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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The UN Committee against Torture has expressed concern over the persistence of impunity for acts of torture despite the enactment of the Anti-Torture Act in 2009 in the Philippines. It noted that only one perpetrator has been convicted considering the rising number of torture cases compiled by the Commission on Human Rights six years after torture was declared a criminal offense.

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A minor died while another young boy and an adult farmer were seriously injured  reportedly as a result of unlawful violence they suffered  in the hands of soldiers in the municipality of Tipo-Tipo in Basilan. The incident happened on April 12, 2016 in the midst of the military  combat operations against  the Abu Sayyaf group that  were involved  in  the recent kidnappings and killings of civilian hostages in southern Philippines.

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The  United against Torture Coalition  (UATC) has called attention on the  non-conviction of torturers and the weak implementation of the Anti-Torture Act six years since it was enacted in 2009. The coalition raised this observation, among other issues,  during the 57th session of the United Nations Committee on Torture at  Palais Wilson in Geneva on April 27, 2015. 

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Tanghalang Balangay Debuts In Basta Run Against Torture V

Members of the Tanghalang Balangay performing in front of the participants of the Basta Run Against Torture V.Quezon City – Tanghalang Balangay, a community-based theater group composed of around 20 young people from Bagong Silang, Caloocan City performed during the program held after the actual run of the activity: Basta Run Against Torture V. The group performed in front of 500 (est.) participating individuals belonging to different civil society organizations and government agencies.

This was the group's first performance since their formation last June 2011. The group was formed through a theater workshop organized by Balay and facilitated by the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA). The formation of a theater group for young people is hoped to provide them with a meaningful endeavor – one that cultivates their talents and skills – as well as a therapeutic activity for torture victims and youths who are vulnerable to experience such experiences due to the compounded problem of poverty. On a larger view, the formation of a theater group is also hoped to be a mechanism to prevent young people from entering a life of violence and illicit activities which in turn greatly increases their risk of experience torture or cruel treatment from state authorities. As such, the formation of a theater group may contribute in the prevention of torture and rehabilitation of its effects through a therapeutic means and art.

Respect, Protect and Fulfill Human Rights

Tanghalang Balangay performed a 5 minute skit using action and movement to convey their message that human rights of each and every individual must be respected, protected and fulfilled. In a post-activity meeting, members of the theater group emphasized that "we are glad that we were able to present in front of the military and police. We want to convey the message to them that they are not supposed to be the one to violate our human rights. They are supposed to protect us."

Mixed emotions

During the post-activity meeting, members of the theater groups expressed that they had their worries right before the performance. As one member put it, "I was really nervous before the performance. Thinking of performing in front of the Police or the Military, persons who I know from personal experience abuse, beat and torture people, made me really worry [about us and our safety]." However, as the group performed, their worries disappeared and became more confident about themselves. The group also said that they were proud of what they did: having the courage to perform in front of the military and the police is no easy feat, says the member of the group.

In the end, Ernesto Anasarias, Executive Director of Balay Rehabilitation Center congratulated the group for a very good performance and for the courage to perform despite numerous difficulties and anxieties. According to Anasarias, the performance of the group is significant because of its implicit message to state authorities. A message that says that, the youth, as inheritors of the future, will not allow nor tolerate any human rights violations.

Kudos to the members of Tanghalang Balangay! May your art and performances serve to make the Philippines torture free.