The first year of a newly elected presidency is often described as “necessarily a time of transition, of learning the proverbial ropes…..”. Last week, an editorial in Philippine Daily Inquirer even went to the extent of saying that “ President Aquino’s first achievement is to inaugurate, slowly, perhaps not too steadily, but also surely, the post-Arroyo era”.
For the human rights victims and the human rights defenders, this is farthest from the truth.
June 26, 2011: United Nations Day for the Victims of Torture
PAHRA Chairperson, Max M. de Mesa, challenged the Armed Forces of the Philippines and its Human Rights Office (HRO) to make prove their sincerity in their avowed policy “to uphold human rights in all military operations”.
“In fact, they have challenged themselves,” the Chairperson said, “when the AFP represented by its HRO head, Col. Domingo Tutaan, took a stand on absolute prohibition of torture.
PAHRA has taken seriously the task, from the very beginning of its identification by the European Union‟ Needs Assessment, of establishing the National Monitoring Mechanism (NMM) so as to prevent and breakthrough impunity.
Even earlier, through the Alliance campaign efforts of sweeping and specialized human rights education followed by establishing formations of human rights defenders (HRD), particularly at the grass-roots communities in difficult situations, PAHRA was contributing to the foundations of a NMM. Even much earlier, PAHRA has pointed out the potential of and championed the putting up of the Barangay Human Rights Action Centers (BHRACs) and enhancing the capabilities of the Barangay Human Rights Action Officers (BHRAOs) in documenting human rights violations as well as monitoring compliance of State obligations starting at the most basic political unit. PAHRA had helped and is helping in the training of some of the BHRAOs. Nonetheless, an assessment of CHR‟s flag-ship project that includes the present situation of the BHRACs and of the capabilities of the BHRAOs in relation to their inclusion into the NMM.
The absolute prohibition of torture is under attack, and public opinion is putting up with it. This deviation from the international norm is a negation of the dignity of the human person.
Nobel Peace Prize laureates Martti Ahtisaari, Kofi Annan, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, Rigoberta Menchú, José Ramos-Horta, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Joseph Stiglitz, Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Carter have signed the OMCT Manifesto, "Nothing can justify torture under any circumstances".
Kofi Annan and Sandrine Salerno, Mayor of Geneva, formally signed the Manifesto on 23 June 2010 to mark the launching of an international campaign to alert everyone to the dangers which a society that tolerates torture risks.
The Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) strongly criticizes the special treatment of former Gov. Antonio Leviste and other influential affluent inmates in the National Bilibid Prison. It not only adds insult to injury to the victims of these privileged inmates, but also, as perceived by those sensitive to justice, a mockery of our justice system. PAHRA Chairperson, Max de Mesa said, “Such special treatments are nothing more than a bonus to impunity and encourages its further perpetration and perpetuation.”