Three weeks ago, I joined a panel discussion on torture, in a daylong forum organized by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines. It was really an opportunity for me to listen and learn (my co-panelists, for example, were Carol Arguillas of Mindanews, Caloy Conde of the New York Times/International Herald Tribune, and Ed Lingao of ABC News).
My very limited perspective (as these aide-memoire notes show) was only that of an editor vetting stories and an opinion writer proposing policy.
I began with a reflection on two of the most discussed torture stories published in the Inquirer in the last few years (the special report on the Abadilla 5, mainly by Stella Gonzales and Juliet Javellana, and the series on Communist Party of the Philippines purges, written by Totoy Sarmiento).
“They show the following:
* Torture knows no ideology, except power.
* Torture is an expression of the paranoia of power, a paranoia that feeds on many sources.”
(At this point I also noted the responsibility of non-state actors.)
I then took a stab at the following question: What can we do to stop the use of torture as an instrument of official policy? Three suggestions:
* Stop the practice of presenting suspects.
* Minimize dependence of criminal justice system on witness testimony.
* Redefine meaning of case solution.