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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Members of civil society organizations and faith-based associations joined the commemoration of the day when the late President Marcos placed the country under martial law on September 21, 44 years ago.  Carrying pictures of  victims of human rights violations, more than 1,200 participants gathered in the historic Plaza Miranda in Manila to remind the public that an authoritarian government should never be allowed to prevail again.

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Social workers from different municipalities of North Cotabato and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) participated in a study session on documentation and rehabilitation of torture victims in Kidapawan City on September 6 to 9, 2016. The learning event also highlighted the mechanism for monitoring,  reporting, and responding to victims of grave child rights violations in areas affected by armed conflict in Mindanao.

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Around 200 survivors of torture and enforced disappearance and their relatives have started to receive some financial assistance from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in recognition of their right to rehabilitation under the Anti Torture Act and the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Act. The monetary assistance is intended for the purchase of medicines and to pay for basic medical check up of the victims. Some amount are meant to augment their resources for their livelihood projects as well.

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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!"