Philippines: Putting torture prevention on the national agenda

Friday, July 1, 2022

A public forum involving representatives from government, the police, civil society and the national human rights institution has discussed the key elements of a national roadmap for safer and responsive police custody in the Philippines.

The event, held to markInternational Day in Support of Victims of Torture, was convened by the APT and Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), in cooperation with the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines and the United Against Torture Coalition.

Speakers from the Department of Justice, the Philippines’ National Police (PNP) and other stakeholders discussed improvements in criminal justice procedures and community policing, as well as strengthening independent oversight of police detention in the country.

Over the years, the Philippines has faced challenges that include overcrowding of detention facilities and gaps in implementing criminal procedures and safeguards in line with international human rights standards. According to the Commission on Human Rights, members of the security forces and police have been accused of routinely abusing, and sometimes torturing, suspects and detainees.

The public forum, which was livestreamed on Facebook, highlighted the importance of establishing torture prevention initiatives in the country.

A focus of the discussion was implementing theMéndez Principles on Effective Interviewing, which replace coercive interrogations with rapport-based interviewing and promote safeguards to uphold detainees’ human rights.

The APT reiterated the need to strengthen implementation of the Philippines’ Anti-Torture Act of 2009 that criminalises torture and protects the rights of detainees, including those under the police custody.

“We need to deepen solidarity among stakeholders and consolidate our actions towards strengthening public confidence in the criminal justice system and building a broad consensus that everyone held in custody should be treated with dignity and respect,” the APT and TFDP concluded.

The event was supported by the European Union through the #SafeInCustody project, which aims to reduce risky practices leading to torture and ill-treatment in Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.