Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - New torture videos, this time showing members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) allegedly subjecting their trainees to cruel beatings, have surfaced on the Internet.
The Philippine Army command in the Bicol region has admitted that the soldiers who were seen on the "torture videos" posted on the popular video-sharing website YouTube were military trainers belonging to the 9th Infantry Division (ID) based in Pili, Camarines Sur.
Last year, a YouTube video showing a Manila police officer torturing a naked crime suspect caused worldwide indignation.
On the new evidence of official cruelty, however, 9th ID spokesperson Maj. Harold Cabunoc clarified that the incident occurred "way back" in 2008 and that the Armed Forces leadership had since "rectified the abuses" committed by the military training instructors.
Put-down by communists
He blamed Greg Bañares, the spokesperson of the communist New People's Army (NPA) in Bicol, for spreading the videos to "discredit" the military and put down the purported successes of the Army against the communist rebels in the area.
"They are trying to skirt the real issue. It is the NPAs who are violating human rights as shown by the killings of innocent civilians and uniformed men in Bicol," Cabunoc told the INQUIRER over the phone.
The first video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtmnN9xnzGo) runs for eight minutes and 36 seconds while the second (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDhTMaWOLFg) runs for nearly six minutes.
'Escape, evasion technique'
Cabunoc said the footage was part of the Army's brutal "escape and evasion" technique which, he said, "simulate" what soldiers may have to endure in the event that they are captured by communist rebels.
According to him, Army officers who were behind the cruel beating of the Army recruits had either been relieved from their post or sacked from the service.
"Yes, they were our soldiers. But it happened a long time ago. The Philippine Army has already corrected that and made the training instructors accountable for their offenses," he said.
Upon the discovery of the videos in 2009, he said all Army training instructors were made to undergo a refresher course on the "scientific approach" to military training.
Cabunoc, who admitted seeing the videos, described the training exercises as "pinikpikan" in which the military instructors used wooden sticks to hit the trainees.
He said the training "did not involve torture, but the hazing practice of some abusive" military trainors.
"I myself experienced that kind of training before. But I can assure you, that's no longer the practice," he said.
Among the reforms in current military training is the prohibition on physical contact, he said.
The two torture videos were uploaded by a group called Isnayp, which described itself as the "media of the revolutionary movement in the Bicol region."
Uploaded by upset soldiers
The group claimed the videos were handed to the National Democratic Front, the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines, by "upset soldiers" who could not stomach the maltreatment of the Army recruits.
In the first video, at least five half-naked men can be seen crawling in the mud while men in camouflage pants take turns hitting them with what appeared to be belts, abaca rope and wooden sticks.
As the trainees grimace in pain, their military instructors are heard laughing as they continue whipping them.
Seeing and hearing the trainees cry and beg for mercy was a "hair-raising experience," said a radio reporter covering the defense beat.
In the second video, some of the almost 100 half-naked trainees were seen undergoing the same maltreatment, while others were either lying face down or sitting on the concrete floor as if awaiting their turn.