‘I knew I was in a torture chamber. One of the agents said: “Nobody knows you are here so we can do anything we want with you.”’
Loretta Rosales, a Filipino activist, teacher, politician, and survivor of torture

Loretta RosalesBeing a human rights activist in the Philippines in the 1970s was a risky business.

Blindfolded and shunted into a strange car – Loretta Rosales didn’t think she would live to tell the story when two plain clothes security officials took her.

‘I was very afraid. I knew that was it for me. The moment they brought me inside this building, I started hearing cries and screams,’ Loretta told us.

It began right away

‘I knew I was in a torture chamber. One of the agents said: “Nobody knows you are here so we can do anything we want with you.”’

First, the men shouted questions, then poured hot candle wax over her arms, tried to suffocate her with a belt and waterboarded her.

‘I remember trying to stay awake, that was my way of fighting. And then, the electric shocks begun, that was the most painful. My body was trembling uncontrollably. I had no control of my body,’ she explained.

Loretta’s family had connections with the military and she was released a few days later. But nobody was ever brought to justice for the abuse she suffered as a young activist.

One of the men who tortured her is now a member of congress.

However, Loretta never gave up her human rights work. She is now Head of the Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights, the national human rights institution in the country.

The wheel of torture

Nearly 40 years on – and despite the Anti-Torture Act being passed in 2009 – torture is still widespread in the Philippines.

State security forces, including police officers, continue to torture suspects and prisoners.

In January 2014, Loretta received a call reporting the discovery of a ‘torture wheel’ in a police intelligence facility in the city of Biñan, south of Manila.

The officers would decide on which torture techniques to use on detainees by spinning a wheel.

A ‘wheel of torture’ at an undisclosed police safe house in Laguna province, south of Manila, Philippines. © Philippine Commission on Human Rights

A ‘30 second bat position’ meant that the prisoner would be hung upside down like a bat for 30 seconds. A ‘20 second Manny Pacquiao’, named after a famous Filipino boxer, meant that a detainee would be punched non-stop for 20 seconds.

‘It was the first time I saw something like that. They usually torture someone to extract information but this was being done for entertainment. It was shocking,’ said Loretta.

How you can help

Torture is illegal in the Philippines. In reality, it remains rife. And when victims are too scared to talk, the perpetrators escape justice.

Your voice can bring about change. 

Take action to stop torture