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Rights advocates call for state accountability following death of person in police custody

Survivors of torture and extra-judicial killings, young people, and human rights defenders  demand from the Duterte administration to  put an end to ‘abusive police force’ and asked the Department of Justice to ensure accountability of state authorities and the delivery of justice, especially to the poor. They raised this call during the commemoration of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture in a public action organized by the United against Torture Coalition (UATC) on June 26.

The UATC supporters marched from the grounds of the Commission on Human and held a program in front of the building of the Public Attorney’s Office, an agency attached to the Department of Justice.

“What the Duterte administration has done is to effectively weaken the already ailing criminal justice system,” Wilnor Papa, UATC spokesperson, said.

“Instead of punishing torturers and jailing police officers implicated in extra judicial killings, the Duterte government has only encouraged abusive acts of police officers by inciting them to railroad human rights and due process in the name of ridding society of criminality and illegal drugs,” Papa added.

The UATC-led activity took place six days after a detainee died in police custody apparently as a result of beating and deplorable condition in a police lock up cell in Quezon City.

Policemen arrested Genesis Argoncillo, 22, also known as “Tisoy”, on June 15 because he was not wearing a shirt. Four days later he died in a hospital bearing marks of senseless beating. Authorities, at first, explained that his injuries were self-inflicted, claiming that he was "mentally disturbed" and was uncontrollable, making a scene inside the cell.  His death certificate however indicates that he died of multiple blunt force trauma in the neck, head, chest, and upper extremities. He also bore bruises on his shoulders and hips.

“We mark the global day against torture with sadness and anger. We join those who mourn the death of Genesis Argoncillo and call on authorities to hold accountable those who allowed his tragic death to happen,” according to BALAY,  one of the conveners of the UATC.

The Anti-Torture Act, which became a law in 2009, proscribes law enforcers from using unlawful violence or for allowing acts of cruelty and ill treatment against persons under their custody. Argoncillio’s death, BALAY pointed out,  is an indication that  violence against persons deprived of liberty persists in the Philippines despite its absolute prohibition under the Philippine Constitution (see related BALAY statement in full through website).

Among those who joined the activity are Amnesty International Philippines, Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, Medical Action Group,  Youth for Nationalism and Democracy, Ex-Detainees Initiatives,  FIND,  Youth for Human Rights, Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, and members of the Commission on Human Rights.