Thursday, October 15, 2009

Santiago lauds gov’t agencies for supporting OPCAT


MANILA, Oct. 8 -– Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago lauded on Thursday the concerned government agencies for their ‘remarkable’ supports in the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT).

”It is remarkable that members of the military and law enforcement were unanimous in expressing support for this optional protocol to the convention against torture. This means that they are very educated on our constitution because this is no less than a constitutional provision,” Santiago said after the Senate committee on foreign relations public hearing on OPCAT.

Santiago explained that the optional protocol requires the country to observe international guidelines for the detention of prisoners.

”We can no longer push people in a very small compound and guard them at the rate of about one guard for every 40 prisoners, because the international standard is one guard for every seven prisoners,” Santiago said.

Santiago said she will sponsor the OPCAT which aims to build hundreds of jails around the country.

”Statistics show that there is simply unacceptable overcrowding in our jails. We are far below standard so that is why when we concur with the additional protocol, we will file a declaration of deferment, that is to say we will request the UN authority to give us three years so that we can upgrade our prison facilities before the subcommittee on torture will be able to come to our country any time at any place and make their visit,” Santiago stressed.

”Our penologists already know what the global standards are, and the mere intention to visit will already make them scramble to live up to the global standards,” she added.

Santiago said OPCAT was ratified by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2006.
The lady lawmaker said there was a working group to assimilate all the agencies concerned like local governments, Commission on Human Rights, the Presidential Commission on Human Rights, and other law enforcement agencies like the military, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and immigration bureau that are empowered to detain prisoners.

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) director general Dionisio Santiago assured that agency upholds human rights by treating each person with respect, justice and fairness.
”In the campaign against illegal drugs, the basic foundations must be the rule of law and respect for individual rights. Otherwise, we will be no different from drug trafficiers and criminals operating in our society,” the PDEA chief said.

For his part, BJMP chief Rosendo Dial supported the objective of Sen. Santiago to improve the living conditions of inmates throughout the country.

”Every person even those confined in jails has the right to live free from torture and other inhumane treatments. BJMP has always advocated for the protection and promotion of human rights,” Dial said in his opening statement.

”BJMP supports the OPCAT and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” he added.

Dial also said that BJMP is also sensitive to the rights and needs of women and children inmates that it has separated 50 dorms for women and two facilities for children in coordination of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Last year, the national government allotted P36.9 million for the BJMP for the construction of three regional offices, 11 new jail buildings, nine perimeter fences, 11 additional cells for male and female and other facilities such as visiting area and kitchens.

Dial said the BJMP needs P2.23 billion budget to address congestion of jails and eventually uplift the plight of the inmates in the country. (PNA)

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