Opening up and shedding light into Places of Deprivation of Liberty;
Strengthening the protection of Persons Deprived of their Liberty against Torture and Ill-Treatment
UATC Media Statement
5 November 2014, Quezon City
In spite of a domestic legal framework, torture continues to persist in the Philippines. Prominent case include the Tondo Asuncion Community Precinct incident and the Binan "Wheel of Torture" case. While a few cases have been brought to the public, many remain unpublicized. More concerning is the fact that no perpetrator has been brought to justice. Both the Tondo Asuncion Community Precinct and Binan "Wheel of Torture" incident were cases where the victims were in places of detention.
The correctional and custodial system is wracked by many problems. Many jails and prisons are characterized by over-crowding and poor living conditions. Drug abuse, violence, ill-treatment and torture continue to be an issue. Exacerbating the problem is the slow judicial process. These compromise the physical and mental health of prisoners and counteract the goal of development, rehabilitation and reintegration.
Given this context, we are in dire need of a system that will open up and shed light into places of deprivation of liberty through visits by independent experts with a view of strengthening people's protection against torture and ill-treatment.
From: Balay Rehabilitation Center and United Against Torture Coalition (UATC)
What: Media Briefing on Legislating the establishment of a new agency to protect persons deprived of their liberty
When: 5 November 2014, 10:00 AM to 12:00 NN
Where: Max's Restaurant, Quezon City Memorial Circle, Quezon City
On 5 November 2014 (Wednesday), a media briefing shall be held to create public awareness on the obligations of the Philippine Government under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other, Cruel, inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT): the establishment of a National preventive Mechanism (NPM). The panellists will introduce the importance of having an NPM and a domestic system of regular preventive visits for the protection of persons deprived of their liberty against torture and ill-treatment. The panellists will also expound in the key requirements of setting up the NPM and key features the new institution must have in order to carry out its mandate effectively.
13 to 17 October 2014, Copenhagen Denmark, delegates from Asia, Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe gathered for a training workshop about the Data in the Fight against Impunity (DFI) Project. The project aims to create a global network of torture rehabilitation centres collecting a universal set of clinical data. The data is geared towards creating global and regional torture reports. Locally, the data is intended to be a tool to make states accountable; make justice and rehabilitation services accessible to victims and popularize the issue of torture. Balay Rehabilitation Center, together with the Medical Action Group, represented the Philippines in the training workshop. The training workshop was facilitated by the International Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims (IRCT). The project is funded by the European Union (EU).
Another study of Balay, this time in collaboration with the International Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC) has been published. The study looks at the phenomenon of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and armed conflict in NPA areas. You can download the research using the link at the end of this page. Below is a brief description of the research.
In recent years, much of the attention paid to internal displacement in Mindanao has focused on central and Western Mindanao. This displacement is primarily the result of prolonged conflict between Muslim rebels groups – in particular the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – and the government. The conflict, often described as a contestation between groups of indigenous people, known as the Bangsamoro, and non-native newcomers to the region, has claimed the lives of an estimated 150,000 people in the last four decades and displaced millions. Progress towards a final resolution of this conflict appears on track.
However, no comparable progress has been made towards ending the 46-year old conflict between the government and the New People's Army (NPA) the military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). Peace talks continue to be mired by half-hearted efforts on both sides and a perception that neither party is willing to make concessions. The government's security forces and the NPA continue to clash regularly, in particular in Eastern and Northern Mindanao where the conflict exacts a heavy toll on the mainly indigenous civilian population. Unlike the Bangsamoro conflict, the NPA insurgency attracts little attention, despite being one of the longest running conflicts in the world and despite its ongoing impact on the civilian population. This is partly due to the fact that most of the violence and most of the suffering caused to civilians, including regular displacements, take place in remote areas and remain under-reported. The armed conflict is not the only displacement threat indigenous people in Mindanao – commonly referred to as Lumad – are exposed to. Their land and human rights are also under attack as outsiders seek to exploit their abundant natural resources: Mindanao is thought to hold the country's largest reserves of nickel, copper and gold.Resistance to natural resource extraction projects is sometimes met with violence. Many indigenous people are forcibly evicted, particularly those who lack ancestral land titles or other proof of ownership of land and resources. Tension and conflict over land access and management add another dimension to the violence and may be fuelling the armed conflict and increasing NPA recruitments.
Natural disasters, in particular flooding, are another major and frequent cause of displacement in the region. On 4 December 2012, Typhoon Bopha (locally referred to as Pablo) struck Mindanao, forcing close to a million of the 6.2 million people impacted to evacuate their homes. The typhoon's high wind speed and flooding caused extensive damage, with over 235,000 homes destroyed or damaged and further destruction of public infrastructure. The eastern part of the island bore the brunt of the casualties and damage, with indigenous communities particularly affected. As elsewhere in Mindanao, deforestation due to logging, mining, and the extensive cultivation of banana plantations in mountainous areas increased poor communities' vulnerability to flash floods and landslides. Even before their displacement most Lumad people, including former IDPs studied in this report, lived in remote,poor and marginalised areas where the unstable security situation has been hampering development efforts. As a result many Lumad communities struggle to cope with the economic and social consequences of their repeated displacement. They are unable to build up any assets that would sustain them in times of crisis and remain in a constant state of alarm and uncertainty about their futures.
The right of indigenous people not to be displaced from their land is guaranteed by Filipino law, in particular the 1997 Indigenous People Rights Act (IPRA), and also by the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), an accord signed by the government and the NPA in 1998. As long as counter-insurgency operations continue to target indigenous communities and IPRA and CARHRIHL are not effectively enforced, these communities will continue to be locked in a cycle of regular displacement to escape conflict and violence.
In this report IDMC aims to assess the impact of multiple displacements caused by the government-NPA conflict on Lumad communities in eastern Mindanao, identify the main obstacles to sustainable return and recovery and make policy recommendations to address these. The study also sought to assess the extent to which communities previously affected by the conflict are more vulnerable to the effects of the disaster as a result of previous loss of assets and physical isolation and socio- economic marginalisation.
It is our pleasure to announce that the study on violence in our project site in Bagong Silang is now online. The research is a collaboration between DIGNTY/RCT and Balay. You may download the article using the link at the bottom of the page. Below is a brief introduction of the research report.
During the latter part of Marcos regime, Bagong Silang [New Birth] was established as a relocation site for the thousands of squatters about to be dislocated from their homes around metro—Manila to clear land for economic development, roads or otherwise. Some were forcibly moved to Bagong Silang, which is located far away from main economic activity. Others saw life in Bagong Silang as the possibility for a new beginning. Many of the areas from where the resettled people came were quite violent. Inter-personal violence occurred on a regular basis and crime rates were said to be high. Furthermore, state violence in different forms was also rumoured to be high, as was the violence perpetrated by land owners in order to persuade people to move from the contested land. None of these forms of violence disappeared with the establishment of Bagong Silang. From these initial days of violence, Bagong Silang has maintained a reputation of being a violent and dangerous place with high crime rates, gangs and fraternities are stable elements in the social life in Bagong Silang, as is state or state—endorsed violence, although, as we shall see, at a lower level and nature of violence in Bagong Silang and most accounts remain anecdotal or build on hearsay or stereotypes of the poor and the different. This report attempts to address this lack of knowledge. It is based on several different sets of data: a victimization survey, a database of all reports made to the local adjudicating body [Katarungang Pambarangay], interviews with residents and law enforcement agencies as well as ethnographic observations. The central part of the data set is the victimization survey, the rest of the data is used to understand and explain the results of the survey. The survey explores (1) the nature and extent of violence in Bagong Silang, (2) the emotional, physical and material impact violence have on people's lives and (3) what victims of crime and violence do to seek redress. On the basis of the results from the survey, the report explores two issues in depth – inter-personal violence in communities and state-perpetrated violence. The results from the victimization survey are presented in Chapter 3, whereas Chapter 4 explores interpersonal violence and its relation to notions of community and Chapter 5 explores state violence. In Chapter 6, we outline some of the possible consequences the conclusions of the report have for Balay's intervention in Bagong Silang.
Through this study, we aim to establish better understanding of the nature and extent of interpersonal, communal and state violence in Bagong Silang in order to provide an evidence—based foundation for interventions. Balay Rehabilitation Center, lnc in Manila and DIGNITY — Danish Institute against Torture in Copenhagen have been involved in an intervention project in Bagong Silang since 2007. The project focuses on young people in conflict with the law. It offers psycho—social and legal services to victims of state violence. It also aims to prevent state violence by addressing the structural conditions that put young people at risk of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the state and a life of criminality and violence.