Amnesty International said Thursday that torture cases in the Philippines have increased as the government has escalated its fight against communist insurgents.
"Military intelligence agents are reported to have subjected detainees to severe beatings, electric shocks, stabbings, near suffocation with plastic bags or water, and sexual abuse," said the report by the London-based group."Similar abuses in police stations have been reported. Soldiers on patrol have been accused of rape and other abuses in villages suspected of sympathizing with rebel forces," it said.
This "pattern of torture" has re-emerged even though President Corazon Aquino's government enacted constitutional and legal measures to outlaw brutality, Amnesty International said in the report.
"Amnesty International believes that immediate action is still needed to enforce legal safeguards against incommunicado detention, to investigate fully all allegations of torture, and to bring those responsible to justice," the report said.
In Manila, Aquino said Thursday, "I am in touch with the progress of these cases. The final reports are not yet in as not all witnesses have been heard." She urged human rights organizations to submit reports of violations to a new committee she created this week to investigate alleged abuses.
Last Saturday, Aquino acknowledged violations were continuing but blamed most of them on the communist rebel New People's Army. She said human rights abuse was not a policy of her administration and that it was unfair to blame the problem exclusively on the military.
"They have to give us a chance," said Mary Concepcion Bautista, chairwoman of the Commission on Human Rights in Manila. "We have to investigate. We cannot be Amnesty International, which just publishes reports. ... They are being unfair."
Amnesty said it knew of no instance of a military or police officer being convicted of a serious human rights offense since Aquino came to power in February 1986 in the military-civilian uprising that ousted President Ferdinand Marcos.