Ricardo Sunga III (University of the Philippines)

What is the relation between Philippine anti-torture laws, and the incidence of torture in the Philippines? To what extent have measures adopted to curb torture succeeded in their aims? These are the questions that my research sought to answer.

This chapter critically examines the Philippine experience of torture from 1985 up to 2013. It considers the high incidence of torture for the entirety of this period under review. Torture was at its peak at the beginning of the period, at the tail end of the regime of President Ferdinand Marcos who had declared martial law and used torture as a weapon against his opponents. Torture decreased slightly following the end of the Marcos regime, though its frequency, severity and geographical spread remained high.

This chapter also explores Philippine law and practice relating to detention, and takes into account the advances in the law, culminating in the passage of a Philippine Anti-Torture Act in 2009. The chapter also considers the Philippine record in the prosecution of torture cases, both prior to the passage of the Philippine Anti-Torture Act, and subsequent to it. Before the passage of this law, there were convictions of torture perpetrators for a range of offences from murder to coercion. Subsequently, some charges have been filed for violations of the Philippine Anti-Torture Act of 2009, though there have been no convictions thus far.

The chapter also considers the growing potential of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights, established in 1987 by the Philippine Constitution, as an independent complaints and monitoring mechanism, equipped with the power to investigate complaints of torture and to visit places of detention.

The people of the Philippines have an expression: doble kara. It means ‘of two faces.’ This is a rather accurate description of the state of torture prevention in the country, where law and practice remain highly divergent.