Philippines: Moving forward with the implementation of #SafeInCustody project

Thursday, August 18, 2022

After more than a year of online collaboration on torture prevention activities as part of the#SafeInCustody project, the APT has been able to meet in person for the first time with staff of Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP).

With COVID travel restrictions being relaxed across South East Asia, APT staff members – Shazeera Zawawi, Senior Adviser, Research and Innovation, and Manachaya Yankittikul, Regional Project Officer – visited Quezon City in the Philippines from 1-3 August 2022.

The multi-year #SafeInCustody project seeks to work with national partners in Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand to address risky police practices that can lead to torture and ill-treatment, such as incommunicado detention and forced confessions.

A key focus in the Philippines is to increase oversight and transparency in places of detention, especially during the critical first hours of detention when people deprived of liberty face heightened risks of torture and ill-treatment.

“It was great to finally meet face-to-face with the TFDP team, reflect on all that was accomplished in the first year of the project and plan a suite of activities to build on this in the coming year,” Shazeera Zawawi said.

This included discussions on the development of an innovative online game to support people understand their rights in detention.

In addition to meeting with the TFDP team, the APT held discussions with representatives from the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR) and the Human Rights Affairs Office of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

APT Team with PNP

CHR Executive Director Atty Jacqueline de Guia provided an overview of the human rights situation in the country following the Presidential election in May 2022, as well as the CHR’s input into theUniversal Periodic Review of the Philippines, to be undertaken by the UN Human Rights Council in November 2022.  

Ms de Guia added that the CHR was committed to continuing its detention monitoring work as the country’s interim National Preventive Mechanism. As part of the #SafeInCustody project, the APT and TFDP will provide ongoing training and support for this detention monitoring programme.

“Supporting independent oversight and transparency in places of detention is essential for driving changes in the policies and practices of police and other detaining authorities,” Manachaya Yankittikul said. 

Chief of the PNP Human Rights Affairs Office, Brig. Gen. Vincent Calanoga, expressed his support for the objectives of the #SafeInCustody project, which includes cooperation with police authorities to develop training modules on the new Méndez Principles on Effective Interviewing.