Tell it to SunStar: Creating a torture prevention body

Tell it to SunStar.
Tell it to SunStar.SunStar file photo

By Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay

We welcomed the statement of the United Nations (UN) Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT) on the urgent need for a national torture prevention body in the Philippines that would have the power to access all places of detention in order to prevent torture and other forms of ill-treatment.

The UN SPT had a four-member team that visited various “places of deprivation of liberty” in the country from Dec. 3 to 14, 2023. Their recommendations form part of their confidential report to the Philippine government.

In an earlier statement, Karapatan urged that the report be made public in the interest of transparency, accountability and the continued monitoring of the Philippine government’s compliance with the UN Convention against Torture, to which it is a signatory.

While the SPT’s exit statement is laudable, it should be noted that cases of torture continue to be documented despite the government’s signing of the UN Convention against Torture and the passage of Republic Act 9745, or the Anti-Torture Act of 2009. We have documented at least 18 cases of torture under the Marcos Jr. regime alone and 233 cases under Duterte.

The existence of secret detention places run by the police and the military, where both physical and psychological torture are perpetrated with impunity, as proven by the testimonies of abduction and torture survivors Steve Tauli, Armand Dayoha, Dyan Gumanao, Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano point to the State’s continuing mockery of existing international anti-torture conventions and its very own laws against torture.

The SPT’s statement about the importance of safeguards being in place to ensure that persons under police custody are “treated in accordance with the law and international standards” is very telling about the prevalence of torture and other forms of ill treatment that they were able to study.

We demand that the Marcos Jr. administration reveal the locations of these secret places of detention, dismantle them, and hold accountable those who maintain them, in accordance with law and international human rights norms. We likewise renew our call for the release of political prisoners, especially the elderly, sick and long-detained. Their prolonged and unjust detention on trumped-up charges is tantamount to torture.


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