Make Philippines A Torture Free Zone! Rights groups run against torture

On its seventh year, in commemoration of the June 26 International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the Medical Action Group (MAG) joined the United Against Torture Coalition (UATC)-Philippines and various anti-torture advocates in the “Basta! Run Against Torture 7” (BRAT VII) to call on the government to make the Philippines a Torture Free Zone.

The UATC-Philippines mobilized about three hundred (300) members of the security forces– the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) through their respective Human Rights Affairs Offices who ran alongside of anti-torture advocates in the 3-kilometer route from Bantayog ng mga Bayani (“Monument to the Heroes”) to the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHRP) compound. Members of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) had also joined the annual run against torture.

To make the Philippines a torture free zone, the UATC stated that there is a need to ensure that all authorities including jail staff are fully aware of the Anti-Torture Law (or Republic Act No. 9745) and pressed that reported torture case will not be tolerated and will be investigated, and that perpetrators will be prosecuted.

For its part, Edeliza P. Hernandez, MAG Executive Director, stressed that the effective medical documentation and the use of medical/physical evidence in investigation and prosecution of torture cases could deliver justice to the victims and the survivors of such cruel and inhuman acts.

MAG emphasized that “effective medical documentation of torture can lessen impunity and help obtain redress for victims of such inhuman act.” Also it said health professionals can prevent torture more effectively by using the Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment or “the Istanbul Protocol”.

In addition, while the UATC-Philippines lauded the Philippine government on the enactment of the Anti-Torture Law in November 2009, but it has so far been implemented without diligence and effectiveness since many torture allegations have not been effectively investigated by authorities and detainees who are in custody do not have immediate access to legal and medical services.

The group reiterated its concerns on the increasing complaints in relation to the implementation of the Anti-Torture Law which has revealed various different deficiencies from documentation, investigation to prosecution of torture cases, which embolden perpetrators in doing acts of torture.

The group underscored the necessity that for the government to make the Philippines a torture free zone, it should publicly announce a clear policy of “total elimination” of all acts of torture.

The UATC-Philippines is led by Amnesty International-Philippines, Balay Rehabilitation Center, Medical Action Group (MAG), and Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP). Other human rights groups also joined the run like the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center Inc. (CLRD), Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) and theOrganisation Mondiale Contra la Torture (OMCT) or World Organization Against Torture represented by its Human Rights Adviser Ms. Seynabou Benga.