By ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
Last Thursday, June 26, was the day for the annual commemoration worldwide of the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. The Convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment was adopted by the UN on December 10, 1984. Its entry into force was made by the UN on June 26, 1987 hence the commemoration every June 26th after.
In the convention, it defines torture as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful, sanction.
The website of the United Nations shows that the Philippines had the convention on accession on June 18, 1986. Our 1987 Constitution also declare torture, particularly in taking information, as a prohibited inhuman act. Like the other rights contained in the Bill of Rights of our Constitution, torture like extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances continue to be a reality under the present administration. Human rights lawyers claim the Bill of Rights is generally self-executory. Despite that, cases like torture and extra-judicial killings happen.
There were moves by human rights advocates among members of Congress to pass a law against torture and enforced disappearances and to consider these acts as criminal with specified sanctions. It was a move to remind that these acts are inhuman with corresponding punishments and should not be committed.
Bayan Muna Partylist Representative Satur Ocampo introduced a bill in the House which defines torture, classifies it as a criminal act, and imposed punishments. It was anchored with the UN convention and with the Bill of Rights. It could have been a very good law if approved. Unfortunately, it was not passed by the House. It is really ironic that a very good proposal protecting human rights had a hard time in Congress but if it is a bill for the economic interests of monopoly capitalists it easily passes. The oil deregulation law and laws on value added tax (VAT) are but a few examples.
Believing on the importance of human dignity, Ocampo had refiled the bill. According to reliable sources in Congress, it is now with the Technical Working Group of the House Justice Committee. It is considered by Bayan Muna and its allied party lists as one of their priority bills, added my source.
With the reality in the Philippines, I hope their concept of justice would be realized by our lawmakers and pass this important measure on human rights. That would put the realization of the 1987 Constitution’s Bill of Rights and the UN Convention Against Torture. #