Aquino Orders Inquiry Into Torture Charges
MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ President Corazon Aquino on Saturday ordered an investigation into allegations by an anti-nuclear activist who said he was tortured at headquarters of her security force and his companion murdered.
Presidential Executive Secretary Catalino Macaraig said that Mrs. Aquino told the National Bureau of Investigation, which will carry out the inquiry, to ensure the safety of the activist. The bureau is a civilian agency.
Hilario Bustamante Jr., 18, was recovering in a hospital. He suffered a deep cut in the back of the neck which doctors said may have been inflicted with a machete or ax.
The injury was similar to that which killed his companion, Rey Francisco.
Bustamante told reporters on Friday that he, Francisco and five other members of the leftist organization Youth for Democracy and Nationalism were attacked March 19 while putting up posters condemning nuclear arms and U.S. military bases. Bustamante said he and Francisco were chased by a gang of armed men who were wearing civilian clothes but identified themselves as police.
He said the men caught him and Francisco and took them to a military compound behind the presidential palace, where they tortured the two and accused them of belonging to the communist New People’s Army. The compound houses the president’s security forces.
Bustamante said they were beaten with iron rods and burned with cigarettes as they were kept blindfolded and handcuffed.
He said three men loaded them into a car Monday night and took them to a field on the outskirts of Manila, where they were hacked in the back of the neck.
Col. Voltaire Gazmin, commander of the presidential security group, has denied his unit was involved. He added in a separate statement that his unit was investigating Bustamante’s allegations.
But in his statement, Macaraig said that Mrs. Aquino ordered Gazmin and the Manila-area command of the Philippine Constabulary to drop any investigations and leave the matter entirely to the National Bureau of Investigation.
Earlier this month, Amnesty International, a London-based human rights group, charged that the Philippine military was using torture and murder to fight a 19-year-old communist insurgency. Mrs. Aquino called the report one- sided.