Tuesday, October 27, 2009

PGMA has 18 days left to criminalize act of torture in the Philippines

Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), a mission partner of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP) sees no reason for PGMA to desist from signing the proposed Anti-Torture Bill. It is indeed a long overdue obligation of the Philippine Government to fulfill its duty to install domestic mechanisms to protect the people from the harm of torture and put perpetrators to justice.

Also known as “An Act Penalizing Torture & Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment”, the bill was transmitted by Congress to the Office of the President on October 13, 2009. What is left now is for the president to sign the bill into law within 30 days after its transmittal.

The enactment of an Anti-torture Law is necessary to criminalize and help eliminate the use of torture. Civil society and victims of torture had lobbied for an anti-torture law since the fall of the Marcos dictatorship. Now, hopefully, we are 18 days away from having an anti-torture law.

We must never allow torture to be committed. Although the Philippine government is strong in denying its practice of torture, victims have surfaced to expose the suffering that they have been made to undergo. TFDP records show more than 500 individual victims of torture during the Arroyo Administration.

In the absence of an anti-torture law, victims continue to face more threats and intimidations while perpetrators remain unaccountable and acts of torture continue. Charges had been filed, but due to the deficiency of laws against such act and the nature of such cases, no one had been punished as impunity reigns stronger in the country.

The United Nations Committee Against Torture and the civil society have long called for the Philippine government to fulfill its obligation to protect its people from torture. Legislation of a domestic mechanism against the practice of torture has been one of the recommendations to the Philippine government.

The cases of the Abadilla 5, the Manalo brothers, political offenders like Archie Bathan, Gerardo Ismael and Mark Alipio, and the disappearance and torture of Melissa Roxas and many others are living proof that the inhuman act to extract information and confessions remains a dominant practice among state authorities.

The government failed to act on retired general, now Congressman Palparan’s alleged involvement to torture. Palparan was even bent on proving that Melissa Roxas is indeed a member of the New People’s Army, as if this would justify why state authorities perform acts of torture. The right not to be tortured is a non-derogable right and has no place in a civilized society.

We call on PGMA to stand by her pronouncements in the latest Philippine report to the UN Convention Against Torture and the Philippine government’s international pledges.

PGMA, Sign the Anti-Torture Bill into Law Now!

October 26, 2009

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