Under the bill, no justification can be offered that would allow torture and other inhuman punishments. Those who torture will be penalized as principals, as well as their superiors in the military, police or law enforcement establishments who ordered it.
By RONALYN OLEA
MANILA — Raymond Manalo, the Reverend Berlin Guerrero, Melissa Roxas, Axel Pinpin and the Tagaytay 5. They are just a few of the recent victims of torture inflicted by government agents. The practice of torture by state security forces in the country has been so common that the United Nations Committee Against Torture has expressed grave concern over the “routine and widespread use of torture” and the “climate of impunity for perpetrators of acts torture, including military, police, and other State officials.”
However, what human-rights advocates have accomplished last Aug. 17 could be considered a small but important step forward. Finally, there is hope that torture would be criminalized after a bicameral committee of Congress passed a consolidated anti-torture bill.
Opposition senator Francisco “Chiz” Escudero, chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, said he expects both Houses of Congress to ratify the consolidated version anytime soon. The proposed law seeks to penalize perpetrators of torture, particularly persons in authority or those acting on their behalf.
Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III headed the House panel that included Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, and Bayan Muna Reps. Satur Ocampo and Neri Colmenares, among others. The Senate was represented by Escudero and Sen. Aquilino Pimentel.
“Every Filipino’s hope is for the President to sign the anti-torture bill as soon as it reaches her desk,” Escudero said.
“The passage of this bill is especially important in light of the cases of Rebelyn Pitao and Melissa Roxas. I urge my colleagues in Congress to expedite the enactment of this piece of legislation as another way of honoring and preserving the legacy of former President Corazon Aquino,” he added.
Pitao, daughter of New People’s Army (NPA) commander Leoncio Pitao, was abducted by suspected soldiers in March this year in Toril, Davao. She was later found dead in a ditch, her body showing signs of torture.
Filipino-American activist Roxas was abducted in May along with two companions Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Jandoc in La Paz, Tarlac. In her public testimonies, Roxas identified her torturers as state security forces.
Tañada said that the bicameral stage is the toughest part in the process of passing the anti-torture bill into law. “I’d like to believe that this is a major breakthrough,” he said, noting that the bill was filed in the 11th Congress. The 14th Congress is now in session.
The bill criminalizes all forms of torture — physical, mental, psychological and pharmacological, which is done through the administration of drugs.