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September 25, 2017

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Police in Philippines accused of torture games

MANILA, Philippines--Philippine police officers played a "wheel of torture" game at a secret detention facility near Manila as a way to extract information from criminal suspects and also to have fun, the government's human rights commission said Tuesday.

Commission on Human Rights Chairwoman Loretta Ann Rosales said she was horrified by the discovery of the torture scheme more than three decades after the Philippines emerged from a brutal era of dictatorship.

Thousands of victims during the reign of dictator Ferdinand Marcos won a class action suit against his estate for torture and other rights violations in 1992 in Hawaii. Marcos was ousted in a peaceful 1986 "people power" revolt.

Under the game, detainees — mostly suspected drug traffickers — were punched if the "torture wheel" stopped at "20 seconds Manny Pacman," referring to a nickname of popular boxer Manny Pacquiao, or hung upside down if it stopped at a punishment called "30-second bat," said Amnesty International, the London-based rights group. It called the practice despicable.

"It's horrible," Rosales, who was also a torture victim under Marcos, said of the game.

"They do it for fun, it's like a game for entertainment," Rosales said. "We're trying to correct this mindset based on a human rights approach to policing but obviously it may take a lot of time," she said.

Rosales told The Associated Press in an interview that she had discussed the torture allegations with top police officials.

President Benigno Aquino III, son of revered pro-democracy icons who fought Marcos, has pledged to take steps to prosecute violators of human rights in past years. Rights groups, however, say violations have continued with impunity under Aquino's watch.

A picture of the multi-colored wheel provided by the human rights commission showed several other torture selections, including "3 minutes zombies" and "30-second duck walk/Ferris wheel" but it was not immediately clear how those punishments were carried out.

"For police officers to use torture `for fun' is despicable," Amnesty International's Hazel Galang-Folli said in a statement. "These are abhorrent acts. Suspending officers is not enough. Errant police personnel and their commanding officers should be held accountable in a court of law."

The group called on Aquino's administration "to act immediately to put an end to routine torture."

National police spokesman Senior Superintendent Reuben Theodore Sindac said several officers have been taken into custody and an investigation was under way.

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