June 19, July 15, July 19, 2013
Amnesty International-Philippines, Balay Rehabilitation Center, Medical Action Group (MAG), Human Rights Defenders Pilipinas (HRDP), Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) and University of the Philippines Institute of Human Rights (UP IHR)
in cooperation with the United Against Torture Coalition (UATC)-Philippines and Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)
In November 2009, the Anti-Torture Act (or Republic Act No. 9745) was enacted into law. The law criminalizes torture and covers various issues relevant to ensuring accountability of perpetrators and redress for torture survivors including provisions of medical examination, legal assistance, command responsibility; and rehabilitation for torture victims and their families. The Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the law issued on December 2010.
Among the main features of the law are:
§ Section 4(b) (1), which prohibits several forms of torture like blindfolding, prolonged interrogation and public display or public humiliation of a detainee or prisoner;
§ Section 9, which provides the right of victims to a prompt and impartial investigation by the Commission of Human Rights (CHR) and relevant government agencies within 60 days of the complaint and the right of all persons involved in a torture case to protection from harassment and other forms of reprisals;
§ Section 12, which provides the right to a physical, medical and psychological examination by an independent and competent doctor of one’s own choice;
§ Section 13, which provides for command responsibility. This provision extends command responsibility to cases where immediate superiors fail to prevent or investigate allegations of torture or other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment; and
§ Sections 37-40 of the IRR further elaborate the agencies that must participate in the formulation and funding of the rehabilitation program and that non-governmental organizations and torture survivor’s representatives must be involved in its formulation.
Following the implementation of the law, it has so far not been implemented with diligence and effectiveness since many torture allegations have not been effectively investigated by the authorities and torture survivors and their families do not receive the institutional support they are entitled to. The complaints in relation to the implementation of the law have revealed various different deficiencies from documentation, investigation to prosecution of torture cases.
In this regard, the Medical Action Group (MAG), Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), Balay Rehabilitation Center, Amnesty International-Philippines and University of the Philippines Institute of Human Rights (UP-IHR) in cooperation with the United Against Torture Coalition (UATC)-Philippines and Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), is set to conduct a workshop on June 19, 2013 at UP Institute of Human Rights, entitled: Civil Society Organizations’ Learnings on the and Recommendations for Effective Implementation of the Anti-Torture Law. This workshop is among the series of event to commemorate the June 26 International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.
The general objective of the workshop is to contribute in generating solutions for strengthening and effective implementation of the law in terms of documentation, investigation and prosecution of alleged cases of torture, increased number of victims or torture survivors will receive effective medical and psychological services and legal support, and in breaking torture impunity in the country.
The workshop will be a venue for exchange of information on some of the torture cases and obstacles in implementing the Anti-Torture Act; to discuss challenges and ways by which these can be overcome, and to formulate set of recommendations which will improve institutional capacity of authorities in addressing the inherent difficulties in the implementation of the law.
The output of the workshop aims to, as point out in several occasions, come up with a reference document as basis for the Oversight Committee (as mandated by the law i.e. Sec.20) to immediately convene in order to discuss at length and review the workshop document regarding recommendations for effective implementation of the Anti-Torture Law. Likewise, the document will be published and disseminated to provide legal support to torture survivors and to prosecute torture perpetrators.
The workshop will be conducted in a participatory manner with presentation of the highlights of previous related workshops. Group workshop will review and analyze specific provisions of the law in relation to arrest and detention of person deprived of liberty and various issues attendant to torture prevention.
The test cases to be presented in the workshop are intended to illustrate some of the deficiencies and obstacles experienced and provide recommendations for how these can be remedied. Since the beginning of 2010, Balay Rehabilitation Center, MAG and TFDP with support from international human rights NGOs have been actively involved in facilitation of legal support to and prosecution of three cases of torture:
1. Lenin Salas et al (Jose L. Gomez, Jerry Simbulan, Rodwin M. Talaand Daniel Navarro) vs. PSupt. Madzgani M. Mukaram & John Does for Violation of RA 9745;
2. Ronnel Victor R. Cabais vs. Lt. Joel M. Santos, Cpl. Bienvenido I. Ajero, Cpl. Abelardo Reyes, Cpl. Sonie Delos Reyes, Cpl. Mark Ramos, Cpl. Alex D. Buban, Jr. and Pfc. Mark A. Zamora for Violation of Republic Act No. 9745;
3. Abdul Khan Ajid y Balinting vs Col. Alexander Macario, Capt. Sherwin Guidangen, Sgt. George Awing, Sgt. Edgardo Santos, Staff Elmer Magdaraog and John Does for Grave Misconduct & Grave abuse of Authority; and
4. Arrest and detention, enforced disappearance, torture and extrajudicial killing of Sumar Abdulwahab.
These cases put spotlight on an early indication of some of the systemic obstacles that are occurring in the implementation of the Anti-Torture Act. Unless remedied, these are likely to continue to prevent torture victims in the Philippines from effectively pursuing justice.
The workshop will be attended by legal experts, representatives of torture survivors’ support groups and key persons of human rights NGOs and CSOs. This setting is intended to facilitate dialogue and identify “good practices” on torture prevention measures that can be recommended to the Oversight Committee for adoption at the national level.