Philippines ratifies the OPCAT

Thursday, April 19, 2012

On 17th April 2012, the Philippines became the 63rd state party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT), and the fourth states party in the Asia Pacific region.

This historic action undertaken by the government of the Philippines was the culmination of significant efforts from a range of actors including Philippine civil society such as the United Against Torture Coalition and the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, as well as support from international non-governmental organizations such as the Rehabilitation and Research Center for Torture Victims and the APT.

A statement released by the CHRP on the occasion of the Philippine Senate’s approval of accession on 6 March 2012 notes that "Since places of detention are closed to the outside world, persons deprived of their liberty are vulnerable to and at risk of torture, other forms of ill-treatment, and other human rights violations. Respect for detainees' rights as well as the satisfaction of their most basic needs solely depends upon custodial authorities. Abuses can arise from a variety of reasons such as negligence, lack of resources, poor or inappropriate staff training, and inadequate systems of oversight. Without independent external monitoring, these abuses can occur unchallenged. The OPCAT will ensure that these otherwise obscure places will now be more open so that less and less abuse will take place."

Under the terms of the OPCAT, the government of the Philippines has one year from accession to establish the so-called 'National Preventative Mechanisms' (NPMs), which are domestic institution(s) that conduct unannounced visits to all places of detention in the Philippines. A draft law on the establishment of the NPMs is currently being prepared by civil society and it is anticipated that there will be public consultation on this draft later this year.