Tuesday, August 10, 2010

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Interview with Danilo Reyes

My name is Danilo Reyes. I am a staff member of the Asian Human Rights Commission and in charge of the Philippines desk. I have many years of political lobbying experience in the Philippines.

Is there any specific law against torture in your country?

Torture is used by the police as part of their investigation methods and this largely goes unreported. Torture is also used against political activists, political dissidents, and against people who the police or the military have accused of committing acts of terrorism. They torture people to get confessions while they are in detention. Confessions obtained during the course of an investigations may be used as evidence in court. Now, the law says that cannot be.
What do you think of the police’s use of torture in your country?
Absolutely, they should never use torture, regardless of whether the person is innocent or guilty. There should be a process. There should be proof that the person has done something worthy of persecution. According to the norms and standards that we know about, any allegation against the person must be proved by evidence, whether it is the testimony of another person or a document of some kind.

It has a huge impact in terms of prosecuting the real perpetrator. Even if the person really committed the act that the police or military have accused them of doing, torture should never be used.

In the Philippines, what do human rights NGO’s do for the people?

There are many human rights NGOs which document and deal with cases of torture. In many cases, even people who have no political affiliations are also victims of torture. Even in ordinary cases, like crimes that have no political context, the police or military still use torture. In addition, under the law which was passed in December 2009, we have a legal mechanism which provides compensation to victims of torture, because according to our 1987 Constitution we have the right to be protected from torture. Under the Department of Justice, there is a law called the 'boarder claims' which provides compensation to victims of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. However, under this law, the torture victim must file and claim their compensation within six months from the date the torture occurred. Also, the maximum compensation is Pesos 10,000, which is around US$ 200. Let’s see whether this new law works or not.

Do the people of the Philippines understand the concept of torture?

In the Philippines, when you say ‘torture’ there is a certain level of understanding of what is it even to a local person. But those who have the greatest understanding of torture and who understand its threat most fully are political dissidents and political detainees. What we try to do in the AHRC is highlight the torture cases which are not political in nature, which are experienced by a large number of ordinary people.

Do the local media in your country have the right to write about torture issues and other human rights issues?

We do have the freedom to write about anything in private journals or newspapers. These articles help people understand the context under which torture happens. Unlike other countries, you can write or broadcast whatever you want. But in daily television, the understanding of torture is more political. On the news, you might see a person who was beaten by the police inside a police station. That is torture. But in the Filipino understanding, torture is only what happens to political dissidents.


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