RATIONALE FOR THE CREATION OF THE PHILIPPINE OPCAT WORKING GROUP (POWG)
by Enrique 'dick' Red Garcia - DILG 04.14.09
- HER EXCELLENCY PGMA HAD SIGNED THE OPCAT (APRIL, 2008), SIGNIFYING THE GOVERNMENT’S INTENT FOR SENATE CONCURRENCE OF ITS RATIFICATION AND EVENTUAL IMPLEMENTATION.
- THE DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS (DFA) “RECOMMENDS TO THE PRESIDENT THROUGH THE CHAIRMAN, PRESIDENTIAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE FOR THE PHRC TO SPEARHEAD DISCUSSIONS ON THE PROPOSED LEGISLATION ON OPCAT, PLAN OF ACTION AND REQUEST FOR APPROPRIATION OF FUNDS TO UPGRADE ALL DETENTION FACILITIES TO INTERNATIONAL OR un STANDARDS”. (MAY 15, 2008)
- IN FOLLOW-UP OF THE ABOVE RECOMMENDATION, THE DEPUTY EXECUTIVE SECRETARY SENDS ADVICE TO DILG TO “COORDINATE AND CONSULT WITH THE CHR, TOGETHER WITH THE DOF, DSWD AND DBM.” (MAY 28, 2008)
- CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS HAVE LONG LOBBIED FOR THE OPCAT’S RATIFICATION AND ORGANIZED MULTI-SECTORAL FORUMS AND CONSULTATION FOR THAT PURPOSE.
- IN TURN, THE PHRC, TAKING UP THE LEAD OF THE PRESIDENT HAS ORGANIZED AND SPONSORED ITS OWN HUMAN RIGHTS FORUM ON THE OPCAT, AND HAD BEEN ACTIVELY PARTICIPATING IN THOSE CONSULTATIONS ORGANIZED BY THE COOPERATING CSOs AND CAUSE-ORIENTED GROUPS.
- THE OPCAT’S OVERARCHING INTENT BEING THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE DUAL MECHANISM, NAMELY: THE NATIONAL PREVENTIVE MECHANISM (NPM) AND THE UNITED NATIONS SUB-COMMITTEE ON THE PREVENTION OF TORTURE (SPT), IT WOULD BE BENEFICIAL FOR ALL SECTORS CENCERNED TO COLLABORATE TOWARDS THE CREATION OF A PHILIPPINE OPCAT WORKING GROUP (POWG).
- A MULTI-REPRESENTATIVE BODY COMPRISING CRITICAL GOVERNMENT AGENCIES AND CONCERNED REPRESENTATIVES FROM THE CSOs AND CAUSE-ORIENTED GROUPS. THE POWG’s PRIMORDIAL ROLE WOULD BE TO DO THE SPADEWORK FOR THE EVENTUAL CREATION OF THE NPM AS CONCEIVED IN THE OPCAT AND AS SPELLED OUT IN ITS PROVISIONS.
- CHIEF AMONG THE POWG’S FUNCTIONS WOULD BE TO ASCERTAIN THE LEVEL OF IMPROVEMENTS, MODERNIZATION, AND ACCEPTABILITY OF THE COUNTRY’S DETENTION FACILITIES AND THE PROGRESSIVE REALIZATION OF THE TREATY (OPCAT) REQUIREMENTS RELATIVE TO THE PREVENTION OF TORTURE AND ILL-TREATMENT.
- LIKEWISE, THE POWG SHOULD BE ABLE TO EXPLORE THE APPROPRIATE FORMS AND APPROACHES BY WHICH THE NPM WOULD BE ABLE TO EFFECTIVELY OPERATE IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE DICTATES AND PROVISIONS OF THE OPCAT.
- THE POWG WOULD FORMULATE ITS FULL ORGANIZATIONAL AND OPERATIONAL MECHANICS AND GUIDELINES, AND SHOULD THEN BE ABLE TO DRAW ON THE KNOWLEDGE, EXPERTISE, AND RESOURCES FROM ALL SECTORS OF SOCIETY FOR ITS EFFECTIVE FUNCTIONING AND ATTAINMENT OF OBJECTIVES.
- THE POWG WOULD BE AN EFFECTIVE VEHICLE TO PROPEL DISCUSSIONS AND GENERATE INPUTS ON THE PROPOSED LEGISLATION ON OPCAT, PLAN OF ACTION AND EXTENT OF APPROPRIATION OF FUNDS NECESSARY TO UPGRADE ALL DETENTION FACILITIES TO INTERNATIONAL OR UN STANDARDS.
PHILIPPINES OPCAT WORKING GROUP THRUSTS
ASCERTAIN THE COMPOSITION OF THE NPM
- The members must have the required capabilities and professional knowledge
- Gender balance and adequate representation of ethnic and minority groups
- Could include:
- Doctors / Psychiatrists / Psychologists
- Forensic specialists
- Representatives from NGOs
- Social workers
- Could also include human rights specialists
ADHERENCE TO ESTABLISHED CRITERIA FOR THE EFFECTIVE FUNCTIONING OF THE NPM AND SPT
NPMs must be guaranteed:
- Independent basis
- Independent personnel
- Independent appointment procedures
- Financial Independency
- Regularity of visits are important in order to monitor improvements or deterioration in conditions of detention
The SPT must be guaranteed:
- Unrestricted access to all information concerning the number of persons deprived of their liberty;
- All information referring to the treatment and conditions of detention;
- All places, installations and facilities – where people are deprived of their liberty;
- The opportunity to conduct private interviews with persons of its own choice;
- The liberty to chose the places it wants to visit
ESTABLISH BASELINES AND/OR ASCERTAIN THE STATE OF AVAILABLE MONITORING MECHANISMS
Monitoring detention condition is primarily a responsibility of the national authorities in charge of persons deprived of their liberty.
Dept. of Justice
Dept. of Interior Local Gov’t
- Civil Society Organizations
THE CHR: INDEPENDENT EXTERNAL MECHANISM
- Exercise of visitorial powers over jails, prisons and detention facilities.
- Mandate to investigate all forms of human rights violations (esp. civil and political rights).
- Fulfillment of the criteria set out by Paris Principles – that of having broad mandate, an independent body and with fiscal autonomy
- Conduct of regular jail visitations all over the Philippines through its Regional Offices
- Reporting to concerned authorities problems facing the Philippine Custodial System that elad to violations of international standards to safeguard the rights of detainees and prisoners.
- Monitor of torture and ill-treatment in places of deprivation of liberty.
- Conduct of investigation on cases of torture and ill-treatment using the Istanbul Protocol – the international standard on the investigation and documentation of cases of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
PREVENTIVE AND MITIGATING EFFORTS
- BJMP welcomes visits by international bodies, i.e., representatives of the ICRC, who are frequent visitors in some city and municipal jails
- BJMP’s Operations Manual provides the guidelines on the commitment and classification of inmates and reception procedures, and classification and disciplinary boards
- House Bill BJMP Modernization Act of 2007 seeks to upgrade the physical facilities of jails and detention centers
- Proposed budget hike in the subsistence and medical allowances of inmates
- Additional funding to improve the BJMP’s security / safety capabilities and decongest overcrowded facilities for inmates.
Bureau of Corrections:
- Subscribes to a modern corrective service that is humane, productive and restorative
- Imposes effective safekeeping and rehabilitation of national prisoners
- House Bill BuCorr Modernization Act of 2007
- BuCorr Manual covers visiting rights of inmates. Inmates shall have the right to be visited by his family and reputable friends at regular intervals.