In November 2009, the Philippines enacted the Republic Act (RA) No. 9745 otherwise known as the Anti-Torture Law which criminalizes torture and ill treatment and provides procedural safeguards of persons deprived of their liberty such as but not limited to their rights to notify relatives about the detention, to be examined by an independent medical professionals and to have prompt access to a lawyer throughout the investigation, pre-trial detention and trial. The law also guarantees that there should be no secret, unofficial or incommunicado detention where torture usually occurs. The law imposes criminal sanctions for its violations which include higher authorities for command responsibility.
The Anti-Torture Law of 2009 is regarded as a positive law criminalizing torture being the first of its kind in Southeast Asia, ten years after adoption of the Anti-Torture Law, the challenges faced by human rights organizations and survivors of torture and their relatives in seeking redress from acts of torture and ill treatment remain problematic.
Any good law is useless without its proper implementation. Many problems especially in the aspect of the criminal justice system render the law ineffective with the prolonged pre-trial detention, confessions extracted under duress, lack of prompt medical examination and access to a lawyer, reprisals and intimidation of torture survivors and witnesses; and lack of rehabilitation program for torture survivors and their families.
The investigation of torture allegations only resulted to dead end and perpetuate further the torture impunity such as the torture cases in 2010 of Darius Evangelista, Ronel Cabais, Lenin Salas et al. and in 2011, the torture case of Abdul-Khan Balinting Ajid, which the authorities failed to properly investigate the torture cases and prosecute effectively the alleged perpetrators. Jeremy Corre’s case remains as the only torture case filed in court and prosecuted under the Anti-Torture Law where a police officer was convicted for the act of torture.
With the war on drugs campaign of the Duterte government that have claimed more than 20,000 lives and the Martial Law in Mindanao and the ongoing anti-terrorism campaign, torture and other forms of grave human rights violations such extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances are feared to continue under the climate of impunity and fear.
Today as we commemorate the 10th year of the enactment of the Anti-torture law, we, the United Against Torture Coalition (UATC), the broadest network of civil society working on torture prevention in the Philippines, call on the Philippine government to comply with its state obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture and to implement the Republic Act 9745.
We specifically urge the authorities to:
• Immediately request the CHRP Chairperson to convene the Oversight Committee in charge of overseeing the Implementation of the Anti-Torture Law. Such Committee should establish a database to systematically collect information on the implementation of the Anti-Torture Law including on investigations, prosecutions, access to medical evaluations, acts of reprisals, implementation of the rehabilitation program and the submission of inventory of all detention centres and facilities under the jurisdiction of the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forced of the Philippines (AFP);
• Take measures to promote compliance with the Anti-Torture Law through education of all government agencies and, military and law enforcement units on the law and torture prevention measures;
• Adopt necessary measures to ensure that all persons who allege or otherwise show indications of having been tortured or ill-treated are offered a prompt, thorough, impartial and independent medical examination. These include but are not limited to: ensuring adequate protection of health professionals documenting torture and ill treatment from intimidation and other forms of reprisals; and ensuring that health professionals are able to examine victims independently and to maintain the confidentiality of medical records; and
• Enactment of establishment of the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) which in accordance with the Optional Protocol Against Torture (OPCAT) which the Philippines is a State Party.
We assert that torture has no place in a democratic and free society.
We insist that nothing can justify torture.
A government that allows torture is a government that has no value to human life and dignity.
We will therefore continue to defend our rights to be free from torture.
United Against Torture Coalition (UATC)
Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)
World Organization Against Torture (OMCT)
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