Geneva, Switzerland.  The United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) convened at the Palais Wilson in Geneva, Switzerland from April 18, 2016 to May 13, 2016 for its 57th Session to examine mechanisms adopted by various State Parties in the punishment and prevention of acts of torture as well as to discuss national efforts to implement the rights enshrined in the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. 

 

Photography (Courtesy of Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines)

During the Session, the Philippines presented its 3rd Periodic Report from April 28 to 29, 2016 with Undersecretary Peter Irving Corvera of the Department of the Interior and Local Government and Ambassador Cecilia B. Rebong, Philippine Permanent Representative to the UN Office in Geneva, heading the Philippine delegation.

Undersecretary Corvera, in his opening statement made on April 28, 2016, highlighted a canvass of efforts that the Philippine Government has done and is committed to do, consistent with our human rights obligations, which include the Philippine’s Anti-Torture Campaign, the creation of an inter-agency committee monitoring the status of human rights violations including cases of torture, and the crafting of Philippine Human Rights Action Plan for 2012-2017. He enunciated that the “Government is steadfast in protecting the rights and promoting the interests especially of the most vulnerable sectors in our society.”

After the opening statement, The Chairperson of the Committee then explained the specific guidelines on how the oral and in-session briefings shall be executed, after which, the invited National Government Organizations (NGOs), other civil society stakeholders, and members of the Committee who are nationals of various State Parties to the Convention, raised decisive questions on the alleged culture of impunity on torture in the Philippines and observations to the Delegation.

From that point, The Philippine Delegation was given time to consolidate the issues and present its response on Day 2 of the Revalida held on April 29, 2016. The Philippine Delegation responded through specific themes, as follows:  

  1. Effectiveness of existing mechanisms on Torture Cases;
  2. Institutional programs, policies and procedures on the treatment of persons deprived of liberty, or those in the custody of State authorities;
  3. Questions on legal norms,
  4. Impact of awareness-building and trainings of State authorities,
  5. Violations against women and children,
  6. Legislative efforts/ pending legislation that bear anti-torture campaigns,
  7. The State’s relationship with the independent national human rights institution,
  8. The State’s engagement with non-government and civil society organizations and
  9. Update on the status of specific cases which have been brought to the attention of the Delegation. 

Further, the different agencies of the Philippines which formed the Philippine Delegation were given the opportunity to respond to the issues that concern the agency they represented. 

One of the many issues critical to the Philippine National Police raised by Ms. Sapana Pradhan-Malla, a Committee Member and  A Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court  of Nepal, is the alleged existence of an isolated Police Custodial Facility near the market of Malabon City in Manila. 

Chief of the PNP Human Rights Affairs Office PCSupt Dennis A Siervo, the lone representative of the PNP and a member of the Philippine Delegation, manifested that the PNP is taking the matter seriously and if the investigation would show that an isolated custodial facility really exists, then, charges will be filed against those who are responsible and accountable for the establishment of the said isolated facility.

Photography (Courtesy of Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines)

PCSupt Siervo explained that in order to prevent the existence of secret custodial facilities, the PNP issued a Directive requiring all Regional Directors of Police Regional Offices (PROs) and Directors of National Support Units (NSUs) to sign and submit an Affidavit of Undertaking stating primarily that all facilities are properly reported, and that no secret detention places, solitary confinement, incommunicado or other similar forms of detention expressly prohibited by Section 7 of RA 9745 (Anti-Torture Act of 2009) exists within their areas of responsibility and that they are taking full responsibility for any omissions or inaccuracies in the reporting thereof. 

“Enshrined in the said Directive is a caveat that any misrepresentation, omission or act of dishonesty or for any fraudulent, falsified or tampered documents on their part will render them administratively and criminally liable as provided by Republic Act Nos. 9745 and 6713, the Revised Penal Code and other applicable Rules, Regulations and Issuances”, he added. 

As soon as the Philippine Delegation arrived in the Philippines, PCSupt Siervo directed the Northern Police District to conduct validation of the said allegation.  

A perusal of the report from the Officer-In-Charge of Malabon City Police Station (MCPS) submitted to the PNP HRAO disclosed that personnel from the Station Intelligence Branch (SIB) under PSINSP DELTA F NAVARRA, Chief, SIB, were officially dispatched and had conducted inspection within the market areas under Police Community Precinct (PCP) 5, 6, and 7 that yielded negative results as to the alleged existence of secret detention facilities. 

The report was backed-up by the affidavit of undertaking of the Officer-In-Charge of MCPS duly notarized and executed on May 4, 2016 certifying that no secret detention places, solitary confinement, incommunicado or other similar forms of detention exist in Malabon City. 

Meanwhile, initial sets of questions which emanated from the various members of the Committee directed to the PNP were promptly addressed and submitted by PCSUPT SIERVO to the Committee right after the Closing Sessions of Day 2 of the Revalida. 

Through the participation of the PNP in the said  Philippine Revalida, PCSupt Dennis A Siervo showcased one of the notable innovations of the PNP in our anti-torture campaign which is the policy on the mandatory use of the updated Miranda Warning Card with Anti-Torture reminders which aims to equip police personnel with the right information and/or materials with which to advise citizens or persons placed under police custody of their rights under the law and to better enforce the provisions of RA No. 9745 (Anti-Torture Act of 2009) as well as promote other civil/political rights. 

On the other hand, the closing statement of Undersecretary Corvera focused on a premise that as the Philippines  seek to fulfill the objective of being fully compliant on the Convention Against Torture, the Philippine Delegation reiterates before the Committee and the world  that the Philippines, as a matter of State policy, prohibits and abhors all forms of torture or ill-treatment and judiciously addresses the commission of such acts, all in keeping with the spirit and resolve of the UN Convention Against Torture. 

The Honorable Undersecretary also expressed his optimism that in the 2-day Philippine Revalida, the Committee has come to appreciate the extent in which the Philippines has sought to fulfill its obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture during the reporting period and will continue to do so in the years that will follow with tenacity of purpose. 

It has long been understood and accepted that long-term solutions to the country’s human rights challenges can only be had through a concerted, collaborative effort by government actors, NGOs, civil society, and populace at large with assistance from foreign and local organizations involved in human rights work.  Specifically, a determined effort to pursue Justice Sector Reforms is indispensable to the PNP’s success in its own human rights development program.  

However, there are some action points that the PNP Human Rights Affairs Office has recommended to the Chief, PNP  that should be pursued to enable the entire Police Organization to effectively address human rights issues and concerns, under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment to the Convention Against Torture, such as the following: 

  1. Upgrade the PNP’s Human Rights and IHL Education and Training Curriculum to provide a practical and progressive system of building the knowledge and skills of police personnel of various ranks and designation on human rights-based policing; 
  2. There is an indispensible need for the PNP to fast track the development of its own standard specifications for custodial facilities including floor size, floor-to-ceiling clearance, maximum capacity cell, and other details. This is necessary to establish a “best practice” in the humane treatment of persons under police custody and, more importantly, to progressively comply with international conventions on prevention of torture and protocols on protection of detainees’ rights.  There is also a need to provide for the specific infrastructure needs of female detainees and minors; 
  3. It is also necessary for the PNP to install CCTVs in investigation rooms and custodial facilities, and if possible, and other audio-video equipment that could record police interactions with citizens, persons under police custody, and suspects; 
  4. Coordinate with the DOJ for the speedy disposition of cases and/or faster release of Commitment Orders including safe transfer of persons under custody to BJMP. The goal is to decongest police custodial facilities and uphold the right of persons under custody to a speedy but fair trial and access to other legal remedies; and 
  5. Review and Enhancement of Police Education and Training to improve compliance with Police Operational Procedures, Legal Requirements, and Other Measures to Uphold Human Rights.

The Philippine delegation was composed of senior officials from the Office of the President-Presidential Human Rights Committee, the Presidential Legislative and Liaison Office (PLLO), the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP),the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Department of Health (DOH), the Supreme Court (SC), the Sandiganbayan, the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council (JJWC), and the Permanent Mission of the Philippines to the United Nations in Geneva.

Photography (Courtesy of Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines)

Other than Undersecretary Corvera, other senior officials with the Philippine delegation are Justice Undersecretary Wendell Go, Chief State Counsel Ricardo Paras III, Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, Presidential Legislative Liaison Office Undersecretary Bernardino Sayo, Presidential Human Rights Committee Executive Director Severo Catura, and PCSupt Dennis A Siervo, Chief of the Philippine National Police.

The CAT generally holds two sessions per year in Geneva, Switzerland, once in May and once in November, each generally lasting four weeks and examining approximately eight to nine State reports.

Geneva is the seat of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies.

 

 

 

 

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