Not one more victim of torture, UATC urge
“The Philippines has one of the smallest police-to-population ratios in the world, an overstretched force, predisposed to taking ‘shortcuts’ during arrests and criminal investigations,is the breeding ground for officers who resort to torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in carrying out their jobs,”the United Against Torture Coalition (UATC) said during their annual ‘Basta! Run Against Torture!’(BRAT) activity on 25 June in Quezon City.
“There are only 150,000 police officers serving 100 million Filipinos – this has been one of the perennial problems in our law enforcement that past administrations failed to address, but one that has played an important part of President-elect Duterte’s platform on peace and order during his campaign,” said UATC spokesperson, Joy Lascano.
The UATC supports President-elect Duterte’s intention of straightening up the Philippine National Police (PNP) ranks to enable the institution to effectively address crime.
“Such a goal can only be achieved by complementing efforts of not just recruiting more individuals into the force but improving the institution’s training and operational framework. President Duterte also need to change his rhetoric by sending out a clear message that all law enforcement officials should abide by international law and standards, the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 and their own operational procedures in arrest and interrogation of suspects as well as the rules of engagement,” explained Lascano.
UATC also emphasized that the effective implementation of the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 will complement the efforts of the Duterte Administration towards professionalizing the PNP.
“State security forces, being the ones tasked to administer law and order should be the last ones to break the law by committing crimes and excesses such as torture. The respect for the Rule of Law must be cornerstone of PNP modernization and professionalization,” she added.
The coalition enumerated a number of reasons why law enforcement resort to torture. UATC acknowledges that these challenges are real and called on the members of the security forces present in their event to identify and effectively address
“There is a lack of awareness among members of the security forces regarding the requirements of human rights law in arrest and detention procedures. The perception that human rights are a hindrance to solving “real social problems” such as criminality should be countered as well as the notion that human rights only focus on the rights of “criminals” rather than on victims of crime. Some members of the police force are also over-zealous, the desire to show the public and their superiors that results are produced and that perpetrators are caught with minimum delay. Torture becomes a means for law enforcement to get the information they need, but this is not good policing work. The notion of acceptable ‘collateral damage’ in the struggle to curb crime and accomplish the “mission” at all costs also hinders proper enforcement of the law,” said Lascano.
UATC called on the incoming President to send an unreserved strong public statement that Torture and Ill-Treatment enabled by operational shortcuts and irregularities will not be tolerated, that all allegations of torture will be taken seriously.
“We ask President-elect Duterte to direct all institutions tasked to address the practice of torture, under the law, to have the determination to cooperate towards ensuring that institutional safeguards work, perpetrators are brought to justice, witnesses are protected and restitution to those who have experienced the ordeal employed. The UATC will stay vigilant in ensuring that not one more victim suffers from torture. We will continue to monitor that perpetrators are held accountable, due diligence is reinforced, safeguards are in place towards prevention of torture and a comprehensive rehabilitation program for victims and perpetrators are implemented.” concluded Lascano.
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