The United Against Torture Coalition (UATC) Philippines and Joint Civil Society Report on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in the Philippines
29 May 2009
Reference: Edeliza Hernandez, Executive Director, Medical Action Group
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The Philippine government must announce a policy of total elimination of acts of torture and implement the UN Concluding Observations on RP torture situation
The United Against Torture Coalition (UATC) Philippines and Joint Civil Society Report on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in the Philippines composed of several local and international human rights groups urges the government to announce a policy of total elimination of acts of torture in the country and to take all necessary measures to implement the United Nations Committee against Torture Concluding Observations.
The groups expressed concerns over the government’s penchant of not complying with its obligation and commitment to the international human rights conventions. The Philippines’ second periodic report on the implementation of the provisions of the UN Convention Against Torture was submitted 16 years late. The government must focus its attention to take all necessary actions on the implementation of UN Committee Observations and refrain from making excuses on its clear neglect of duty and obligation to the international human rights conventions.
The government must prove to the international community that they are complying with the provisions of the Convention by enacting House Bill No. 5709 and Senate Bill No. 1978 or Anti-Torture Bills and ratifying as soon as possible the Optional Protocol Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. And not by looking for ways to get more from their hides.
The UN Committee noted that the absence of a domestic law criminalizing acts of torture is a “grave concern” since there is a widespread of torture and ill-treatment of suspects in police custody and detention centers. Furthermore, the malfunctioning criminal justice system in the country also strengthens the reigning climate of impunity of which torture is a major component along with extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances.
The 1987 Constitution guarantees that “no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall [be] issued except upon probable cause,” but the police and the military on most occasions arbitrarily and excessively violate this with impunity. It has become a de facto and “widespread” practice by them to execute arrests and searches even without a lawful court order.
The UN Committee Observations validated the civil society reports on torture cases and human rights violations in the Philippines by identifying “principal subjects of concern and recommendations” in its 12-page report including absence of statistical information and practical information on the implementation of the Convention; torture and ill-treatment and insufficient safeguards during police detention; extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances; de facto practice of detention of suspects by the police and the military in detention centers, safe houses and military camps; sexual violence in detention; children in detention; and lack of redress, including compensation and rehabilitation of torture victims.
There are clear patterns that torture mainly occurs from the very outset of their detention that is starting from the point of arrest, through interrogation and detention. The period between arrest and presentation of the arrested person before a judicial authority is a period conducive to torture and ill-treatment on the person arrested. It is a well-known fact that most of the persons arrested are subjected to torture and ill-treatment before they were brought to a judicial authority which is not in accordance with international standards. They are also denied access to an independent medical treatment or examination.
The reports and allegations of torture and/or ill-treatment committed by law enforcement and military services personnel are seldom investigated and prosecuted and that perpetrators are either rarely convicted or sentenced to lesser penalties that are not in accordance with the grave nature of their crimes.
The judicial system has increasingly focused on prosecuting the victims of torture instead of the torturers and perpetrators. The policies made by the Executive Department to improve the mechanisms in investigating complaints of torture and ill-treatment by the police and the military are dubious and in fact impede the right of the victims to redress and effective remedy since there is a limited number of investigations carried out by the government in such cases and very limited number of perpetrators have been prosecuted so far.
Therefore, it is important that general population be educated on the UN Committee Concluding Observations as well as that law enforcement agencies including all members of the judiciary and prosecutors received education and training on the absolute prohibition of torture. The follow-up and continuity of the process is therefore a crucial component of effective measures in ensuring that the Concluding Observations are promptly and effectively implemented by the government.
The UN Committee Concluding Observations should be used as a tool to lobby the Congress and the Executive Department on specific reforms such as certify as an urgent legislation the passage of Anti-Torture Bills and to enter into a dialogue with relevant government agencies aim at discussing and mapping out plans of action to implement those observations on the elimination of torture in the country.####