The European Union called on the Aquino administration to carry out the anti-torture law, noting that Manila failed to hold those responsible for torture cases accountable.
EU ambassador Guy Ledoux said that while some positive gains that have been made by the Aquino administration, “much needs to be done” to implement the law.
“It is recognised that positive gains have been made by the Administration in its effort to stop the practice of torture in the Philippines and non-state organisation and civil society are playing an important role towards the elimination of torture,” Ledoux said in his speech during a forum.
“Yet much needs to be done to fully enforce the Anti-Torture Law and to hold those responsible for torture cases accountable... there is a need to end the culture of impunity by bringing perpetrators to justice and to encourage all stakeholders to double their collective efforts” Ledoux said.
The envoy cited the recent incident of torture in the Philippines called the “wheel of torture” allegedly practiced at a Philippine National Police detention facility in Binan, Laguna where detainees were tortured by police.
“I am very much concerned about recent reports in the media and from civil society on incidences of torture in some parts of the Philippines. These include the ‘Torture Wheel’ discovered in a police precinct in Laguna province,” he said.
Ledoux said the perpetrators of torture must be brought to justice to end the culture of impunity and to encourage stakeholders to heighten their efforts to stop the malpractice. “Torture is not only a tragedy for its victims, it is also degrading for those who perpetrate it, and inevitable it harms the welfare of societies which tolerate such outrages.”
Ledoux also praised efforts of the Commission of Human Rights and civil society organizations in monitoring the torture cases and in addressing the legal and medical concerns of the victims of torture.
While something is being done directly to address human rights issues at the grassroot level, it is also important to strategically engage national institutions to prevent the increase of incidents of torture in the country, he said.
The EU together with other stakeholders, like the Medical Action Group, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and other non-government organization sought to 1) increase access to civil and criminal justice system; 2) make the criminal justice system more efficient and effective; and to strengthen the tools to measure the justice system’s performance and the mechanisms for its regular “external” assessment.
The EU and other stakeholders planned to establish information centers in every local government units to empower people to seek legal remedy; they also plan to conduct training of justice providers and law enforcers for more efficient services to people; monitoring cases of torture among others.
Through these plans, Ledoux said that the EU has provided an additional grant of EUR10-million or P600-million to support the Philippines’ efforts to make justice accessible for all Filipinos.
“Like its precursor, the new EU-Philippines Justice Support Programme or EPJUST 2 has a special emphasis on addressing the issue of impunity in extra-judicial killings and other worst human rights violations,” Ledoux said.
Since 2006, the EU has provided more than €6 million (P360 million) to support civil society’s efforts to address various human rights issues in the Philippines.
This support includes the project by Medical Action Group and Task Force Detainees.
Ledoux said, through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) facility Filipino human rights defenders were provided direct assistance such as legal representation, psychological counselling, material and sanctuary support.
“Among them are 137 human rights defenders under our Defending the Defenders Project with a church group,” he said.
He cited a previous example, one of their EIDHR projects provided legal assistance to a security guard who was tortured and jailed but subsequently released by the Court.
Another EIDHR project in Mindanao helped protect 28 human rights defenders working in labour unions from threats and harassments.
Also in Mindanao, he said that there are more than 80 individuals belonging to displaced indigenous communities affected by harassment and eviction from their lands in Bukidnon, Mindanao were given support by the EU in the form of relocation and temporary houses, farm implements, simple farm tools and food assistance.
On Thursday, the EU and civil society organizations renewed their commitment in a forum to end cruelty during the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.
The forum aimed at forming concrete solutions to implementation of the Anti-Torture Act of 2009. The findings discussed were based on a report by the United Against Torture Coalition, a network of civil society organizations.
Emmanuel Amistad, Task Force Detainees of the Philippines executive director, cited anti-torture day declaration “as important step to urge the authorities for a more systematic and diligent implementation of the Anti-Torture Law to ensure perpetrators are brought to justice, and to ensure zero-tolerance of torture in all detention and custodial facilities nationwide.”
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