“Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, like slavery and genocide, is always wrong. This principle was established many years ago, and is enshrined in international law.” Said Ernesto Anasarias, spokesperson of the United Against Torture Coalition (UATC), during the opening of the protest run against torture called BRAT! (Basta, Run Against Torture) Huling Tulak. The event aimed to step up the campaign for the passage of Senate Bill 1978 and House Bill 5709 into the Anti-Torture Law.
“The UATC has been campaigning for the passage of an Anti Torture Law since its conception in 2002. Today, after seven years of advocacy the coalition is making a final push to make the passage of the law, as it has already passed both chambers after more than a decade of being filed congress after congress. Huling tulak na ito.” Anasarias said.
According to the coalition, the campaign stands by the promise made not only by the Philippine government but all states who have been parties to the UN Convention Against Torture since 1987 which provides that in no circumstances, not even war or public emergency that “threatens the life of the nation”, could torture or ill-treatment be employed or justified.
“The concept of the right to be free from torture eludes the general public and disappointingly, government representatives and state security forces as well. In order to see the decline of the practice in country, it is important that all members of society become informed of this right inherent to all individuals. That is why we are conducting this run, not only remind the government of their obligation but to keep the public informed.” Anasarias added.
The BRAT which commenced at the UP Oblation and was concluded at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani united 350 individuals from Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Non-Government Organizations (NGOs), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).
“This activity helps boost the morale of the freedom from torture campaigners in the Philippines not only by providing an avenue to celebrate the successes made in the lobbying efforts in the Philippines but at the same time make sure that the final hurdle will be met. The UATC recognizes the importance of cooperation between and among all stakeholders. The PNP and CHR’s participation proves that they are renewing their commitment to the same cause as CSOs and NGOs.” He added.
Anasarias emphasized that the significance of engaging with government line agencies means that they do not tolerate the use of torture and other ill-treatment. That they do not resort to the tactics of terror that destroy the very values they claim to be protecting.
“The erosion of one set of rights inevitably devalues others. Torture and all other ill-treatment must be condemned and prevented, and those who authorize and inflict it must be held to account. Governments must stop shielding torturers and must accept responsibility for their crimes. To prove this, it is crucial that both houses pass the Anti-Torture Law before the 2010 elections.” He concluded.
The UATC is a network of non-government and civil society organizations campaigning to end the use of torture in the Philippines through public awareness activities and lobbying for anti-torture law and similar measures. The coalition is spearheaded by the Medical Action Group (MAG), Amnesty International Philippines (AIPh), Balay Rehabilitation Center (Balay), Task force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) and the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearances (FIND).
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