A Philippine Human Rights NGO providing Psychosocial Services and Rehabilitation to Internally Displaced Persons and Survivors of Torture and Organized Violence.

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Balay has likened to an act of a “thief in the night” the secretive manner of the burial of the late deposed  dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LnmB-“Hero’s Cemetery”) on November 13.  

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The Balay Rehabilitation Center, convener of the United Against Torture Coalition in the Philippines (UATC) and civil society prime mover of the accession of the Philippines to the Optional Protocol To The Convention Against Torture (OPCAT), has organized a forum to mark the tenth anniversary of the entry into force of the OPCAT in Hotel Rembrandt on November 11, 2016.

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Balay was able to document 44 allegations of torture within the third quarter of the year, covering the period July-September 2016. The victims are all residents in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao, notably in the island of Basilan where government forces are engaged in a deadly operations against the ‘lawless activities’ of the Abu Sayyaf Group, and in the Davao region and in North Cotabato where the New People’s Army has been posing an armed challenged against the Philippines security forces.

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Balay Held HR Seminar for AFP Intel Officers

Balay representative, Mr. Carlos receiving a certificate of appreciation from Maj. Gen. Bambao for giving out a lecture about torture in the Philippine context and a discussion about the Anti-Torture Law of 2009Camp Aguinaldo Quezon City – a human rights seminar for Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Intelligence Officer was held. Balay Rehabilitation Center (Balay), represented by Mr. Ellecer Carlos, was also invited to discuss the newly passed Anti-Torture Act (RA 9745) of 2009. Ms. Loretta Rosales, chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), was likewise present in the said forum and discussed human rights violations situation in the Philippines from the immediate past to the present.

Balay, represented by Mr. Carlos, discussed the phenomenon of torture in the Philippine, tackling the root causes of torture in the country and the salient points of the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 (RA 9745) – definition of torture, the legal repercussions of any agent of the state that will violate this law and the various mechanisms of protection and education for civilians, groups and state agencies. In the end, Mr. Carlos emphasized to the intelligence community that torture must not be used in any circumstance. He also added that "torture is shameful and abhorrent" and that "torture is a taboo in our society and taboo it must remain".

First Ever

According to Maj. Gen. Francisco Cruz Jr. in that the said human rights forum is a first in the AFP's history. He also added that this forum is one of many steps that the leadership of the AFP is taking to create "a new breed of soldiers, one that operates on higher moral ground".

A Continuing Engagement towards Transformation – a Torture Free Society

In the end, we may see the human rights forum for its immediate value – the education of military intelligence personnel about human rights and, in particular, the right to be free from torture. However, it is also apparent that the activity is indicative of an opening within the ranks of the military and its leadership. An opening that is characterized by an acceptance of the human rights perspective and discourse as applicable and compatible to the field of military operations, and in this case, military intelligence. In addition to the adoption of a human rights perspective in military operations, the activity is also an implicit expression of commitment in making military intelligence and operations operate within the bounds of human rights.

In any case, Balay is hopeful that this activity marks the start of the transformation of the military – a military that will truly protect its citizens and respect and fulfill human rights. Indeed, the struggle for a torture free Philippines is still ongoing. While the forum is a sign for the hopeful, it is still paramount that we don't forget that torture is still pervasive in our society, and in this light, we must say: "FREE FROM TORTURE NOT FREE TO TORTURE!"