Philippines Government’s commitment to OCPAT a “sham”, NGO says
21 May 2008 10:31 pm
The Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, a FORUM-ASIA member, has branded the Philippines Government’s commitment to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OCPAT) a sham and a public relations stunt after the Department of Foreign Affairs allegedly asked the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to freeze its ratification.
Malacanang announcement of OPCAT ratification a sham
DFA asked Senate Foreign Relations Committee to freeze ratification
(21 May, 2008) The Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) learned yesterday that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has allegedly asked the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to freeze the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT), according to a senior staff of the said committee.
This news proves that the jubilant announcement made by Malacanang last April 22 that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has already ratified the OPCAT is nothing more than a public relations coup aimed at boosting the human rights image of the President while ensuring that the concrete result – the Senate ratification of the OPCAT – will remain suspended in political limbo.
Like a hot potato, President Arroyo has effectively passed on the issue of the OPCAT ratification and the political pressure on Malacanang brought about by the recommendations of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Philippines to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
We fear that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will likely acquiesce to the request of the Executive Department as represented by the DFA due to the fact that its head is no less than President Arroyo’s staunch ally Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago.
We are also not surprised at the recent turnabout of events. The OPCAT, if ratified, will establish an international and a national mechanism that will have the power and authority to inspect detention areas so as to prevent the possibility of torture while in detention from occurring. In light of the fact that recent documentary evidence shows that state security forces have been using camps and other safe houses as secret detention areas, it is therefore quite in character for this administration to derail the ratification of the OPCAT.
We call on the members of the Senate, particularly the head of the Committee on Justice and Human Rights, to thwart this ploy of Malacanang and ensure that the ratification of the OPCAT will be given priority status.
Our government has pledged to the UNHRC that it shall strengthen domestic support for the signing and ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, therefore it is now up to the distinguished members of the Senate to fully realize this pledge.
Sr. Crescencia Lucero, sfic