in punching and kicking the still unidentified men – their hands tied at the back - as they lay helpless on the ground.
Some of the victims were crying and begging the soldiers to stop the beatings, but it continued more with some of them threatening to execute the four men. It was unknown whether the men were civilians or rebels, but security officials who watched the clip said the video was probably taken between 2008 and 2009 in Basilan province, south of Zamboanga City, because of its familiar topography.
Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, three of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region, are where most of the marine forces are currently stationed.
But it was not immediately known when the video was taken and whether the four men had been killed by the soldiers. The clip ran for almost 2 minutes and can be accessed on this URL http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=189913031028856&comments.
Two soldiers also kicked one of the men on the face after he was told to stand up, but he could hardly walk because of the beatings. “Walk you animal, walk,” one soldier shouted at the man, whose face was covered with a hood just like the others.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines has ordered a thorough investigation into the incident and that Army Colonel Domingo Tutaan, head of its new human rights office, who viewed the clip, already launched a detailed inquiry into it.
“As soon as I have heard the news about the video clip, I have directed the Philippine Navy human rights officers to conduct an inquiry and a thorough investigation to determine the veracity of the video and identify the soldiers, their unit and when and where this was committed and the commanders of said unit,” said Tutaan.
Tutaan said: “The intent of the investigation is to determine the culpability of soldiers and if there is culpability, we will file immediately a case in accordance with the military justice system and to cooperate with local enforcement agencies for filing of criminal charges. Respect for human rights of every citizen is our primordial concern.”
He said the AFP also wanted to determine what happened to the four men and their whereabouts. “We want to determine all these things so we can extend assistance to them. We want to extend them legal assistance too,” he said.
Captain Giovanni Carlo Bacordo, a spokesman for the Philippine Navy which has control over the Marine forces, said the video was viewed by senior military officials and that an investigation was launched to identify the soldiers in the video.
“The Flag Officer in Command of the Philippine Navy (Rear Admiral Alexander Pama) has directed the Naval Inspector General to conduct formal investigation to ferret out the truth relative to that video that was uploaded in that Facebook for further appropriate actions as results would warrant,” he said.
He said the Philippine Marine Corps is also in the process of determining the authenticity of the contents of the video. “If found authentic, the Philippine Marine Corps will conduct an investigation to identify the personnel involve and the extent of their culpability,” the spokesman said.
“In support to the AFP human rights advocacy, the Philippine Navy leadership assures that adherence to the rule of law and respect to human rights is our paramount concern in every operation,” he added.
The Department of National Defense also mounted its own investigation after senior officials watched the video clip, according to an aide of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin. “Secretary Gazmin who watched the video clip is angry about these abuses by soldiers and he has ordered an investigation into it,” the aide said.
But the progress of the investigation remains unknown one month after the news of the torture broke out in the Philippine media. (Mindanao Examiner)