Message Of The Commission On Human Rights To “Basta Run Against Torture V”

Good morning to all runners and participants in this BASTA Run Against Torture 5!

Thank you all for joining this activity in commemoration of the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on June 26! Congratulations to everyone for braving the rains in order to get our message across: FREEDOM FROM TORTURE, NOT FREE TO TORTURE! Greetings to the contingents and representatives of the different participating organizations – the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and of course, our very own Commission on Human Rights (CHR).

Congratulations to the organizers: the United Against Torture Coalition (UATC) consisting of Amnesty International Philippines, Balay, Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), Medical Action Group, Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) and Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND),and the Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya (KPD)! Thank you for your persistence, determination and untiring work in constantly reminding us of the daunting task that faces us all: fighting and eventually eliminating the scourge of torture in our country!

This activity is a great way of getting together all the different groups advocating for the right to be free from torture and against the continuing practice of torture in the Philippines. It is also symbolic of what we must all do to attain our common goal. Last December 10, in commemoration of the International Human Rights Day and also of my 100th day in office as Chairperson, the Commission on Human Rights adopted the slogan "Karapatang Pantao: Sama-sama sa Isang Daan!" Well, that is what we just did today, literally! We ran side by side on the same road to show our solidarity and support for torture victims and their families. But more than just a catch phrase, the slogan also shows us the way forward – that we must join forces, pool our resources together, cooperation in common effort for a common purpose.

The instruments and tools to do the task are already there – the Convention Against Torture, to which we are a state party; the 1987 Constitution, that categorically expresses our nation's abhorrence of torture and the existence of secret detention places that make it possible; and since a couple of years ago, the Anti-Torture Act of 2009, Republic Act No. 9745, and the IHL law that defines and penalizes war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity, including torture, Republic Act No. 9851. Soon, hopefully, other instruments will become available, too – the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) and the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court are up for ratification by the Senate.

We also have a new and favorable environment under which to do our task. We have a new administration and President that is more open to the promotion and protection of human rights than the previous one. We also have the AFP and the PNP that are carrying out a paradigm shift and transformation program in favor of human rights, respectively. One of these signs is the joint participation of the security sector and civil society in this annual Run Against Torture. Some members of civil society organizations who are with us today say they like to join the run because unlike in the past, they are the ones running after the police and the military, not the other way around. But levity aside, bothe sides are talking. The activists who fought the dictatorship and its security forces are now in positive engagement with the AFP and the PNP, discussing human rights issues and concerns across the table rather than staring each other down across the barricades.

So with all these positive factors going for us, what is the problem? The problem is that torture continues to be practiced by the police and the military. As correctly pointed out by the organizers of this run, there is a disjoint between police and practice of the security forces when it comes to torture, in particular, and human rights, in general. It seems that the paradigm shift and the transformation program of the AFP and the PNP have yet to seep through the rank and file soldiers and policemen in their day-to-day work and activities. The reality appears to be still the same and impunity continues. It looks as if the inertia of the past is holding down and holding back the momentum of the present.

The situation is not without solution, however. The problem itself indicates the way to solve it. We simply have to increase the momentum of change in order to overcome the inertia of the past. First and foremost, the government and the security forces should adopt and strictly implement of Zero Toleraance for Torture. All state agencies and stakeholders concerned should join efforts in the implementation of the Anti-Torture Act and the IHL law. We should all push for the early ratification of OPCAT and the Rome Statute. We should avail of the expertise and resources being offered by human rights organizationas abroad willing to assist us. We should continue our education and information campaigns on RA Nos. 9745 and 9851. We should set up and activate the implementing mechanism of the Anti-Torture Act without delay. Let us all pledge to do our part in this task of eradicating the practice of torture in our country. Sama-sama sa isang daan!

Thank you very much!

Loretta Ann P. Rosales
Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHRP)