The Process Towards the Philippines’ Adherence to the OPCAT
The road towards putting in place the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture is intricate and involves a certain amount of groundwork due to the nature of how the legislature and the executive branches of government operate. The executive departments in charge of the custodial system have to concur to the adoption of the OPCAT in the reform system and recommend its signing to the President as well as the subsequent deliberation of the Senate for its ratification.
It is the responsibility of the Department of Foreign affairs to inform the other departments about the advantages of the treaty and to ask for their subsequent accession. The implementing departments, the DOJ and the DILG, in turn are to consult the bureaus under their direction, the Bureau of Corrections and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology for comments.
Another department to be consulted is the Department of National Defense that also keeps holding facilities which are to be made available for visits by OPCAT bodies. Once a general consensus is reached in favor of the OPCAT, a resolution recommending the ratification of the OPCAT to the President and the Senate can be circulated amongst the concerned departments and agencies for signatures.
The Presidential Human Rights Commission, the inter-agency body chaired by the Department of Justice which makes recommendations to the President on Human Rights issues is an important assemblage to engage for actions on the OPCAT since its membership is composed of most of the departments that are in charge of the reform system.
Implementing Departments submit their respective certificate of concurrences signed by their Secretaries.
Once all the departments have concurred to the Protocol, the President may sign in favor of its adoption and the Senate can begin to undertake its deliberation. Once the Senate approves its ratification, a legislative bill is to be passed indicating the Philippines’ concurrence and accession to the OPCAT. The DFA’s permanent mission to the UN, representing the government, formally marks the ratification of the OPCAT in Geneva.
The ratification of the OPCAT is not the end of the campaign. It is the duty of the multi-stakeholders, civil society, and government alike to conduct national awareness campaigns for the proper implementation of the OPCAT. Healthy exchanges and debates on the prevention of torture should be encouraged so that a good local arm of the OPCAT, the National Preventive Mechanism/s which will have the responsibility of undertaking most visits to prisons, can be put in place.