MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Lawyers alleged today that the military tortured 21 people in an attempt to force them to confess they were members of an assassination squad.
Attorney George Gaduang told reporters the alleged torture victims were among 85 people arrested in a series of raids in July and accused of being communist rebels.
Gaduang said they signed affidavits claiming they were tortured during their first two days of detention.
Efforts to contact military officials for comment were unsuccessful.
Of the 85 people arrested, 60 have been released. The 25 still in custody have not been charged, Gaduang said, although Philippine law requires that suspects be charged within 48 hours of arrest or freed.
The military has said those still held are members of the rebel Alex Boncayao Brigade, which has taken responsibility for killing hundreds of police officers and soldiers in the capital in the last three years.
Gaduang said all 25 deny they are communist rebels.
Also today, presidential spokeswoman Deedee Sytangco said President Corazon Aquino has approved a civilian trial for three soldiers accused of murder in the March 1988 slaying of leftist Reynaldo Francisco and the torture of his companion, Hilario Bustamante.
Military courts in the Philippines normally have jurisdiction in cases of soldiers accused of crimes against civilians. Human rights groups claim such courts routinely favor soldiers over civilians.
The waiver came one month after the National Bureau of Investigation filed murder charges against Lt. Wilbur Naldo, Sgt. Arnel Jocson and Constable 2nd Class Dioscoro Ambagay. A civilian informant, Bartolome Nieves, was also charged in the case.
Bustamante said he and Francisco were abducted on a Manila street on March 18, 1988, while putting up posters opposing the U.S. military bases in the Philippines.
They were taken to the headquarters of Mrs. Aquino’s security force, tortured and then driven to a remote area where Francisco was slain, Bustamante said.
Bustamante was found near death March 21, 1988 with deep stab wounds and cuts across his body.