Tag Archives: Crime

[People] Helping the New President Fight Crime by Fr. Shay Cullen, mssc

Helping the New President Fight Crime
Fr. Shay Cullen, mssc

fr shay 062216 copyThere is a wise saying, “Be careful of what you promise. People might
believe it.”

By June 30, the Philippines will have sworn in a new president, Rodrigo Duterte- famous for his somewhat exaggerated style of speaking and for making election promises to eradicate crime and corruption in three to six months after his inauguration.

He could still make a strong impact to reduce crime and start to fulfill his promises with smart lawful executive orders and legislation and by stopping death squad and vigilante killings. He can stop officials paying bonuses to rogue police for killing mere suspects. That’s a license to violate human rights and kill with impunity. It’s not worthy of a great people as the Filipinos who have suffered from weak and corrupt leadership in the past.

Those who understand how deep are the roots of crime and corruption in the Philippines will know that the well-meaning candidate, now President-elect Rodrigo Duterte- made promises as the basis of his presidency that are almost impossible to fulfill. But the impossible may still be possible.

Many people have taken the promises seriously and they will be expecting results. We have to help the new president succeed in fighting corruption and criminality within the law. The killing of suspects is not the way. That will bring down international condemnation and shame and the Philippines will be the pariah of the civilized world. The Secretary General of the United Nations has spoken against Philippine death squads killing journalists already. If the vigilantes have their way, the presidency will be gravely affected and branded as a killer regime and violator of human rights. Filipinos will lose respect wherever they are in the world. That must not happen. We must help the president succeed by implementing the strict rule of law.

Disciplined, no-nonsense, no compromise with evil and corrupt officials is the way. Civil society has to report abuse and corruption without fear and expose it so the president can remedy it. Civil society can help him to meet those goals in a right and lawful way.

The Philippines has excellent penal colonies on remote islands where the convicted prisoners work to support themselves and the colony. That is where the drug dealers, rapists, child abusers and corrupt officials should be sent to fulfill a just sentence. President-elect Duterte could have spectacular success in fighting crime by using the legal pen rather than the gun.

Reintroducing the death penalty, if the congress will pass it, will do nothing to deter crime especially white collar crimes and banking crimes, the heinous crimes of the one percent who own seventy percent of the country. The strict implementation of just laws is the way.

The corrupt officials in government and business have to be investigated, charged and brought to trial. Corruption drives hundreds of thousands of children on to the streets in horrendous poverty and misery and without social welfare.

Hanging a few drug dealers or child rapists will not deter a child rapist or foreign sex tourist.

When a young girl, a victim of rape by her biological father and had testified in court against him, saw the news about the reintroduction of the death penalty, she said: “Please ask the President not to do it. My family will blame me for killing our father, I can never go home.”

For sure, the hoped-for anti-crime action of President Duterte will be a big success if he will order the cancellation of government licenses and permits of sex bars, brothels, karaoke joints and sex hotels.

These are proven fronts for prostitution and sex and drug abuse centers for children and young girls in debt bondage. Drugs are always there to make the girls submissive and docile for the rough foreign rapists.

That executive order or new law would be world news and a great anti-crime move with huge positive results. The sex tourists will pull up their pants and flee and family and eco-tourism arrivals will double.

President Duterte would score a very visible nation-wide, anti-crime success in one stroke of the pen and save thousands of young girls and minors from a hateful life of sex slavery and human trafficking. But to pull the trigger will bring abomination on the nation and make us look worse than the criminals that are killed by death squads.

Now if the new president really wants to show crime-fighting success, he can immediately strike a blow at the heart of the cyber-crime child abuse online. He only has to get the police and the National Telecommunicvations Commission to implement the 2009 anti-child-pornography law and make the Internet service providers (ISPs) obey it.

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has apparently sold out to the interests of the ISPs owned by the big telecommunications companies and do not implement the law. The anti-child porn law of 2009 says the ISPs must block child
pornography on the Internet. The images of children being sexually abused pass through their servers. This failure by the telecommunications companies to obey the law is a serious crime.

President Elect Duterte can strike another success by simply ordering the existing law be obeyed and changing all the people at the NTC with his non-bribe taking, non-corrupt people. It will immediately remove millions of gigabytes of child porn data from the ISP servers and open up the broadband to faster Internet connection for all.

The children who we all must protect and heal will be safer and live in a better, cleaner world.

shaycullen@gmail.com

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[People] The Spotlight on crimes against children -by Fr. Shay Cullen

The Spotlight on crimes against children
Father Shay Cullen Mssc
February 4, 2016

325-fr-shay-cullenThere is time when the truth has to be revealed, when the secrecy of crimes can no longer be contained, denied and when the guilty must be held to account. History shows that secrecy and cover up keeps that day of reckoning at bay but one day the truth will come out.

That is the story of Spotlight, a film about the Spotlight team of investigative reporters at the Boston Globe newspaper that exposed the sex crimes against children by priests and the church cover up of the crimes.

It is an award winning film that will shine in the Oscars this year for the pure strength of its powerful and honest story-telling of a most painful subject in the Catholic Church.

This truth-telling film has won the prestigious and coveted Catholic SIGNIS Jury Prize of the Venice Film Festival. Vatican Radio said that in this film the Globe reporters ‘made themselves examples of their most pure vocation, that of finding the facts, verifying sources, and making themselves — for the good of the community and of a city — paladins of the need for justice.’

The film reveals that when the secret cover-up of crimes against children by the powerful leaders of the institutional church in Boston, USA where as many as 90 members of the Boston clergy were involved, the powerful citizens and Archbishop Law tried to stop the investigating journalists pursuing the truth. They failed.

The subsequent media revelations shocked the world because of the extent of the cover up and the stories opened the flood gates of protests and complaints against clergy.

The number of offending priests eventually reached a total of 159, according to Boston’s Cardinal O’Malley who in 2011 made a complete list public.

Similar revelations had come to light in the early 1990’s in Canada, Australia, Ireland, UK and Germany. It has not yet broken out in the Philippines as cover up is the practice and private cash settlements are common in secular society and church circles.

The Globe had its own guilt, admitted to in the film. Years previously, writers and editors of the Globe had been informed many times by victims and their family of the child sexual abuse by priests and had buried the stories or ignored them. The Spotlight investigative team continued despite harassment and threats. Only one lawyer had the courage to take up the cases of the victims, Mitchell Garabedian, played by Stanley Tucci.

The Boston Globe courageously published 13 reports about the crimes and their cover up from June to December 2002 culminating in the resignation of Cardinal Law as Archbishop of Boston on 14 December 2002 who now lives in Rome.

Catholic Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean O’Malley said, “The Spotlight film depicts a very painful time in the history of the Catholic Church in the United States and particularly here in the Archdiocese of Boston.”

“The media’s investigative reporting on the abuse crisis instigated a call for the Church to take responsibility for its failings and to reform itself — to deal with what was shameful and hidden — and to make the commitment to put the protection of children first, ahead of all other interests.”

“We have asked for and continue to ask for forgiveness from all those harmed by the crimes of the abuse of minors.”

The love of power and prestige by some church leaders of the institutional church and their loss of faith and practice in the message of Jesus of Nazareth in Matthew 18: 1-8 led to the spread of this obnoxious and toxic sex crime against children by those sworn and entrusted to protect and help them. The offenders ignored the words of Jesus of Nazareth.

When asked by the Jewish leaders and elders of his day who were the most important, Jesus shocked them by placing a child in front of them. A child had no rights or standing in society at the time.

He told them bluntly unless they became as innocent as the child, they cannot enter God’s Kingdom and whoever accepts a child accepts me, he said. And he added that whoever abuses a child should have a millstone tied around his neck and be drowned in the deepest ocean. He made enemies that day.

Jesus equates himself with the innocent child and abusing a child is to abuse Him. That is what is so outrageous and obnoxious, the hurt and pain inflicted on the child and the sacrilegious blasphemy of the crime.

We need to have a dedication and commitment to protecting and healing child abuse victims and reporting abuse and taking a stand for justice for them. It is always the powerful abusers over the weak. They need champions and guardians and adults must be there for them. No excuse, no exemption, no cop-out is acceptable. If we are not against them we must be for them. That is something to think about and act upon.

It ought to make us cringe with shame to think of such terrible child abuse and to be as angry as Jesus was when he saw his disciples pushing the children away from him. They did not accept his words either.

What we Christians need is a righteous godly anger at the criminal betrayal of all that is pure and beautiful in the world– childhood. Our faith is primarily rooted in the words and practice of Jesus Christ and imbedded in our conscience to decide what is right and what stand to take. It can only be one thing– justice for the child victims.

http://www.preda.org

shaycullen@preda.org

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[People] New laws needed to block child porn by Fr. Shay Cullen

New laws needed to block child porn
by Fr. Shay Cullen

325-fr-shay-cullen

When a German national child abuse suspect was arrested and jailed in Butuan city, Mindanao earlier this year, police found incriminating evidence in his laptop computer, of horrific photos of small Filipino boys as young as 8 years old being sexually abused by the suspect . Photos showed the children being made to abuse each other. These were made for possible sharing with other pedophiles over the internet. He is presently on trial in that city. We wait for justice to be done.

However, while only a few pedophiles are arrested, hundreds if not thousands more pedophiles of all nationalities roam free to abuse at will; more has to be done to catch them.

Much child sexual abuse is driven by the easy and rampant sex tourism that is allowed by government. More damaging is the easy uncontrolled access to the child porn websites. These are accessed without controls or filters despite the Philippine law (RA9775) that orders internet service corporations to block all access to such web sites. There are few such laws like it in the world. See http://www.preda.org. The internet service provider corporations have allegedly not installed filters to block child porn under section 9 of republic Act 9775 and allegedly prefer to pay a fine than respect the law. In past research, I asked some to comment but got no reply.

The National Telecommunications Commission is mandated under RA 9775 (section 9) to enforce the law but seems to be looking the other away. The Anti-child Porn Alliance (ACPC-Pilipinas) is struggling against public and government apathy, inaction and indifference. Meanwhile, thousands of children are horribly abused and the images of the abuse are being posted on the internet. Child rapists and those arrested for child sexual abuse have been found to have frequently searched, accessed and downloaded child pornography which can drive them to acts of sexual assault against children. Child pornography can lead to child rape and murder.

The case of Tia Sharp, a twelve year old living with her grandmother in South London, was sexually assaulted and murdered by Stuart Hazell, a live-in sex partner of the child’s grandmother in 2012. Hazell was considered a heterosexual yet he secretly had pedophile tendencies. He took special sexual interest in Tia and repeatedly photographed her. On the internet, he was searching and viewing images of incest and pedophile images. Left alone with Tina by the over trusting grandmother, he raped and murdered her. Evidence shows she fought back. There is little doubt that the internet searches contributed to his perverted crimes of child rape and murder.

Hazell is an internet enabled pedophile. Law enforcers and some of the public tend to trivialize this terrible abuse of children. Some think it is a victimless crime yet every image is a terrible crime against the child victim.

The last photo made by Tia’s killer, Stuart Hazell was her dead, naked body placed in a sexual position. What’s important to note is that Hazell and many other men become child abusers by viewing the images on the internet sites. What more evidence do we need to have stronger blocking and filtering laws to regulate Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and all internet search companies and server corporations that enable Internet access? They are an open door to child abuse and the corporate managers and stockholders are holding it open. Google’s motto is “Don’t be evil”, but they are not living up to that it seems, they should change it to “Always do good”. That door to Child Pornography must be closed and locked and Goggle and the other internet corporations have the keys.

Those who oppose any blocking and filtering of child pornography wrongly claim the practice will spread to blocking other access to the internet. In Britain alone, according to projections by credit card companies, there are 250,000 people accessing child porn sites regularly, male and female. The server providers have a voluntary self regulation but it’s not being implemented. There are so many violators police cannot cope. Out of 250,000, they have charged 1,848 and won 1,451 convictions.

For a nation to have good governance, it has to enforce the law to protect children. Parents must demand action and control their children’s access to computers and the internet. There are practical ways to stop child pornography once and for all, and protect children through implementing the present laws and enact amended and stronger legislation that will compel all search companies like Google, Yahoo, Bing, Ask jeeves, etc. and server providers to:

*Bloc access to child porn and violent rape web sites and mobile phones and through recording/viewing devices like DVDs MP3 players etc.
*Outlaw and ban the sale or access to video games depicting child sex abuse and violent rape, real or simulated.
*Have all homes with internet connections to be asked if they want filters to impede access to child porn or violent rape sites. They can opt out on the record.
*New subscribers to internet connections will have to declare that they want or don’t want access to obscene material.
*Pop up messages should appear on the computer screen giving a dire warning if the user tried to bypass filters and access banned sites.
* Above all parents, teachers and adults must campaign for this to protect children and make the internet a safe place to play and learn.

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[Blog] Criminality is the sign of society’s moral decadence, social poverty and economic inequality by Jose Mario de Vega

Criminality is the sign of society’s moral decadence, social poverty and economic inequality

by Jose Mario De Vega

Mario De VegaIt has been quite some time now that the prevailing issues, hot topics and shocking headlines of our newspapers and the dominant talk of the town is the apparent and seeming rise of criminal statistics and the rampant commission of various crimes, specifically those of economic in nature and background.

The root causes of crime are already well documented and researched extensively. There is no shadow of doubt that crime is primarily the outcome of multiple adverse social, economic, cultural and family conditions. Henceforth, to prevent, to eradicate, to arrest, albeit to reduce and consequently to stop crime; it is important to have an understanding of its primary roots.

I concede that the factors involve are complex and interrelated, but we can summarized the primary root causes into three main categories:

Economic Factors/Poverty

The Greek philosopher, Aristotle aptly said that: “Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.” Hence, it is beyond dispute that there is a necessary connection or a corollary relationship between the economic system of the country and its criminality. What do I mean?

Let me further expound on my thesis.

The Question of the Economic Pie

I am specifically referring to the problem of the inequitable and unjust distribution of the economic wealth, financial benefits, material opportunities and other forms of society’s act of sharing the goods produced by the said body politic.

If this is the case, then, such society is unjust and its being unfair will create, in a certain section of the marginalized sector of society, a mass feelings of neglect, of deprivation, of abuse, exploitation, frustrations and injustices!

Social Environment

The dialectical relationship of the social sphere from that of the economic spectrum is indubitable. If logically follows, more often than not, that if the people as a whole is satisfied and utterly pleased in the way the government is spreading and sharing the economic pie, society at large is relatively peaceful, stable and free from discord, deviance, unrest and crimes.

However, as already noted, if there is no fairness and equal distribution of wealth and opportunities for all members of society in the economic sphere, sad but true, it follows that that the grim effects on our societal fabric is social injustice and economic inequality.

These are the dangerous ingredients for social unrest and mass discontent!

Thus, as Aristotle warned us thousands of years ago: social injustice and economic inequality are the very elements or the necessary requisites for revolution and crime.

Family Background

The same philosopher lucidly and clearly taught us, more than two millennium ago that our characters in a great sense are being mould, nurture and develop, undoubtedly first and foremost in the four corners of our home. He categorically stated that, our concept of ethics and our ideas of morality — we learnt from our parents. Therefore, if we did not learn anything good and noble from our family or from those who raised us; there is nothing good that would come out from us that we will share to society. In the sense, we could say that, if the source is corrupted; the product without a doubt is also contaminated!

These are the hard facts! There is no institution in the entire world that can/could teach a person to be kind, to be nice, to be good/to do good and be a virtuous individual!

It is not the primary duty of the school!

It is not the only duty of the government!

That is the ultimate duty and primordial obligation of our family!

We don’t come to school to be good, rather we are there to harmonize and to cultivate the goodness that is already there within us prior even to our very first day in the school. Prior to the school, our first ever school or training ground is our homes!

If we did not learnt/learned anything good in our ‘first school’, it is my firm position that the ‘second school’, the ‘third school’, etc. would all be useless.

Sad but true!

The Question of Social Solidarity and Responsible Citizenship

It is a basic elementary universal rule in any given democratic form of government that the its primary duty is to protect and defend the citizen’s right to life, liberty, property and its pursuit of happiness. Corollary to this rule is the corresponding obligation of the citizens to obey the laws and to help the government in executing the said laws for the swift, smooth and orderly functioning of the whole body politic for the benefit of all its members and organs. These two elements must concur to produce a well-ordered society and an utterly harmonious community!

Fighting crime is not the only job of the government, specifically the police. All of us as members of this society must be involve and should be doing our own part in facing and confronting this phantom menace that now bothers and pesters our community.

Finger-pointing will bring no good. Blaming and accusation is a waste of time. What we need is to forge our collective resources to address and suppress this social detriment. To complain is not enough, what we need is to act!

Am I sponsoring vigilantism? I heard the question and my answer is YES! I am calling for a wider social engagement, civic/collective participation and communitarian volunteerism!

What I am trying to drive at is, for us citizens to help the system work, by relying to our very selves! Because, end of the day, we are the system!

Please consider the following proposals/suggestions:

1. We, in our own neighborhood can organize the community to form a sort of a ‘village militia’. This is based on our culture of “Bayanihan” and “Barangay Ronda”. The function of this militia is not to kill the thieves, robbers, rapists and other criminals terrorizing our community but to catch them and bring them to the relevant authorities. Again, some apathetic and cynical creatures will say: “but that is the job of the police, isn’t it?” Agree! Yet, my contention is that: if the police cannot be there in our villages and neighborhood — all the time to protect us, we must take the initiative by protecting our very selves. We help the police by helping ourselves.
2. We must put into our school curriculum, the root causes of various crimes in whatever its nature and background; so that our students have an idea and a concept of what a crime is, why there are criminals and what’s the source of criminality.
3. The media also have a role to play in curbing and addressing this social issue. They must accurately report the true state of our crime rate and propose antidote thereof. Further, they must also highlight society’s victories against crimes and criminality in general.
4. We must make the effort to help and sponsor those unfortunate kids living at the various rehabilitation centers. We must show our love, care, concern and solidarity to them; so that they may grow not hating the world and they will not become menace to society due to our distance and coldness.
5. We must help those numerous NGO’s that seeks to rehabilitate and educate those youthful offenders, ex-convicts, habitual delinquents, deviant elements, and other lost souls who had formerly tread the dark side and walk the path of criminality.
6. We practice our being responsible citizens by being, first and foremost good and responsible parents.
7. We must fight and struggle for Social Justice…

Jose Mario Dolor De Vega

Philosophy lecturer
Polytechnic University of the Philippines
Far Eastern University

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[Blog] On Candidates Criminally Hugging Trees by Rodne Galicha

On Candidates Criminally Hugging Trees

by Rodne Galicha

Rod Galicha2On candidates wanted to be elected as public servants, I once asked this question: How many of our leaders now are willing to stand up selflessly for the general welfare, for a healthful and balanced ecology?

Once elected and sworn into office, these ‘chosen’ people, depending on the position won, shall either make or implement laws. How can we measure the seriousness of these people – their honesty? How can we expect them to really make and implement sensible policies? How can we be sure that they themselves will follow those policies enacted?

Simply, let us learn from the words of a Greek philosopher named Aristotle: “He who cannot be a good follower cannot be a good leader.”

Once political wannabes signed their respective certificates of candidacy, they have sworn ‘to support and defend the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines and will maintain true faith and allegiance thereto.’ Significantly, affixing their signatures, they promised to ‘obey the laws, legal orders and decrees promulgated by the duly constituted authorities,’ and pledged to ‘impose this obligation upon myself voluntarily, without mental reservation or purpose of evasion.’

The campaign period started in February for national candidates including partylists and last week of March for local ones. The city life becomes more colorful and the once lush green rural villages are now filled with a kaleidoscope of smiling images and super promises of heavenly lives. Literally.

Read full article @rodgalicha.com

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[Statement] We urge President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III to immediately sign the bill into law -FIND

[Today] November 23,2012, as we mark the 27th founding anniversary of FIND, we dedicate the soon-to-be law on enforced disappearance to the desaparecidos; thank the authors of the measure and all those who joined and supported us in pushing for its passage; and urge President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III to immediately sign the bill into law.

The bill seeks to institute effective mechanisms and processes of accountability. It is intended to help government prevent, suppress, investigate and penalize enforced disappearance and provide victims and their families reparation that includes pecuniary compensation, restitution and psychosocial rehabilitation.

The upcoming Republic Act makes enforced disappearance a special crime distinct from kidnapping and serious illegal detention. The law will allow the filing of an appropriate complaint—enforced disappearance—against public officers who arrest, detain or abduct a person but deny such act or conceal the fate and whereabouts of the victim. The recognition of the latter element (concealment) will facilitate prosecution despite the absence of the body of the victim.
The proposed penal law corrects the imbalance in the prosecution of private and public offenders. It has been extremely difficult to bring to justice perpetrators of enforced disappearance and other human rights violations as the offenders are government authorities who use their position and power to escape accountability. Thus, the proposed law provides for the preventive suspension or summary dismissal of government officials and personnel who, as a result of a preliminary investigation, are found to be perpetrators of enforced disappearance.
Worth noting, too, is the strengthening of sanction on command responsibility by holding a superior officer liable as a principal to the crime of enforced disappearance committed by his subordinates.

Also, persons who are charged with and/or guilty of enforced disappearance shall not benefit from any special amnesty law or similar measures that shall exempt them from penal proceedings and sanctions.

Moreover, the offenders’ criminal liability under the anti-enforced disappearance law shall be independent of their culpability under other distinct laws. Hence, a public officer who is already charged with arbitrary detention may still be accused of enforced disappearance if the detainee under his custody later involuntarily disappears.

Likewise, any investigation, trial or decision in any Philippine court or other agency for any violation of the enforced disappearance law shall be without prejudice to the same processes before an international court or agency under applicable international human rights and humanitarian laws.

These are some of the strong safeguards against enforced disappearance that should convince the President to immediately sign the anti-enforced or involuntary disappearance bill into law to show his administration’s condemnation of enforced disappearance and allied human rights violations and its commitment to end impunity.

PRESS STATEMENT 23 November 2012

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[From the web] Position paper of the Psychological Association of the Philippines on the amendment to the Juvenile Justice and Welfare act

Position paper of the Psychological Association of the Philippines on the amendment to the Juvenile Justice and Welfare act

Source: www.pap.org.ph

The House Bill No. 6052, titled “An Act Strengthening the Juvenile Justice System in the Philippines,” was approved in the House of Representatives of the Philippine Congress. Referring to “youthful offenders” and “children in conflict with the law,” the bill seeks to lower the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12 years of age, provided that criminal responsibility attaches only when the minor “acted with discernment.”

We in the Psychological Association of the Philippines (PAP) are against this amendment and take the stand that the minimum age of criminal responsibility should NOT be lowered from 15 to 12 years old. We call for the strengthening of the juvenile justice system through the strict implementation of existing laws that prosecute adults who coerce children to engage in criminal behavior and protect and rehabilitate children in conflict with the law (CICL) through restorative means.

We present the following evidence and implications from Psychology research:

Scientific research on adolescent development and juvenile delinquency provide evidence that children and adolescents differ significantly from adults in decision-making, propensity to engage in risky behavior, impulse control, identity development, and overall maturity. The developmental immaturity of juveniles mitigates their criminal culpability. Although they may be able to discern right from wrong action, it is their capability to act in ways consistent with that knowledge that is compromised by several factors at this stage:

1. Deficiencies in Decision-making Capacity

• The adolescent brain is still under development. Significant changes in brain anatomy and activity are still taking place in the (prefrontal) regions that govern impulse control, decision-making, long-term planning, emotion regulation, and evaluation of risks and rewards. These abilities, which are involved in criminal behavior, do not fully form until young adulthood, making early and middle adolescents (ages 12-16) especially vulnerable to risky and reckless behavior.
• The adolescent is psychosocially immature compared to adults. Because of still-developing cognitive abilities and limited life experiences, adolescents are less able and less likely than adults to consider the longer-term consequences of their actions.
Adolescents differ from adults in their assessment of and attitude towards risk. Compared to adults, adolescents place relatively less weight on risk, and give more weight to rewards. They also have different goals and values than adults. These may result in youth giving more importance to, for example, peer approval than safe behavior.

2. Heightened Vulnerability to Coercive Circumstances

• As minors, young people lack the freedom that adults have to assert their own decisions and extricate themselves from criminogenic settings. There is local evidence that children are often used and abused by adults to engage in criminal acts. Youth are powerless in such circumstances because they fear retribution, do not have or are not aware of alternative actions, or look up to or are emotionally attached to the criminal proponents.
• Adolescents are more susceptible to peer influence than are adults. Because of the desire for approval and belonging at this stage, adolescents’ choices reflect what they believe will merit the approval of their peers. Peers and adults serve as models for behavior that adolescents believe will help them achieve their goals. The fact that juvenile crimes tend to take place in groups or gangs points to the significant role of peer influence and pressure.

3. The Disadvantaged Environment and Profile of the Filipino Child in Conflict with the Law (CICL)

• The typical CICL is poor, lacking in education, a victim of parental neglect and/or abuse, and lives in a criminogenic environment. These clearly place the young person at a disadvantage, making deficiencies in decision-making and vulnerability to coercion all the more pronounced. To place such a young person, already victimized, into the hands of the criminal justice system further curtails his or her future prospects, and pushes them further towards a negative life trajectory.

The aforementioned characteristics of youth indicate that they are less capable than adults—even at age 15, but most certainly at age 12—to behave in accordance with what they may discern or know to be right versus wrong action. Although transitory, these developmental limitations are not under the volitional control of the young person.

Moreover, adolescence is still a time of self and identity development, and antisocial behaviors do not reflect “criminal identity” at this stage. Research indicates that most youth abandon antisocial behavior at the time that they exit adolescence, and that only a minority persists in criminal behavior as a function of pervasive neurological and environmental risk factors. In fact, exposure to the criminal justice system, where the child will be labeled a criminal and where he or she is exposed to criminal models, will more likely establish the “criminal identity” of the young person. Studies have shown that encounters with the adult justice system results in greater subsequent crime, including violent crime, for the juvenile.

The PAP reiterates its position against the lowering of the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12 years old. We urge the government and relevant stakeholders to implement restorative justice and appropriate interventions for CICL. CICL should experience sanctions in community and family settings whenever possible, especially for first and nonviolent offenses. They should be excluded from the adult criminal system and given full opportunities to develop into responsible adults who can make meaningful contributions to society.

References and recommended resources:

Adhikain Para sa Karapatang Pambata (2004). Research on the situation of children in conflict with the law in selected Metro Manila cities. Quezon City: Save the Children (UK)-Philippines.
Alampay, L.P. (2006). Risk factors and causal processes in juvenile delinquency: Research and implications for prevention. Philippine Journal of Psychology, 39(1),195-228.

Alampay, L.P. (2005). A rights-based framework for the prevention of juvenile delinquency in Philippine communities. Manila: United Nations Children’s Fund.

MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice: http://www.adjj.org/content/index.php

Steinberg, L., & Scott, E. (2003). Less guilty by reason of adolescence: Developmental immaturity, diminished responsibility, and the juvenile death penalty. American Psychologist, 58(12), 1009-1018.

Steinberg, L., & Haskins, R. (2008). Keeping adolescents out of prison. Policy Brief, The Future of Children, Vol. 18 No. 2, 1-7.

University of the Philippines Center for Integrative and Development Studies-Program on Psychosocial Trauma and Human Rights and Consortium for Street Children. (2003). Painted Gray Faces Behind Bars and in the Streets, Street Children and the Juvenile Justice System. Quezon City

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[From the web] Groups call public to share in peace effort in Zamboanga City | Sun.Star

Groups call public to share in peace effort in Zamboanga City | Sun.Star.

By Bong Garcia
August 19, 2012

THE presidents of the Zamboanga Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation Inc. (ZCCIFI) and the Golden Crescent Consortium of Peace Builders and Affiliate have called on the public to rally behind the local government and law enforcement authorities in the effort to keep Zamboanga City safe and sound.

ZCCIFI president Pedro Rufo Soliven and Professor Ali Yacub, president of the Golden Crescent Consortium issued the call in the light of the recent twin bombings and the spate of crime incidents in Zamboanga City.

Both Soliven and Yacub cited the importance of the participation of the public in the campaign to curb criminality in the community.

“As Zamboangueños, everybody in the community has the responsibility to make the city safe. This is not just the responsibility of the local government or the police, this is our responsibility. We want to say that a peaceful City starts with us in the community, in our respective homes and in ourselves,” Soliven said.

Read full article @ www.sunstar.com.ph

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[Statement] Lowering the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility – A Short-term Fix to Long-term Problems -BALAY

Lowering the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility – A Short-term Fix to Long-term Problems

A statement from Balay Rehabilitation Center

Like a number of advocates of children’s rights, we at Balay, also believe that lowering the age of criminal responsibility is not the solution to the problem we face with children being involved in criminal activities and violence.

In this position paper, we would like to share our experiences in working in Bagong Silang, Caloocan City (Bagong Silang hereafter) with our children and youth partners who, once or several times in their lives, have been involved in illegal activities. We would like put across the message that lowering the age of criminal responsibility is a short-term fix for a problem that requires long-term efforts. Likewise, we also believe that we need to transform popular perception, especially for adults and law enforcement agencies, to the understanding that children and youths are often victims rather than perpetrators. We also argue for the position that the spirit of the Juvenile Justice Law is correct and wise, but is not fully utilized due to ineffective implementation and the lack of resources devoted to its objectives.

Putting Youth and Criminality into Context

We cannot deny that some children are involved in various criminal activities and violent acts. However, in our experience in working in Bagong Silang, we have learned the importance of putting these occurrences in their proper context. We believe that, more than their personal tendencies, some children are predisposed to get involved in criminal activities and violence due to their social milieu. To put it in simple terms, it is hunger, lack of education and dysfunctional families (to name a few factors) that put children in a position that increases their tendencies of getting involved in, say, robbery or substance abuse. Having said this, we in Balay believe in the saying that, “No one is born a thief, a murderer, a drug addict or a criminal”. It is hunger and extreme poverty that pushes them to hijack a jeep and rob its passengers of their possessions; it is dysfunctional families that lead them to be dependent on alcohol or illegal drugs; it is the lack of education and opportunities that push them to look for “easy money”. As we have learned from our children and youth partners in Bagong Silang, it is the adverse life conditions that increase their vulnerability. These adverse life conditions are very apparent in Bagong Silang where six out of ten households are under the poverty threshold; where nearly five out of ten individuals eligible for work are unemployed; and, individuals stop their schooling around first year high school.

It is therefore imperative that our government address these long-term socio-economic issues if we are to solve the phenomenon of children in conflict with the law instead of putting the blame back on children by lowering the minimum age of criminal liability.

Perception and Actual Levels of Violence

As said earlier, children getting involved in crime and violence are clear and present. We often see these incidents being showcased in media reports, but, up to what extent? Let us present some empirical data about children’s involvement in violence based on a research Balay did in 2010 (see notes below).

When asked about whom residents think are the most frequent perpetrators of violence and trouble in their locality, more than two-thirds of the respondents said that it was children. However, contrary to popular perception, less than a third of the violent acts documented by the survey were perpetrated by children; in fact, most of the violent acts were committed by adults.

Moreover, most of the victims of violence were young people who are often unemployed, under-schooled and poor. In this sense, children suffer a double-vulnerability. First, more than perpetrators of violent acts, children are victims of violence perpetrated by adults. Second, children suffer from the stigma of being the “usual suspects” whenever violent episodes or criminal activity occurs in an area. Based on Balay’s experience, the stigma suffered by children of being the “usual suspects” adds to the risk of suffering from indiscriminate acts of violence, especially from agents of the state.

In the end, the results of the survey clearly present us a picture that runs against popular belief, that is, children are victims more than they are perpetrators of violence.

Implementation of the Juvenile Justice Law

We believe that the spirit of the Juvenile Justice Law is correct and wise. Like any other law in the Philippines, the problem is implementation and resources. In our experience in working with the Barangay in Bagong Silang, we observed that social workers and staffs working with CICLs are often over-loaded, under-paid and lack the supporting resources (i.e. shelter houses, vehicles and budget for visitations) to effectively implement the program.

To illustrate: often, social workers of the Barangay are confronted with cases of youth offenders that require “specialized” services (i.e. the youth offender needs to be admitted to a shelter house) but are forced to do no more than to return them to their households and invite them for weekly counselling sessions. Making things worse is the fact that once they return the children to their households, they are faced again with the same problems and conditions that led them to get involved in criminal or violent activities on the first place. The social workers and staffs of the Barangay have the best intentions for the children of Bagong Silang. As they would often say, they have a “big heart” for children and youths. However, “heart” could only get you so far if you do not have the resources and infrastructure to implement your program.

Having said these, lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility is clearly not the solution; what we need are more social workers, increased spending for the implementation of the law and the infrastructure (i.e. shelter houses) to effectively run the program.

Transformation: Giving Young People a Second Chance

Lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility will not be beneficial; especially for the young people. Moreover, it seems that the proposed amendment of lowering the age of criminal responsibility puts the blame back on children. In our organization, we believe that, again, “No one is born a thief, a murderer, a drug addict or a criminal”. More than any other factor, we believe that it is the social milieu of children that lead them to a life of violence and criminality. It seems that the proposed amendment to the law is a short-term fix to a problem that requires a long-term solution; an amendment that move towards punishing instead of transforming children (which goes against the spirit of the law and the principle of restorative justice); an amendment that moves to shun away the young and misunderstood to a range of opportunities in life instead of non-judgement, understanding and giving them second chances.

We do not however believe that children who have committed offenses should be free from any liabilities. There is a proper process to be followed for child offenders and that is not putting them behind bars but undergoing a judicial process where restorative justice is the framework. Our experience have shown a perspective where it is possible to transform children and youths who are branded as violent, criminal and, as the proposed amendment suggests, hopeless without putting them behind bars.

Notes:

Back in 2010, Balay Rehabilitation Center undertook a research project which aims to measure the level of violence in Bagong Silang using a victimization survey. The study was in partnership with the Danish Research and Rehabilitation Center for Torture Victims (RCT). In the study, Balay interviewed 400 randomly selected households in Bagong Silang. The survey asked for (a) basic demographic information, (b) perceptions about violence and experience of violence for the past two years, and (c) what people do to seek redress. Of special interest in the survey is the involvement of children and youths in violence.

Source: www.balayph.net

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[Featured Site] Like and Share “Network Opposed to Lowering the Age of Criminal Responsibility” in Facebook

“Network Opposed to Lowering the Age of Criminal Responsibility

NoToHouseBill6052

Campaign not to lower the age of criminal responsibility of Children in Conflict of the Law.

Visit, like and share https://www.facebook.com/NoToHouseBill6052

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[Petition] Petition campaign to the Senators of the Philippines to reject any amendment to the existing Juvenile Justice Welfare bill RA 9344

Dear friends,

Preda has begun a petition campaign to the Senators of the Philippines to reject any amendment to the existing juvenile Justice Welfare bill RA 9344. The proposed amendment that has reached second reading in the lower house would put children as young as 12-years old on trial as criminals. The senate can ignore the matter or vote to leave it as it is and protect children from the horrors of jail where they suffer serious harm and are denied their human and children’s rights. At 12 year old they are in danger of being beaten and abused by other older inmates and even sexually abused when put in cells with adult criminals.

Please send an email of your own or use the sample below.

Many thanks

Fr. Shay Cullen

Dear Honorable Senators,

This is an appeal to you to please reject any attempt to amend the Juvenile Justice Welfare Bill RA 9344 which protects children from the brutality and dehumanizing conditions of jails. The law presently gives them protection and help by diversion and rehabilitation.

They ought not to be charged with crimes and put on trial at 12-years old. Children are led astray by adult criminals and parents and guardians neglecting the children.

The law should bring them to answer for their neglect of the children and the bad example they give, Each child is a child of God and has rights and dignity that must be respected .

The present Philippine law RA 9344 which was passed first by you honorable Senators is progressive and enlightened. Please do not allow it to be changed. Protect children at all times, especially from going to jail where they are being abused. They need protection and education.

With respect,

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[People] Why Blame Children for Adult Crime? by Fr. Shay Cullen

Why Blame Children for Adult Crime?

by Fr. Shay Cullen

What level of callous cruelty does it take to put children as young as six or twelve-year-old behind bars? That is the way it was in the Philippines until the passing of the Juvenile Justice Welfare Bill (RA 9344) in 2006. It forbids the charging or jailing of children younger than 15 years of age with a crime and says they need a diversion and restoration program for a better life. Thousands of small children were jailed because they were hungry, abandoned, begging on the streets. Some may have stolen food to stay alive. Now they are protected but the bill to amend that law was filed on August 12, 2010 by Senator Ramon A. Revilla, a movie actor, so kids could be charged and jailed as young as 12 years-old. Many youth are victims of fame ups and false accusation.

Jomar, 15, from a slum in Pasay City in Metro Manila was pressured to join a gang older than him and they set him up as the fall boy for their crime when they stole a bag from the office of the supervisor on a construction site. He was told to hide it and they took everything, two cell phones, a camera, a credit card and cash from the bag and left about Euro 30 for Jomar. He was literally left holding the bag.

The real thieves tipped of the authorities and Jomar was arrested and charged with the crime. The mastermind went free. Its typical, the adults lead the youth astray and into crime. The boy served time in a filthy prison cell, suffered hunger, abuse and shock as a first offender. He was saved by the Preda jail rescue team. Children are born innocent but they are corrupted by the bad example of adults.

Most of the Philippine legislators are millionaires, privileged, rich and ignorant of the causes why children are in conflict with the law. Some want to rescind the child friendly RA 9344 law and jail them as young as 12 years old. Perhaps they foolishly think that punishment or abuse in the horrid subhuman conditions of jail where their human rights are violated daily would make them better citizens. It will only make them criminals.

Presently the law says that children and youth younger than 15 years-old in conflict with law must be given diversion not jail. They need help, therapy and restoration to a normal life and not the brutality of prison life. Republic Act 9344 passed in 2006 has saved hundreds of children from being sexually assaulted in jails and their young lives destroyed by hardened criminals. (view CNN Kids behind bars -youtube)

Now some of the 188 Philippine legislators, most of them from wealthy elite families, who have lived sheltered lives of luxury and never went hungry for a minute of their lives treat children as criminals as young as 12 years-old.

These scions of the wealthy, who as children lived pampered protected lives in mansions and as adults never visited a slum, seen real poverty or met children behind bars, know almost nothing about the lives of the poor. They are ignorant of the dire social situation of hundreds of thousands of poor illiterate street children and youth. The poor are poor because the rich rulers, through unjust laws have gathered the wealth of the nation for their family and corporate friends. Like the parliamentarians that came from Germany to visit the Filipino jails the Philippine legislators should do likewise.

Some police generals have pushed for the amendment too claiming that the children are being used by syndicates to carry and deliver drugs. No convincing evidence for this has been presented to the senate committee and charities caring for street children and has never seen a single case of a child charged as a drug runner. The police generals promoting the amendment ought to go after and real masterminds of the drug trade surely they are not scared and are not on the drug lord’s payroll.

We need to call on defenders of children everywhere and especially the good Philippine senators where the discussion on the amendment is still pending at the committee level. They ought reject the amendment and preserve the present law and do more to see it is implemented fully to protect children. Their duty is to stop the violation of human rights in degrading and subhuman jails and not to send twelve year old kids there to be raped and abused. The good senators can reject the amendment and be true defenders and not punishers of children.

E-mail any and all of the following: fmdrilon@yahoo.com, senator_enrile@senate.gov.ph, pia@senatorpiacayetano.com, loren@lorenlegarda.com.ph, senatorguingona@gmail.com, stgmedia@tgguingona.ph

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[Statement] PHILIPPINES: Prosecutor dismissed charges of torture by invoking acts of torture -AHRC

Asian Human Rights Commission

PHILIPPINES: Prosecutor dismissed charges of torture by invoking acts of torture

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has learned that a city prosecutor in San Fernando, Pampanga, had dismissed the complaint of torture by five torture victims against a police colonel and other policemen due to “insufficiency of evidence” because their identification of the accused were ‘dubious’ since they were ‘blindfolded’. The five complainants filed a petition for review at the Department of Justice (DoJ) asking them to reverse the prosecutor’s recommendation. This is still pending. Under the Philippine‘s prosecution system, it is the secretary of the DoJ who has final decision on whether or not criminal charges would be filed in court for trial.

Asian Human Rights CommissionThe complainants, Lenin Salas, Jose Gomez, Jerry Simbulan, Rodwin Tala and Daniel Navarro, filed charges on August 9, 2010, for violation of the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 against P/Supt. Madzgani Mukaram, commander of the Provincial Public Safety Office (formerly Regional Mobile Group) and other police officers whose names could not be immediately identified at the time. They were arrested and detained for their alleged involvement with the Marxist Leninist Party of the Philippines, an illegal armed group. Read details here: Story 1: “There are no human rights for us”. They filed complaint of torture while in detention six days after their arrest.
After the overly delayed and lengthy process of, for example, the submission of affidavits, appeals and petitions (including demands by the accused to expunge from record the complaint of torture), prosecutor Maria Gracella Dela Paz – Malapit, concluded in her resolution dated July 21, 2011 that “the instant complaint for violation of Rep. Act No. 9745 (Anti-torture Act of 2009) against P/Supt. Madzgani Mukaram be DISMISSED for insufficiency of evidence”.

However, while Prosecutor Malapit admitted that “there exists a probability that they (victims) were tortured”, she nevertheless dismissed the complaint invoking that the facial identification of the accused was dubious because they “did not have the opportunity to see him considering that they were blindfolded”. In justifying her argument she invoked the Supreme Court (SC) ruling on People vs. Acosta1, by merely copying the jurisprudence that the “identification of the offender is crucial in every criminal prosecution”.

In People vs. Acosta, the jurisprudence was applied in the context in which the convicted person, Jesus Acosta, challenged the identification of Freddie Osmillo, the principal witness of the prosecution of him as the person who shot dead Rafael Villavicencio, Jr. in April 28, 1980. Here, the SC weighs the defence of alibi of the accused as against the positive identification of the witness. The SC held to affirm the conviction of Acosta with finality in determining his guilt for murder.

However, in her resolution Prosecutor Malapit applied the doctrine of ‘positive identification’ in exonerating the accused P/Supt. Mukaram and eventually also the other accused police officers from criminal liability for torture. In Acosta’s case, it was after the conclusion of a criminal trial, but in this complaint of torture it was dismissed invoking exactly the same doctrine even though it was not a criminal trial, but rather the process of determination of probable cause. Her application of the doctrine of positive identification in dismissing the complaint of torture, therefore, is completely taken out of context. Here, she pre-empted and usurped the authority that should have been solely for the court to decide: positive identification to determine the innocence or guilt.

In her resolution Prosecutor Malapit argued:

“Like Salas, the identification made by Tala, Simbulan and Navarro seemed to be dubious. It is unusual that they should be able to identify the respondent talking to them when they did not have the opportunity to see him considering that they were blindfolded. Uncertainty thus exists as to the veracity of respondent’s identification as it is possible that owners of the voices they heard belong to that of other persons who inflicted physical harm on them⦔

If this reasoning is not corrected, the exoneration of the accused by invoking  “blindfolding“, which itself  defined as act of torture under section 4 of the Anti-Torture Act of 2009, renders any sort of remedy inapplicable and meaningless. Here, P/Supt. Mukaram and other policemen had been exonerated from criminal liability for the crime of torture for reasons because the perpetrators had blindfolded the victims they were torturing. This type of reasoning rather emboldens perpetrators to create more sophisticated form of torture without them being identified and assured of impunity.

Prosecutor Malapit, however, admitted the existence of probable cause:

“In here, with the presence of the above-stated injuries of the complainants, there exists a probability that they were tortured. It bears to emphasize that physical evidence is that mute but eloquent manifestations of truth which rate high in our hierarchy of trustworthy evidence (People vs. Vasquez, 280 SCRA 160)”

Anyone who studies law, reading this argument would say these are contradiction in substance as to what the role of prosecutors should be in criminal cases. In the Philippines legal system, the prosecutor’s role is to determine ‘probable cause’, meaning a reasonable ground or circumstances that demonstrate a crime had probably been committed. None of the parties challenged the existence of probable cause. It is not within the prosecutor’s authority to make judgement on whether or not the identity of the person who is accused of committing crime as charge is actually the very person who had probably committed the crime. This principle explains the practice of using John Does and Jane Does, which denotes the identities of persons that are yet to be identified, in the criminal complaint. Therefore, the authority that prosecutor Malapit had taken to herself is in effect, that of the court.

Here, in dismissing the torture complaint, Prosecutor Malapit arbitrarily assumed the authority and power of the court. By deciding this matter to herself, beyond her obligations on determining probable cause, she disregarded the role of the court in determining the matter within their authority. Thus, the questions as to identities of the accused involved in torture, the merits of the case and determination of guilt or innocence, which are supposed to be heard in proper trial, were denied effectively from the court because the case did not reach their jurisdiction.

Freedom from torture is an absolute right. It is a serious crime as it is attributed, not only to an individual criminal act of a person, but a person acting on behalf of the State. Therefore, in applying doctrines and jurisprudence, more caution must be observed. They cannot be interpreted narrowly by arguing and invoking analogous to ordinary case-laws and jurisprudence. In fact, the Resolutions of the Prosecutors are not court decisions, where the guilt or innocence of the accused are determined, but rather contains details on existence of ‘probable cause’. But the manner how Prosecutor Malapit argued in her Resolution it has become in form effectively a court decision following a criminal trial.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is shocked, but not surprise as to how prosecutor who had legal obligations to investigate complaints of torture, understands and interprets how the probability of the crime of torture under the Anti-torture Act of 2009, are committed for them to proceed in recommending prosecution of case in court. In the Philippine legal system, the duty of the prosecutor in determining the existence of ‘probable cause’ is very crucial in criminal prosecution. They are ‘bottle neck’ on whether or not a case proceeds in court for trial.

The AHRC therefore urges Department of Justice (DoJ) to resolve without delay the complainants’ petition for review asking for the reversal of the city prosecutor’s decision in their favour so as to proceed with the prosecution of the case in court. If this wrong is not corrected, it will deny any possibilities of remedies and redress for victims of torture. In prosecution of cases of torture, where public officers are acting within the authority and the power of the State, utmost caution must be observed.

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[1] People v. Acosta, G.R. No. 70133, July 2, 1990, 187 SCRA 39, full text: http://www.chanrobles.com/scdecisions/jurisprudence1990/jul1990/gr\_70133\_1990.php
Read this statement online

# # #
About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

Visit our new website with more features at http://www.humanrights.asia.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AHRC-STM-060-2012
March 15, 2012

[In the news] Killing of defender of gays called a ‘hate crime’

Killing of defender of gays called a ‘hate crime
CARMELA G. LAPEÑA, GMA News
January 3, 2012

 As colorful fireworks lit up the Manila sky, 18-year-old Fernando Mendoza Jr. was on a jeepney with his friends and cousins early Sunday morning. They were headed to Rizal Park to celebrate the New Year.

Friends of Mendoza describe him as a quiet guy, but also one who would have the mettle to stop a fight. On this particular occasion, Mendoza came to the defense of a couple of gay passengers, who were being taunted by a group of ruffians. “Sabi ng bakla, ‘Huwag niyo kaming anuhin, kasi mabait kami,'” one of Fernando’s cousins narrated. “Tapos sabi ng pinsan ko, ‘Eh huwag niyo na nga anuhin, kasi mabait nga sila.’”

Mendoza’s intervention triggered a reaction that would end his life.

“Bigla niya pong sinuntok ‘yung pinsan ko, tapos gumanti po ‘yung pinsan ko isang beses. Tapos nag-away na po sa loob ng jeep,” said Mendoza’s cousin, whose identify is being withheld for her security.

Outnumbered, Mendoza jumped off the jeep and a chase ensued along crowded Avenida Rizal, before he stumbled in the middle of the street in front of Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center.

There to report on fireworks-related injuries, a GMA News team was waiting outside the emergency room when they heard the commotion. “Trobol, trobol,” people muttered as they rushed out in time to witness five men smashing bottles on Mendoza and kicking his head.

In video captured by GMA News, a man in a white sleeveless shirt is seen rushing toward the youth. The man shoots Mendoza with an improvised shotgun, or sumpak, as bystanders stand back in shock. After firing his weapon, the man and four others continue to beat the defenseless teen.

The suspects fled before anyone could stop them. A bystander approaches the boy and checks his pulse. “Buhay pa, buhay pa,” he cries out, and the teen-ager is rushed inside the hospital.

But it was too late. With six bullet fragments in the heart, he was pronounced dead at 2 a.m. on New Year’s Day.

http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/243357/news/metromanila/killing-of-defender-of-gays-called-a-hate-crime

[People] Comparative Study of the WITNESS PROTECTION PROGRAMMES of Canada, South Africa and the Philippines – by Dr. Renato Mabunga

(This is a shortened version of the research commissioned by the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP) to provide guidance and make better its Sanctuary Program. This is an exposé of selected countries Witness Protection Programmes (WPP) in an attempt to draw some lessons to further protection of witnesses and their families from eventual retaliation of antagonistic elements of society.)

Introduction:

As the term suggests “witness protection programme” is a security mechanism provided for threatened witnesses and their families or other related persons or any person involved in the justice system whose lives are endangered due to testimonies they are willing to divulge to shed light to a crime in order to propel the rule of law. The idea behind being in this program is to protect vital informants and to ensure fair and successful prosecution. This is propelled by the assumption that “person who committed the crime is usually the type of person who will take retribution against the party who is willing to tell what they seen” (Lopez, 2008). This means provision of protection before, during and to some extent after a trial.

Usually, witness protection is required in cases against organized crime. This is so after law enforcement’s or professional evaluation that witnesses are more likely at risks of intimidation or threats by supporters of a defendant or accused. However, there is much likely to see when the accused of a crime is part of the law enforcement institution. There is a need to establish effective protection mechanisms alongside building the capacity and ensuring the integrity of those who implement the programme.

In the Consolidated Response (07-008) of the International Network to Promote the Rule of Law or INROL (Toomey, 2007), it classified protection measures as Short-term Measures and Longer-term Measures to Protect Witnesses. Both measures detail out legislative and regulatory requirements in determining who and when to protect; strategies on how to protect; the use of procedural and formal witness protection. Short-term measures are those that need temporary protection while the case is under investigation. Long-term measures are those that need total relocation and change of identity even as the trial has ended because of the gravity of the case and its repercussions to the witnesses and their families or other related persons.

Among the many features of witness protection range from protection of witness’ identity during investigation and trial, assigning security detail, court injunctions and retraining orders, provision of safe houses, allotment of monthly allowances, provision of new identity and the other covert plans and made-up stories for protection. All these necessitate the effective functioning of the all the pillars of justice system. These also require persons under the program to prepare from temporary to total dislocation both physically and economically; emotional and psychological detachments from members of the family and friends; trauma and distrust – which are all detrimental if not handled properly not only to the witnesses but more so to their families especially the children.

International Framework and Standards on Witness Protection:

There are a number of international standards pertaining to protection of witnesses which serve as basis in the drafting of national or local witness protection program of various countries. Among them are:

* The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime – adopted by the General Assembly thru resolution 55/25 of 15 November 2000. In its Article 24, it mandated all parties to the convention to “take appropriate measures within its means to provide effective protection from potential retaliation or intimidation for witnesses in criminal proceedings who give testimony concerning offences… [including], as appropriate, their relatives and other persons close to them.” This “includes without prejudice to the rights of the accused, including the right to due process.” Specifically, it calls for the establishment of procedures “for the physical protection of such persons, such as, to the extent necessary and feasible, relocating them and permitting, where appropriate, non-disclosure or limitations on the disclosure of information concerning the identity and whereabouts of such persons”; provision of “evidentiary rules to permit witness testimony to be given in a manner that ensures the safety of the witness, such as permitting testimony to be given through the use of communications technology such as video links or other adequate means.” In so far as the case is a transnational crime, the convention recommends that the “States Parties shall consider entering into agreements or arrangements with other States for the relocation of persons” referred to as witnesses under witness-protection programme.

In Article 25 of the same document, the convention states that such appropriate measures for the protection of witness covers assistance such as compensation and restitution for victims of offenses.

* The Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power – adopted by the UN General Assembly thru resolution 40/34, annex on November 29, 1985. The assembly approved the said declaration “based on the conviction that victims should be treated with compassion and respect for their dignity and that they are entitled to prompt redress for the harm that they have suffered, through access to the criminal justice system, reparation and services to assist their recovery. The Declaration recommends measures to be taken on behalf of victims of crime at the international, regional and national levels to improve access to justice and fair treatment, restitution, compensation and assistance. It also outlines the main steps to be taken to prevent victimization linked to abuse of pow er and to provide remedies for the victims.” (UNOCCDP, 1999).

“Victims” are defined in the declaration as those who, individually or collectively, have suffered harm, including physical or mental injury, emotional suffering, economic loss or substantial impairment of their fundamental rights, through acts or omissions that are violations of national criminal laws or of internationally recognized human rights instruments (UN general Assembly, 1985; UNOCCDP, 1999). The term “victim” also includes, where appropriate, the immediate family or dependants of the direct victim and persons who have suffered harm in intervening to assist victims in distress or to prevent victimization regardless of sex, religion, race color, language, nationality, political or other opinion, cultural beliefs or practices, property, birth or family status, ethnic or social origin, and disability.

It mandates the State Parties to the declaration to ensure judicial and administrative mechanisms through formal or informal procedures to enable expeditious and fair disposition of cases and execution of orders or decrees granting awards to victims. The responsiveness of these processes to the needs of victims should be facilitated by “providing proper assistance to victims throughout the legal process”; and, “taking measures to minimize inconvenience to victims, protect their privacy, when necessary, and ensure their safety, as well as that of their families and witnesses on their behalf, from intimidation and retaliation” (Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power #6 C & D, 1985).

* The UN Convention against Corruption – In 2000, the United Nations General Assembly recognized the need for an effective legal instrument against corruption and thus adopted resolution 58/4 after a series of negotiation on October 31, 2003 which was entered into force in December 2005 in accordance with Article 68 of the Convention.

The Convention against Corruption mandates all State Parties to “take appropriate measures in accordance with their domestic legal system and within their means to provide effective protection from potential retaliation or intimidation for witnesses and experts who give testimony concerning offences established in accordance with the Convention and, as appropriate, for their relatives and other persons close to them” (Article 32). These measures for protecting witnesses shall not prejudice the rights of the defendants including the right to due process; and shall be considered mutatis mutandis. These include the physical protection of person, relocation, secrecy of information, provision of evidentiary rules to ensure the safety of witnesses and the granting of immunity from prosecution in accordance w ith the fundamental principles of domestic laws. (Article 32 (2 &5); Article 37).

* The UN Economic and Social Council Resolution 2005/20 – Adopted by the Council during its 36th Plenary meeting in July 2005, the resolution pertains to the Guidelines on Justice in Matters involving Child Victims and Witnesses of Crime as a useful framework in enhancing protection of child victims and witnesses in the criminal justice system and in developing legislation, procedures, policies, and practices relating to children who are victims of crime or witnesses in criminal proceedings.

Among the rights sought to be protected and established by this guidelines include among others are:

the right to be treated with dignity and compassion;
the right to be protected from discrimination;
the right to be informed;
the right to be heard and to express views and concerns;
the right to effective assistance;
the right to privacy;
the right to be protected from hardship during the justice process;
the right to safety;
the right to reparation; and,
the right to special preventive measures (UN Res. 2005/20, 2005).

Various International Tribunals or Courts also have ensured that legal provisions on witness protection are incorporated in their statutes.

* Article 22 and Article 21 of the Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the Statute of the International Tribunal for Rwanda, respectively state that, “the International Tribunal shall provide in its rules of procedure and evidence for the protection of victims and witnesses. Such protection measures shall include, but shall not be limited to, the conduct of in camera proceedings and the protection of the victim’s identity.”

* Articles 43(6) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court states that “the Registrar shall set up a Victims and Witnesses Unit within the Registry. This Unit shall provide, in consultation with the Office of the Prosecutor, protective measures and security arrangements, counseling and other appropriate assistance for witnesses, victims who appear before the Court and others who are at risk on account of testimony given by such witnesses. The Unit shall include staff with expertise in trauma, including trauma related to crimes of sexual violence.”

Article 68 of the same statute states:

1. The Court shall take appropriate measures to protect the safety, physical and psychological well-being, dignity and privacy of victims and witnesses. In so doing, the Court shall have regard to all relevant factors, including age, gender as defined in article 7, paragraph 3, and health, and the nature of the crime, in particular, but not limited to, where the crime involves sexual or gender violence or violence against children. The Prosecutor shall take such measures particularly during the investigation and prosecution of such crimes. These measures shall not be prejudicial to or inconsistent with the rights of the accused and a fair and impartial trial.

2. As an exception to the principle of public hearings provided for in article 67, the Chambers of the Court may, to protect victims and witnesses or an accused, conduct any part of the proceedings in camera or allow the presentation of evidence by electronic or other special means. In particular, such measures shall be implemented in the case of a victim of sexual violence or a child who is a victim or a witness, unless otherwise ordered by the Court, having regard to all the circumstances, particularly the views of the victim or witness.

3. Where the personal interests of the victims are affected, the Court shall permit their views and concerns to be presented and considered at stages of the proceedings determined to be appropriate by the Court and in a manner which is not prejudicial to or inconsistent with the rights of the accused and a fair and impartial trial. Such views and concerns may be presented by the legal representatives of the victims where the Court considers it appropriate, in accordance with the Rules of Procedure and Evidence.

4. The Victims and Witnesses Unit may advise the Prosecutor and the Court on appropriate protective measures, security arrangements, counseling and assistance as referred to in article 43, paragraph 6.

5. Where the disclosure of evidence or information pursuant to this Statute may lead to the grave endangerment of the security of a witness or his or her family, the Prosecutor may, for the purposes of any proceedings conducted prior to the commencement of the trial, withhold such evidence or information and instead submit a summary thereof. Such measures shall be exercised in a manner which is not prejudicial to or inconsistent with the rights of the accused and a fair and impartial trial.

6. A State may make an application for necessary measures to be taken in respect of the protection of its servants or agents and the protection of confidential or sensitive information.

* Article 16(4) of the Statute of the Special Court for Sierra Leone provides that: “the Registrar shall set up a Victims and Witnesses Unit within the Registry. This Unit shall provide, in consultation with the Office of the Prosecutor, protective measures and security arrangements, counseling and other appropriate assistance for witnesses, victims who appear before the Court and others who are at risk on account of testimony given by such witnesses. The Unit personnel shall include experts in trauma, including trauma related to crimes of sexual violence and violence against children.”

* The Law on the Establishment of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia for the Prosecution of Crimes Committed during the Period of Democratic Kampuchea also provides that:

The Extraordinary Chambers of the trial court shall ensure that trials are fair and expeditious and are conducted in accordance with existing procedures in force, with full respect for the rights of the accused and for the protection of victims and witnesses. If necessary, and if there are lacunae in these existing procedures, guidance may be sought in procedural rules established at the international level.

Suspects who have been indicted and arrested shall be brought to the trial court according to existing procedures in force. The Royal Government of Cambodia shall guarantee the security of the Suspects who appear voluntarily before the court and is responsible in taking measures for the arrest of the Suspects prosecuted under this law. Justice police shall be assisted by other law enforcement elements of the Royal Government of Cambodia, including its armed forces, in order to ensure that accused persons are brought into custody immediately.

Conditions for the arrest and the custody of the accused shall conform to existing law in force.

The Court shall provide for the protection of victims and witnesses. Such protection measures shall include, but shall be not limited to, the conduct of in camera proceedings and the protection of the victim’s identity. (Art. 33)

Read full article @ renatomabunga.wordpress.com

[Blogger] Youth must be sent to schools rather than in jails – sdkonline.wordpress.com

Youth must be sent to schools rather than in jails

Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan (SDK) strongly opposed the proposal of some legislators to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility. The current minimum age is 15 years old under the Juvenile Justice Act.  The said proposal is a mere blame game on the government’s failure to address the problem of increasing numbers of children involved in crimes.

Violation of the Child’s Rights

Under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN-CRC), a child means every human being below the age of eighteen years of age.  The indicated age should enjoy his/her right to be free from any criminal responsibility (e.g. capital punishment, life imprisonment etc.) It is very clear that our government would be violating the said international convention of which we are a signatory if the said proposal will be adopted.

Rehabilitation, not punishment

SDK affirm its belief that youth offenders do not deserve punishment, most of the said offenders who committed crimes belong to the poor and working class families who have longed been deprived of a decent life.  They were pushed to resort on illegal activities because they need to survive on a barbaric world of consumerism.  The real culprit on this menace is no other than the government itself, who failed to provide a real program to rehabilitate youth offenders for them to be reintegrated and assume a constructive role in our society. The proposal to lower the minimum age on criminal responsibility will only make the real culprit (the government) get out of its responsibility.  It will not solve a single problem on the issue of youth perpetrated crimes.

They should be in schools, not in jails

Youth perpetrated crimes will be lessened or in the maximum be non-existent if the youth are enjoying their right to education. But in reality, drop-out rates in schools are increasing due to extreme poverty. Worst of all, the government continues to cut budgets in education and promotes commercialization. This is the government’s worst crime, depriving the youth of his/her right to be educated and build their capacity to live decently.

We call on the legislators to stop this non-sense blame game and focus on creating policies that will ensure our right to education and to live with dignity. Lowering the minimum age on criminal responsibility will never create a substantial solution. But ensuring our rights will definitely generate a more progressive, responsible, empowered and dignified citizens in the future.

September 15, 2011

http://sdkonline.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/youth-must-be-sent-to-schools-rather-than-in-jails/

[In the news] Escudero wants implementation of Juvenile Justice Law suspended – InterAksyon.com

Escudero wants implementation of Juvenile Justice Law suspended
by Karl John C. Reyes, InterAksyon.com

MANILA, Philippines – Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero has moved for the suspension of the implementation of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, claiming that the law isn’t working for the development and rehabilitation of youth offenders.

Escudero has submitted for plenary debate a committee report that recommends the suspension of the law and the reversion to the old law on juveniel justice – Presidential Decree 603 or the Child Welfare Act under the amended Revised Penal Code.

“We want to suspend the JJ (Juvenile Justice) Law because there are no funds for infrastructure and rehabilitation of youth offenders. Suspensiyon lang ang nais namin kasi nga walang infrastructure to support the law [What we want is for it to be suspended because there is no infrastructure to support the law],” Escudero said.

Read full article @ www.interaksyon.com

[Statement] They are not alone – United Nations Working Group on Enforced or involuntary Disappearances

(Statement by the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or involuntary Disappearances to mark the first UN International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances – 30 August 2011)

GENEVA (30 August 2011) – “They are not alone in their struggle. Today, the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances marks the first UN International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances; a special day to spotlight this heinous crime, and to remind victims, including the families and associations of victims of those who disappeared, that they are not alone.

‘He was arrested in 1997 and there has been no news since…’ (Testimony of the mother of a disappeared person)

Unfortunately, enforced disappearances continue to be used by some States as a tool to deal with situations of conflict or internal unrest. We have also witnessed the use of the so-called ‘short term disappearances,’ where victims are placed in secret detention or unknown locations, outside the protection of the law, before being released weeks or months later, sometimes after having been tortured and without having been brought in front of a judge or other civil authority.

This very worrisome practice, whether it is used to counter terrorism, to fight organized crime or suppress legitimate civil strife demanding democracy, freedom of expression or religion, should be considered as an enforced disappearance and as such adequately investigated, prosecuted and punished.

‘I have searched for him… I have searched for him for a long time all over the country…’

No one shall be subjected to enforced disappearance, and to end such a practice, States should continue promoting and giving full effect to the UN Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, especially the definition of enforced disappearance as a separate and autonomous criminal offence in national legislation.

The inclusion of enforced disappearance as an autonomous offence, separate from similar acts like kidnappings, has proved to be effective in preventing and eradicating enforced disappearances. The Working Group stands willing to assist States who seek to include enforce disappearance in their criminal codes, according to international human rights standards.

‘I was convinced I was going to find him, that it was a mistake, that they couldn’t keep him, that they were going to set him free…’

Over the last thirty years, the families of disappeared persons have brought to the attention of the international community the extent of this odious crime. Largely due to their efforts, the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance entered into force on 23 December 2010.The willingness of a number of States to take on the commitment that ‘no one shall be subjected to enforced disappearance’ must also be stressed.

The Convention includes for the first time in a treaty the right of any person not to be subjected to enforced disappearance. It also recognizes the right of all the persons affected by enforced disappearance to know the truth about the circumstances of this crime, the progress and results of the investigation and the fate of the disappeared person.

Following the entry into force of the Convention, the Committee on Enforced Disappearances has been established. Like for many other thematic human rights issues such as torture, racial discrimination, discrimination against women, rights of the child, and a series of civil, cultural, economic, political, social rights, the Committee and the Working Group will coexist side by side, cooperating in the fight to prevent and eradicate enforced disappearances wherever they occur around the world.

‘I used to make up reasons why he was arrested; like maybe it was because he did not register for military service, maybe this, maybe that…’

2012 marks the 20th anniversary of the adoption by the UN General Assembly of the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. To commemorate it, we encourage all States and civil society to translate the Declaration into all languages and dialects, with no distinction, since all serve the purpose to assist in its global dissemination and the ultimate goal of preventing enforced disappearances.

On the UN International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, which has been observed for many years in many countries, we pay tribute to the many victims, relatives of victims, human rights defenders, non-governmental organizations, lawyers and other individuals and groups who work untiringly and unstintingly, often in difficult circumstances, to denounce cases of enforced disappearance, discover the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared, and eradicate this terrible practice.
‘So every minute I was expecting him to open the door and come home, but he never did come home…’

They are not alone.”

UNITED NATIONS Press release

[From the web] PHILIPPINES: Torture victims speak out–“The evidence is suppressed to weaken a case” — Interview 7 – AHRC

An interview with Rita Melecio, staff member of a local NGO documenting torture cases, published by the Asian Human Rights Commission

PHILIPPINES: Torture victims speak out–“The evidence is suppressed to weaken a case” — Interview 7

OVERVIEW: In this seventh interview in the series, Rita Melecio, a staff member of Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) in Mindanao, talks about the obstacles in prosecuting the policemen and soldiers for charges of torture. The manner in which they suppressed evidence, from the moment a victim is arrested, taken to a doctor and remanded to jail are so sophisticated that it would not be possible to file a case.

The perpetrators, who are law enforcers and criminal investigators, know very well how to cover up any evidence of torture. The evidence is deliberately suppressed to weaken any complaints against them. In the Philippines, the legal requirements in filing a complaint is that they should contain the identity of the perpetrator, the location and place where the crime happened and proof of torture, before a case could be filed in court.

However, the perpetrators routinely blindfold torture victims to prevent their identities from being known; they are taken victims to many places to prevent the victims from ascertaining which court has jurisdiction to hear the complaint they could file; and even when victims are taken to the doctors, the latter would not conduct proper check-up because they have close working relationships with the perpetrators.

Q: Could you tell us the torture cases that you are handling–you can mention old or new cases if you like.

Rita: I could give an example of a new torture case that we are handling. It is about the torture case of Anuar Hasim. He was arrested on April 4, 2010 in General Santos City. What the (policemen) did to him was: they punched him hard in his chest, struck his chest with an Armalite rifle, punched his stomach, kick him, wrapped his head with plastic and strangle him with a plastic wire. They repeatedly tortured him to force him to admit a crime they wanted him to admit to.

Q: What was it that the police wanted him to admit?

Rita: He was allegedly a member of MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front). So, they were forcing him to admit; for example, on incidents of attacks allegedly by the MILF, they forced him to identify the persons responsible for that.

Q: At the time he was tortured the Anti-Torture Law was already in effect. Did you file charges?

Rita: Actually, we took up his case as a test case (for TFDP) for prosecution. This is what happened: when his family saw him in custody, the injuries in his chest was visible. The police took him to the doctor (Ma. Antoinetta Odi) for a medical check-up but they prevented his mother from entering the clinic. The doctor could not possibly ignore the visible injuries to his chest. Anuar also informed the doctor that he had been tortured; however, the doctor did not properly examine him.

After Anuar told the doctor what the police did to him, she did not speak to him again. The doctor left the clinic and did not return until the policemen took him out. The doctor did not do a medical test on him. She merely glanced at some parts of his body, tapped his body with a stethoscope and that is it. How could you check, say if in case he had internal injuries (on that type of check)? What they did to the victim was terrible.

Q: Is Anuar still in detention? What were the circumstances of his arrest?

Rita: He was driving a tricycle when there were persons who suddenly stopped him. The policemen in plainclothes arrived. They claimed they had an arrest warrant for him but they never showed it to him before they detained him. He is presently in Metro Manila after the court transferred the hearing of his case there. When he was arrested, the police did not show the warrant of arrest; and, even when we finally got the copy of the warrant of arrest the name written in the warrant to be arrested was not his.

Q: You were not able to pursue the case because there was no medical report?

Rita: Yes, we were not able to file a complaint because it (the medical report) is a pre-requisite as evidence in filing charges. We have no medical proof to prove that he was tortured. The doctor did not write anything. What we try to do now is that we would take him for examination by a psychologist or a trauma counsellor. In doing so, at least if there we do not have proof of his injuries, we could prove the psychological effect of torture on him. Since the incident happened a long time ago, the injuries he had have healed; but in terms of the psychological effect of torture we could probably produce evidence on that.

After the incident, Anuar had several medical complaints to me, like he complained about chest pains, headache and others. What we do now is to have him checked by psychologist or psychiatrist.

Q: Apart from Anuar Hasim, could you tell us about other torture cases what you are handling?

Rita: There is another one. His name is Misuari Salih. He was arrested in January 9, 2010. What the soldiers did was: they held him incommunicado for three months and they blindfolded him. They electrocuted his sex organ and all over his body. His teeth were hit by iron bars. His gums and lips swelled. By the time I interviewed him, I could hardly notice the torture marks on his hands (because it already healed). He was chained by the ankles for three months like a dog. It was terrible because both of his ankles were chained. He could hardly move inside the room where he was detained and tortured. Sometimes, he was punched in his chest, his stomach and kicked. He was forced to admit a crime due to his alleged involvement with the MILF.

Q: Were the charges filed in court against the perpetrators?

Rita: We were not able to file a case. The incident happened on November 2009, it was the same month that the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 was just signed into law. (note: in the Philippines legislation signed into law could only take effect 15 days after it is published in a newspaper of general circulation).

Q: If you are a victim of torture, would you file charges?

Rita: Of course, but it is very crucial. For example, when you file a case medical proof (of torture) is required as evidence. But what if you do not have a medical certificate? In a situation where you are under the custody of the military and the police, would you be able to obtain medical attention? How could the victim possibly see a doctor? When they remand the victim to jail they make sure that torture marks are gone.

Torture is not only physical, which can be proven by medical proof. There is also a psychological effect of torture, but the problem is you can hardly prove the psychological effect unless the victim sees a psychologist or psychiatrist. But when you are held in detention, how could you do that?

In jail, the victim does not have access to that service (or there is no such service). For example, in the case of Anuar it was difficult. Because he was detained in General Santos City, it was difficult for us to take him to another city, Davao, to see a psychiatrist. In General Santos, they do not allow private practitioners. They require government medical practitioners. The doctors there would not admit him as their patient.

Also, there is an issue of security. The jail officers would not allow the (torture victims from going out of their jail) for consultation. You need to get a court order for that. It is difficult because the court also does not entertain you, really it is difficult.

Q: How about the victims, are they and their family willing to file charges?

Rita: About the case of Anuar Hasim, he and his family were convinced to file charges against the perpetrators. The problem is we could not file the case because there is no evidence (or the doctor deliberately suppressed the medical evidence by not examining him properly). Also, we are still in an ongoing process of to have him check by a psychologist. It is also difficult because the treatment would take some time and to determine the psychological effect of torture on him also takes time.

Q: In your case, do you provide psychological treatment for victims?

Rita: It is difficult, for example, you could not ask the psychologists or the psychiatrist to go to jail to perform the treatment and counselling. Although we have a partner, Balay Rehabilitation, they are the ones who provide rehabilitation to torture victims, but I do not know what type of test they conduct to measure the extent of psychological effect of torture on victims. I was only told that they have tools to do that.

Q: You mean, normally you could not provide this type of treatment?

Rita: Yes. We do not have access. Once the victim is held in detention, it would be very difficult for them (to get treatment). We also had a case like that in 2007. He was detained for seven months and then he was released.

After he was released, we took him to Davao City to be check by the psychiatrist. In the medical report, the victim was diagnosed to have suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). But the problem was we could not file the charges in court (even if we have the proof of torture) because the Anti-Torture Law was not yet in effect when the torture on him happened.

We also consider filing charges of maltreatment or similar to that, but again the problem was we did not know where we should file the complaint because the victim also does not know where he was tortured. In our legal system, in filing complaint in courts, the place where the crime was committed is very important. It is because it involves the jurisdiction of the court who should hear the case. But in his case, he does not know where (the place) where he was tortured, he was taken elsewhere and he was blindfolded.

Also, when you are on a blindfold, it is difficult because you could not identify who tortured and arrested you. That is what makes it difficult even more if you to pursue charges: you do not know which court (who had jurisdiction of the case) to file a case. You do not know who would be charged.

Q: In cases that you handle, how long does the court proceedings take?

Rita: It is delayed. The delay is terrible. We also have another case. He was arrested in 2000 but until now he is still in jail. We do not have any hold on the court. Sometimes, they postpone the hearing because there was no court judge, no prosecutor and the complainant does not appear. There are no witnesses. It is beyond our control. Once the case is postponed, the interval of the next hearing would be very long.

Q: How about looking for lawyers, are there lawyers available?

Rita: Actually, if we talk about the Moro victims, they are muslin detainees; we can approach Atty. Raissa Jujurie, a lawyer from the Bangsamoro Lawyers Network (BLN). But since she is alone also, we could not ask her to take all cases involving torture victims. There are other lawyers who also handle torture cases; and other victims seek assistance from the PAO (Public Attorney’s Office) because our legal services could not cope with it. We do not have enough funds to pay for the lawyers. What we give (to the lawyers is a very small amount). Sometimes, we give them P1,000.00 (USD 21) each hearing or sometimes P1,500.00 (USD31). It is very cheap because that is good enough only for their transportation. The legal service is not included.

Q: What is your opinion about the Anti-Torture Law? What do you think about the victims being witness to the own cases?

Rita: Yes. Before, we documented a lot of torture cases. It took us long time also to lobby for the enactment of the Anti-Torture Law. Since I joined TFDP, we have been lobbying for the enactment of the Anti-Torture Law. We lobby from the village officials, city, municipal and province asking them to issue Resolutions in support of the enactment of the law. We submitted to the Congress their Resolutions in support of the enactment of the law.

When the law was finally enacted, we were very glad that the victims could now file charges of torture but the problem is the victims fear filing a complaint. It was also difficult because you have to explain to them, you have to make them understand (about the value of filing charges).

For example, on my part I am responsible for documentation, before I proceed with interviewing the victims you have to inform them what their rights are, what is the law and what violations under the law have been committed on them. And if the person is a torture victim, you have to explain to him about the Anti-Torture Law and the importance of filing a complaint.

The problem is, of course the victims and their families are frightened; and you could not also assure their security once they are threatened. Because once they file a case, the victims would be definitely threatened.

Q: Does the victims usually know who tortured them?

Rita: No, because they were blindfolded. But we could probably know if we would know also who arrested them.

For example, in the case of Anuar Hasim, the Chief of Police (COP) of the Bula Police Station in General Santos City, where he was detained, was suspended and had been to an investigation. I am not sure what the progress of the investigation on him is or whether he had been cleared from any liability.

In this case, that COP was not involve in torturing the victim. It was the members of the police intelligence who tortured the victim. He mentioned some of their names (members of the intelligence) but he does not know their real names, only their nicknames. That is why we could not identify who tortured the victim. It is good to have a law against torture, but there are real problems. For example if the victim does not know who tortured him, who can they charge for torture?

Although you can mention that the person (perpetrators) is attached to, for example the Criminal Investigation and Detention Group (CIDG); and you could file torture charges against the head of the CIDG on the basis of the command responsibility but still it is not easy to file a case.

Q: What do you think the problem lies?

Rita: Probably, on cases where the victim is abducted, we would be able to know where the victim is held; then, we could facilitate to have the victim undergo medical attention because that is what the rules on evidence requires. This is because if you do not have a medical certificate your efforts are nothing. The prosecutors would just reject the case. If there is no evidence (of medical proof) proving the physical torture, you could also use the evidence on the psychological effect of torture; but it is difficult because you would have to go on a very lengthy process.

If the victim is in jail, you have to request for a court order first (before the jail officers would temporarily allowed him out for treatment or rehabilitation). It would be good if the victim is not held in detention, it is easy to facilitate and to have him check with psychologist or psychiatrist.

Q: How about the importance of a witness in a torture case?

Rita: For my part, the victim himself could narrate the account of torture as to what happened to him and supported with evidence, like medical certificate either physical or psychological effect. In torture cases, no one person can witness that, it is only the victim. Only the victim and the torturer know what happen.

———————-

The views shared in this interview do not necessarily reflect those of the AHRC, and the AHRC takes no responsibility for them.

# # #

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

AHRC Philippines page: http://www.humanrights.asia/countries/philippines

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FOR PUBLICATION
AHRC-ETC-028-2011
June 17, 2011

 

PHILIPPINES: Torture victims speak out–“The evidence is suppressed to weaken a case” — Interview 7

[In the news] Murder case filed anew vs ‘death squad men’ | Sun.Star

Murder case filed anew vs ‘death squad men’ | Sun.Star.

By Arianne Caryl N. Casas

THREE alleged members of the shadowy Davao Death Squad (DDS) are facing another murder case at the Regional Trial Court (RTC).

Charged with murder were Jose Cavan Besera, Ruden Moyong Labe, and an alias John Doe, after Prosecutor Serafica Justiniani-Weis found probable cause to hold them for court trial based on the affidavits executed by witnesses.

The three were accused of killing Randy Sillos Paderes, 25, who was shot dead in Tugbok District on September 4, 2010 at 7:10 p.m. In an affidavit, a witness claimed he identified Paderes’ killer as his companion in a cockfighting gallery before.

Paderes and his friends were in a store in Tugbok District when Besera, the alleged gunman, arrived on board a motorcycle driven by Labe. Another accomplice has remained unidentified.

The witness claimed Besera approached the victim and shot him in the head.

The gunman immediately boarded the waiting motorcycle after making sure the victim was already dead.

A record at the Regional Crime Laboratory Office showed a Forensic Firearms Examination result that the .45 caliber pistol owned by Besera was the same gun used in 10 other shooting incidents, including that of Paderes.

The other victims were Alen Warillero, Richard David, Jersy Vasay, Randy Lobiazo, Ronie Maurillo, Rolly Lomahon, Ernesto Jaylo and Jason Pines.

No bail was recommended for the respondents’ temporary liberty.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on June 08, 2011.

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