Anti-Terrorism Bill a step back in preventing torture in the PH — CHR spokesperson says during the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture

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The anti-terrorism bill is a step back in preventing torture in the country, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said on Friday as it continued to voice its opposition to certain provisions in the proposed law that are believed to be repressive.

CHR spokesperson Lawyer Jacqueline de Guia issued the warning in a message marking the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

“Considering the already dire situation in jails, the proposed Anti-Terror Act could further regress efforts on torture prevention. Provisions in the Act that allow arrest of individuals without judicial warrant and prolonged period of detention without charges may endanger the rights of the accused to due process and make them vulnerable to cruel, degrading, and inhumane treatment. We reiterate call for the amendment of these provisions that are prone to abuse,” De Guia said in a statement.

Torture violates an individual’s right to safety and denies the inherent dignity of the human being. The International Day in Support of Victims of Torture is observed annually on June 26 to raise awareness on the prohibition of all forms of torture and in remembrance of victims and survivors of torture. Despite the absolute prohibition of torture in international and domestic law, torture continues to be a prevalent problem, she said.

Here in the Philippines, despite the enactment of the Anti-Torture Law or Republic Act (RA) No. 9745 on November 2009, which prohibits and criminalized torture and other forms of ill-treatment against persons deprived of liberty (PDLs), reports of torture and abuse of detainees and persons accused still persist, she said.

With several jails housing more than 5 times their intended capacity, widespread congestion not only violates the rights and dignity of PDLs—it also falls short of meeting the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners as well as BJMP‘s Manual on Habitat, Water, Sanitation and Kitchen in Jails. Overcrowded jail cells and detention facilities is akin to cruel, degrading, inhuman treatment or punishment. It increases the likelihood of transmission of the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19), which places the lives of the old and immunocompromised inmates in peril. It is a welcome development that the Supreme Court recently fast-tracked decongestion efforts for the compassionate and temporary release of qualified PDLs.

“As we commemorate this day, let us uphold the ideals of restorative justice—being deprived of liberty does not deprive an individual of dignity and rights,” she also said./Stacy Ang

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