June 26, 2012, Balay Rehabilitation Center (Balay) together with partner civil society organizations and concerned government agencies will gather around 650 participants in a symbolic run to join the world in solidarity to the United Nations International Day in Support of Torture Victims.
The run entitled "Basta! Run Against Torture" (BRAT), now on its sixth installment, was initiated by the United against Torture Coalition (UATC). The UATC is a network of anti-torture advocates formed back in May 2002 spearheaded by Balay Rehabilitation Center (BALAY), Amnesty International Philippines (AIPh), Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), Medical Action Group (MAG), Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), and the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearances (FIND).
This year's BRAT aims to bridge the gap between the commitments and policies on one hand and practices on the other of the security sector and other government agencies with respect to the issue of torture. It hopes to exact the commitment of AFP, PNP and BJMP to declare their places of detention as torture free and stand firm to their commitment. In addition, BRAT also intends to popularize the right to be free from torture among the general public and to strengthen the CSO-government cooperation in the implementation of RA 9745 or the Anti-Torture Law.
Truly, the initiatives of Balay and other civil society organizations to push for a torture free society have borne fruits – the enactment of RA 9745 in 2009 and the ratification of the OPCAT in 2012 – however neither victims of torture remain unable to achieve justice, nor are the perpetrators held accountable. For these reasons, we believe that victims are unable to achieve complete rehabilitation over the brutal treatment they have suffered. As a matter of fact, three years after the enactment of the Anti-Torture Law of 2009, only a handful cases have been filed (among these are three test cases being handled by Balay and other civil society organizations). The attempt to prosecute perpetrators is fraught with difficulties due to a lack of transparency from the security sector and the unfamiliarity of prosecutors and judges about the law on torture. None of these cases have seen a just resolution. We are also aware of the fact that there remains countless number of individuals that have experienced torture, but are unable to report the incident due to fear or lack of access to legal services. In the end, we are convinced that torture is pervasive but not without resolution.
Six years have passed since the first BRAT; the security sectors have issued pronouncements and commitments regarding the eradication of torture (especially after the Anti-Torture Law was enacted) however, the realization of these commitments are yet to be realized.
As we run and express our solidarity to the United Nations International Day in Support of Torture Victims, Balay calls the AFP, PNP and other related government agencies for their sincere adherence to their commitment to make the Philippines torture free. We also call for the complete rehabilitation of torture survivors. The first step to achieve this is to stop the apparent culture of impunity and make perpetrators of these horrible acts accountable and, ultimately give victims justice.